Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fringe, "Safe": Memories of man

Spoilers for last night's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I do a few magic tricks...

I never got around to reviewing last week's butterfly-and-frog extravaganza, which is a shame, because "Fringe" is on quite the little roll the last few episodes, isn't it? I actually watched it ahead of "House" last night, and in many ways have enjoyed it a lot more than "House" over this span.

("House" blogging to follow in a bit, so save all the Thirteen love or hatred until then.)

After dancing around the sci-fi stuff in the early episodes, we've now plunged deep into the skiffy waters with an hour featuring bank robbers who walk through walls and German master criminals who teleport out of the slammer (after first snapping his lawyer's neck and getting properly dressed in the poor bastard's clothes), not to mention the idea that Olivia has now bogarted a bunch of John Scott's memories. Given the show's premise, I think it's smart for the writers to more overtly embrace things that would have no business on, say, "Eleventh Hour."

The running subplot about Olivia having bits of John in her head (when she flashes back to John's memories, does she see herself there, or him?) has finally started giving Anna Torv something interesting to do. The scene last week where Olivia confessed to Charlie that this work could be literally making her crazy was Torv's best of the series, and the scene at the bar last night was the first time she displayed any personality trait other than "stoic and determined." (And am I the only one who spent much of that scene wondering whether Olivia was sharing things about herself or things she had taken from John?)

And the Walter/Peter relationship is really clicking now. I loved all of their scenes last night -- Peter trying to explain the concept of big box stores to Walter, Walter being delighted by Peter's magic, Peter figuring out ways to phrase questions so they'll penetrate Walter's usual mental fog -- and with or without Olivia, I'd be happy to watch a weekly installment of The Battling Bishops.

What did everybody else think? It's getting much better, right?


Anonymous said...

The show is definitely hitting its stride, and I'm glad to see that I wasn't alone in finding Olivia much more likable this week.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving Fringe these days more than House.

memphish said...

Actually it's losing me. Everything is telegraphed a mile and a half away. Of course dude was going to get stuck in the wall. Of course German dude was going to steal dumb lawyer's suit and escape. And I wish that actor would stop channeling Hannibal Lechter.

I still don't give a rat's behind about Olivia, her non-work life, her work life, her survival, any of it. Rip Scott's memories out of her and leave her and her husky I'm an American, not an Australian accent, in a ditch.

And now we have a working tesseract that pulls space if not time together. Yes it's embraced the sci fi, but in such a pat way that I have no fear that whatever anyone might need will just pouf magically appear as it has week in and week out.

Will I miss it between now and January? Doubtful. Will I pick it back up? Only if Tuesday continues to be the TV wasteland it has been this fall.

Kiersten said...

I stopped watching a while ago - the battling Bishops weren't front and center enough to off-set the black hole that is Olivia. Now you're making me want to tune back in - a little. Maybe on the reruns...

Anonymous said...

There were good moments and bad moments. Dude in the wall was cool to look at, but it was clear from the start that someone was getting stuck and that was that and blah, blah, blah. I didn't care. It was also clear from the first moment Jared Harris started talking about the lawyer's suit that he would be wearing it by the end of the show. On the other hand, there were other points where I was kind of excited to realize something because even though they were laying the groundwork and making it clear it was a little more fun. Like when Olivia started recalling how she knew the guy in the wall, her voice and mannerisms changed and for a minute it was a very WTF thing, but when she met the wife at the door it clicked that there was going to be a reveal that she was channeling John's memories and not her own. That was fun and there were not only actual consequences to something they'd done, but something that matters to the entire show and not just for the few seconds they're talking about it in a particular scene.

I really enjoyed the scene in the bar and I loved everything that involved Peter and Walter. The box store scene was great and the casual interaction between Peter and Olivia was a nice change.

One thing I find weird about my own ability to suspend disbelief or blindly accept some of the more outlandish moments of this show is that apparently I have my limits and those limits don't make sense. I can accept that Olivia can get in a tank and enter John's brain, that she can have more memories zapped into her, that Peter can get another dude's memories and that Blair Brown can hook John Scott up to machines and download everything in his brain, but once it hits the point where nameless doctor lady produces a photo of Olivia and declares that she's managed to download the missing memories into her own head remotely...that's where I apparently draw the line and call bullshit. The rest, I buy. That I don't. I can't explain why.

Still, even though I've enjoyed it more lately, I love Peter and Walter's bickering and Joshua Jackson is still my favorite eye candy of the moment, unless they continue to improve at a drastic speed, they might get dumped when "Reaper" comes back. I could tivo, but I suspect that I would never watch it.

