Thursday, January 20, 2011

Re-evaluating Fringe: Part Two

Rather than pay off last year's cliffhanger right away, the second season of Fringe made us wait four episodes to find out what Bell had to say to Liv. I don't fault the show for this; it's a creative way of doing things. The season opened with things on our side, leading up to Olivia in a delayed car wreck. The season was off to something of a slow start, but wasn't nearly as scattershot as last year. The X-Files parallel continued with the introduction of shape-shifting soldiers from the other universe. These beings have mercury in their blood; they are part organic, part liquid metal. ...which means Fringe just ripped off Terminator 2 as well. But despite the obvious parallels, I liked that the shape-shifting is a messy business and that it requires specific hardware. That element was far more original.

My biggest problem with the opening of the year, and the year as a whole, was that last year finally built up to all the mythology having William Bell behind it, and then that went nowhere. Everyone just went about their business with Massive Dynamic, even though the organization and its leadership are highly suspect. I can see why Olivia has reasons to want to trust Bell, but no one even questions his motives in the least. It wouldn't be until the end of the season that Walter would confront him about why he had his brain sliced up. The writers want to keep Nimoy sympathetic it seems, but I had a real hard time believing the team could just have business as usual with Nina Sharp after everything that happened last year. I will say though that I really liked the storyline with Walter's brain; I thought it was brilliant.

The other smart move the show made was not to drag out the Peter mystery too long. After a few more lovely teases (even though fans knew all along anyway), they addressed the fact that he's from another universe. I liked the reveal of Liv seeing him glimmer. "Peter" was a strong episode, despite the fact that it had a few continuity hiccups. My favorite part was the '80s-style opening credits. It was just before this episode I began suspecting they would make Peter the catalyst for the whole war, and I was right. I'm not sure that all makes sense based on stuff from last year, but I like the storyline overall. The mythology was much cleaner this season. Unfortunately, it was almost too clean when there was no mention of ZFT or such at all until a throwaway reference in the finale.

I think they've gotten a better handle on the Other Side, but it seems they are focused on one other universe now, even though there are supposedly an infinite number. I'm confused whether war is coming to all universes or just our own. It seems to me they would have been safer only dealing with two and not even introducing their multiverse theory last year. Is there a reason only our two universe interact? They've done a good job on the whole dealing with the Other Side, but there have been continuity issues for me. Why do they keep saying Walter is the only one to open a door to the other side when we saw several doors open up last year? They weren't open very long, but they hung there in the sky and things passed through. So I don't get the difference. I don't quite see why the technology is SO advanced on the other side. At first I thought maybe Bell was responsible, but then we learned that wasn't the case. Maybe alternate Bell? It just seems like a bit too much; like they were having too much fun theorizing the other universe. It also doesn't seem consistent to me with the magic typewriters and all. The world we saw in the finale doesn't all seem to gel for me with the glimpses we got last season. I do appreciate little touches though like "Back to the Future starring Eric Stolz". I like things that seem like logical extensions. But there were times it seemed too heavily influenced by "Mirror, Mirror", with people being almost evil twins. The storyline has also now borrowed heavily from Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. I don't really like mirror-Olivia. We learned that Olivia was hardened and fearless as a result of Walter's experiments. So wouldn't it be more interesting if her counterpart was softer and less aggressive?

There were some good stand-alone stories, and the season was certainly more cohesive. I don't know what to do with random elements like Olivia's sudden bionic hearing that comes and goes or the bowling guru. But it's satisfying enough with X-Files gone. I was glad that Olivia was revealed to be switched at the end because I was trying to figure out when she had the time to dye her hair after the fight. Hope she's not stuck over there too long.

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