Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fringe, "August": I drink your cough syrup milkshake

Spoilers for tonight's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I add "messy" to the APB...

I've been waiting half the day to write this review, frequently procrastinating on other projects (like the return of "Lost"), even though I watched a screener of "August" yesterday and could have banged it out right away.

Usually, when I struggle with writer's block on a column or blog post, it's because I don't feel passionately one way or the other about something - where I'm writing something because I feel like I should, and not because I really care. (This week's Heather Locklear column was another one that took forever to finish.) And unfortunately, I think that's where I stand on "Fringe."

I want to like "Fringe" more than I do. John Noble is wonderful, Joshua Jackson plays off him well, and the mix of obsolete technology and 21st century filmmaking techniques has led to a lot of memorably creepy images. But I never quite feel as attached to the show as I want to. When the standalone episodes air, I think, "that was okay, but let's get back to the mythology." Yet when the mythology episodes air, I'm still sometimes underwhelmed.

An entire episode about The Observers should have been a lot of fun. And certainly, parts of it were, like the opening sequence with August catching bullets and shooting a raygun, or Olivia and Peter getting a quick-and-dirty lesson about Observer history from the guy at Massive Dynamic.

And there were also some fine emotional moments, both between August and the kidnapped girl he had come to love, and as Walter thought back to how he came into custody of the Peter of Earth-WTC, and as he feared that The Observers intended to take this Peter away from him.

But something still feels oddly lacking from the show, beyond my ongoing issues with Anna Torv's intermittent charisma. "August" told us quite a bit about The Observers, and again hinted at the looming inter-dimensional apocalypse. But at this stage of the series, with an episode like this, I expected to be blown away by this one and it was... okay. Entertaining enough in spots, but still not a sign that the show is taking The Leap anytime soon.

Also, for a race of superhuman time-travelers, The Observers have very poor taste in henchmen. Donald the assassin was meant to be some terrifying killing machine, I think, and yet he lets Peter Bishop get away from him despite having a gun to his head. I know Peter's not exactly a wimp and has an odd skill set, but still.

What did everybody else think?

17 comments:

purpletoonlink said...

I'm guessing you're just harder to please than me, Alan - but I loved that. Yes, the parts with Olivia and her niece feel contrived to make everybody go 'See, she's really just like everybody else!', but aside from that, I enjoyed pretty much everything about it.

Oh - and the explanation I decided upon while watching was that they wanted someone as average Joe-like to be able to blend in so he could assassinate people - 'repair', without causing too much fuss.

WhatTheFDidIDo said...

Well, I loved it. So much better then the usual monster of the week eps which are entertaing enough, but usually leave me saying "mehhh".

Byron Hauck said...

All sorts of on your side on this one, Mr. Sepinwall. It was just a boring episode. Did we learn anything about anything? Did anything happen of consequence?

Ingrid said...

Completely disagree. I liked the episode very much.

Steve said...

Good episode, although it didn't give us as much information as I'd hoped. We pretty much figured they were doing recon for "over there", but the time skipping abilities were new. Their presence at famous past events reminded me of the early 90s movie "Disaster in Time" about a bunch of time travel tourists.

I thought there was a significant little throwaway bit in the episode regarding the observers' weapon. Broyles mentioned that their analysts couldn't get it to work, and that therefore Peter "must have fired off the last round".

But I'm thinking it can only be fired from people "over there", and that's why August gave Peter the weapon, making him even more significant in the coming war, or "storm". Kind of District 9-esque there.

Carrie said...

Steve, I thought the exact same thing. Peter's true origins are definitely going to be key to the upcoming war.

Unfortunately, other than that little nugget I thought the episode was really boring. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high, but still...snoozeville.

ps said...

as Walter thought back to how he came into custody of the Peter of Earth-WTC, and as he feared that The Observers intended to take this Peter away from him.

Can someone provide this backstory or a link to somewhere that has this backstory (or maybe an episode where they talked about it)? I don't seem to remember too much beyond Peter was drowning and one of the Observers fished him out.

This episode intrigued me. Perhaps it's because I don't watch much science fiction, so it's all new -- no hackneyed tropes for me! I'm not very interested in Dunham, though. I feel she's sort of incidental to the plot -- the necessary "badge/gun" that Peter and Walter need to tell their story.

Steve said...

Can someone provide this backstory or a link to somewhere that has this backstory (or maybe an episode where they talked about it)? I don't seem to remember too much beyond Peter was drowning and one of the Observers fished him out.

In the Season 1 finale, we found out that our world's Peter died as a 7-year-old child, and that the Peter we know was abducted from "over there" (the parallel universe) by our Walter, who found a way to move between universes.

I think the story about how The Observer saved Peter & Walter from drowning is either a cover story or simplification of alt-Peter's abduction, a way for the young alt-Peter to process the abduction.

ps said...

Thanks Steve, I realize that's the one episode I didn't catch last season. I'll have to hunt down a copy!

7s Tim said...

I think the first 2/3 of the episode were great, but that they kinda muffed the ending somehow (although from a narrative stand point it basically ended up where it logically must). Agree that the killer, whose terse introduction and interesting manner of investigation in August's apt made it seem like he'd be all bad@$$, ended up just a regular dude who screws the pooch with this assignment.
The walter stuff was done perfectly, both by the writers and Noble, and I liked the Olivia bits and the beginning and end, and the conclave of Observers was great (do we know the one who has been shown before's name? I feel like I should)
But yeah, for all the excitement I had in the middle of the episode, ot just didn't pay off as well as it should have, even with the ominous Observer comment about Olivia's future.

Jennifer said...

I thought it was pretty interesting. Especially how his dying for her made her "important", somehow. Whatever that means. I doubt they'll ever explain, but I do wonder.

I don't give a goddamn about Olivia and the Kyoot Wittle Kid, though.

abbey normal said...

This was an okay episode.
Olivia and the niece was kinda boring.
Walter is wonderful as usual.
Seeing more of The Observers was neat but hoped we would learn much more about them.

Matt said...

Did the Observers in this episode remind anyone else of Marvel Comic's Watcher?

7s Tim said...

I think the chubby Observer was referred to as Uatu, actually.

dez said...

^I thought I heard that, too. And I enjoyed the ep, even if we didn't learn as much about Observers as I'd hoped.

Mike said...

"Donald the assassin was meant to be some terrifying killing machine, I think, and yet he lets Peter Bishop get away from him despite having a gun to his head."

I don't think Donald was supposed to be a "terrifying" killing machine. I don't even know if he was supposed to be a machine. He's just the Observers' killer for hire.

I also don't think Donald the Assassin could kill Peter. He wasn't asked to. And killing Peter -- or anyone not required to rectify the time continuum thingy -- would cause even more dire effects.

waterboy100 said...

@jennifer: I dont know if you will see this, i know the ep aired 6 days ago, but i just got around to watching it.

Anyways, i think that the intention is that the girl is now important because she has done somethin notable\unique (caused the death of an observer) which apparently hasnt happened before..