Episode 20 - There's More Than One of Everything
7 May 2013
I'm writing this on the 5th January 2012 while Fringe is half way through its fourth season. Over the Christmas break I followed reader Charles Lin's recommendations and watched eight episodes of season one. It's taken me a long time to get round to catching up with the show and of course I'm not even close. I should reiterate that I am both years out and haven't seen all of season one. But for what it's worth here are my thoughts.
The Good: Part of why I bothered to catch up on Fringe is that I love science fiction. And Fringe is a fun science fiction show. The mysterious Observer (104) and the bank robberies moving through solid walls (110) were two really intriguing ideas to get me excited about the show. The revelations about the parallel universe were well executed too and meant that duller episodes still felt part of an important whole.
I'm sure you all know so much more about the parallel universe and how it all works now. But at this stage in the show it reminded me of the arc plot on Sliders where another type of human had evolved on some planets, figured out how to travel between worlds, and begun terrorising normal humans.
Some episodes worked a lot better than others. When there was a genuine sense of threat as in "Safe" (110 - where Olivia is kidnapped) or "Ability" (114 - where Olivia has to turn off the bomb with her mind) the show felt like it could develop into something special.
Walter was a delight throughout the season and John Noble clearly has a great range. He seems to be the only fully rounded character though. His interactions with Peter are really enjoyable and interesting. Their father-son issues are far more emotive and effective than any of the overwrought Steven Spielberg stuff you see on TV (Terra Nova or Falling Skies).
The Bad: My impression of the first two episodes of Fringe was that it was too much of a police procedural for my tastes. I know that later seasons have less of this problem but at this stage it was still irritating. Astrid and Charlie were practically props while Broyles agreed with everything Olivia said or did in a way that would have made Jack Bauer deeply jealous. Vital clues were always discovered just when they were needed and Walter's memory would often function like that too. In the finale (120) we got to see Olivia use the old map on a pin board trick and some very handy voice recognition software to move the plot along.
I can forgive a bit of convenience, particularly in a show with a full twenty episode run. However there was a bad lack of follow up on key moments in the story. Olivia is kidnapped (110) and yet her FBI office and not nearly as concerned as they should be when she returns. As they can't find evidence of where she was held they just give up and go back to work. No way in hell would a real FBI office have blown something like that off. The Sanford Harris character was a real problem too. His appointment to oversee Fringe (despite Olivia having led an investigation into his behaviour before) was a silly unprofessional idea and when he turned out to be aiding an inhuman experiment on a girl (119) there was no follow up! None. I couldn't believe it. If all these incidents were connected then doesn't that mean he was working for ZFT? Maybe I missed something there but considering another FBI agent from the same office had been caught a few episodes previously it all smelt very 24.
I'm not convinced by the presentation of either Olivia or Peter. She seems quite blank as a character and never really gets to show off much of a personality. She never seemed genuinely angry or upset by the events unfolding and there was very little time given to her private life. She and Peter didn't have a huge amount of chemistry but I can appreciate a slow build. Peter played his role fine but was given little to do. He again felt like a prop when he was called on to either jog Walter's memory or call on one of his old "street" friends for some help.
The Unknown: The final scene shows Olivia in the parallel universe meeting William Bell and standing in the intact World Trade Centre which was an eye catching visual. I have been told by reader OldDarth (http://odontv.blogspot.com/) to watch the season two premiere and then skip to episode fifteen (Jacksonville) and then to watch everything from then on. That is what I will do unless any of you urge me to do otherwise. It will probably be a little while till I get there but I will write again when I do.
Conclusion: I would say I feel about the same about Fringe as I did going into it. I already had some expectations given what people have said about future seasons. I could definitely see the potential for an exciting sci-fi show. However as the season wore on I got tired of the lack of consequence and Olivia's bland persona.
I'm giving this episode a generic score of 62 to sum up my feelings about the season. To be fair there were at least three episodes (104, 110, 114) which threatened scores of 70 but I wouldn't say any of them were quite there. Some of the other episodes were down in the 50s for me.
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