Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fringe - Season 2

Fringe's first season got better as it went on, and luckily the second was more consistently like the end than the beginning. There's still a mix of random monster-of-the-week episodes along with the more plot-relevant ones, but they tend to do a better job of tying the former kind in with the overall story, and it's a bit more balanced. Fringe is still fun when it's just creating a mini-mystery with an unusual sci-fi twist, I just happen to think most of the important episodes are better. The continue to develop the alternate universe and establish it as a source of trouble, and the show is at its most fascinating when it's the focus.

What's interesting to me is how they treat some often quite-pulpy science fiction ideas with all the seriousness of a police procedural. I'm sure it's something that's been done before with shows I haven't seen, but it's that mix of influences that gives it a unique feel among what I watch. It doesn't matter if an episode is about people going murderously insane because someone's been removing pieces of their brain it works because it gets treated as seriously as any regular crime. There was a couple weird things though. Somehow an episode from the first season got lost in the shuffle and wasn't aired until the middle of the second, but it was totally out of place because a dead character just showed back up out of nowhere. At that point, it's better to avoid confusing the audience and just stick it on a DVD. And with all they're doing with Walter, it's taking away from the effectiveness of still portraying him as a wacky mad scientist. If you're going to turn him into a real tragic figure with a painful past, you're not going to get as many laughs having him do things like eat Twizzlers while performing an autopsy. You can't have it both ways.

Still though, most of that stuff was really great. They show how Walter's actions led to troubles with the other universe, and in a way he's kind of responsible for everything that happens in the show. He performed the experiments with strange drugs on Olivia and the other kids, he was the first to cross between worlds and cause the problems that make them want to come over here. A lot of it is hard to blame on him, but the whole show is sort of about him trying to atone for his past transgressions. He's by far the most interesting figure in the series, which is a good because a show that relied on Olivia all the time just wouldn't be very good. I'm not going to blame Anna Torv because she was a lot more fun as her alternate self, but compared to the other main characters she's pretty boring. The finale was interesting if not able to fully capitalize on what they built up, and leaves a few cliffhangers that should be a lot of fun to watch play out in the Fall.

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