Anonymous said...

This show has affected me much the same way "Jericho" did. Every week I'd think "well, that's it, no more", but then next week I'd be back. At least with "Jericho" I had the excuse that the episodes were sitting out there on CBS On Demand, but with "Fringe" I'd have to delete it from my "record new episodes" slate and I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it. But the thing does actually seemed to have kicked it up a notch or two in the past few weeks and I guess I'm in for the duration. "Fringe" could actually be a very good show if Anna Torv weren't the most bland, uninteresting main character on any show I watch. Just imagine "Fringe" with the lead played by someone as charismatic as Gillian Anderson. It would absolutely kill.

gina said...

I'm with you, Alan - it's getting much better.

Last night's episode felt less like an X-Files wannabe and more like an Alias episode, which I think is a far better fit for this show. And there were nice character moments, terrific suspense and satisfying story continuity. Yeah, I figured the guy was going to get stuck in the wall, but that doesn't mean I wasn't on the edge of my seat waiting for it to happen. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Anonymous said...

I'm still bummed that the killer butterflies weren't real, but other than that, yeah, I do think the show is improving. But as for Torv, the added personality is too little, too late. They need to let Teleporting German Dude off her and stick to the Battling Bishops and their sidekick, Asteroid! I'll probably still DVR it when "Reaper" returns, but if Torv continues to be a vortex of suckitude, I might give it up.

Hatfield said...

It's better, but I suspect the consistent inconsistency of the early going has lowered expectations. Even still, Peter and Walter have really got an excellent rapport going now, and John Noble is so good at expressing child-like wonder with that craggly face of his I'd almost be inclined to watch a show of just him discovering stuff and playing with it.

Count Screwloose said...

Oh - yes - it - is.


Alanna said...

One really interesting thing about Fringe is that, for me, it's almost TiVo-proof. Yes, I do record it and watch later, but I've found that I'm far less inclined to go to the trouble of reaching for the remote and FF-ing through commercials when that weird tag comes on and says, "Fringe will return in 60 seconds." I might not necessarily be watching the commercials, but I'm not avoiding them the way I do with nearly every other show. Plus, other hourlong dramas clock in at around 42 minutes, but each Fringe ep is nearly 48 minutes long. More to watch! (Even if it's not always entertaining. Yes, I'm a couch potato.)

I'm tempted to send this comment to every network programming head, typed up in 20pt font and a sparkly envelope, in hopes they'll consider the same broadcasting model for other shows. Alan, have you heard anything about how well this is working out for Fox?

Anonymous said...

Agree wholeheartedly that the show is hitting its stride and this was the best episode yet. Of course certain things are telegraphed. This is a TV show. Not every one of them can be Lost. And is it just me does does weird German dude seem to be an amalgamation of Hannibal Lecter, Windome Earl from the second season of Twin Peaks and Ben from Lost?

Anonymous said...

I agree the show is getting better, but it's also getting more ridiculous. And I actually don't have a problem with any of the ridiculous "science" but more with the logic. I mean, Walter can invent a time machine, but can't cure a disease someone else has already cured? And they made all that effort to get Walter's device to break someone out of jail when they already had a machine that allowed people to walk through walls? REALLY??

K J Gillenwater said...

Anonymous, two responses to your comments. One, they stated at the Rhode Island robbery scene that the thieves did not come through multiple walls...they could only come through one. So they knew the thieves had to come through the floor. Which tells me they couldn't have used the device to get through a multiple wall situation like a jail. Two, Walter said it was a time machine...not a displacement machine. So I was under the impression that the bad guy came from some other TIME, not just some other place. I wanted them to focus in on some newspaper or something that would show us a date. It would be kind of silly to introduce a time machine concept and not have the escapee actually travel through time, wouldn't it?

I think this show is getting better. My favorite part is usually the first 5 minutes, but I am looking forward every week to Walter and his crazy comments and strange reactions. I like also that they are making Olivia into this oddball with her weird psychological crap going on. Makes her a lot more intriguing a character

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Shouldn't the robbery team have cut off the head and hands of the body that was stuck in the wall before they left?

Anonymous said...

You should program a 30 second skip button on your remote (assuming its possible to do that on Tivo remotes, I have a Comcast DVR). I love that button and its awesome for skipping past Fringe commercials. When it says "back in 60 sec" I just hit the button twice and the show will be coming right back on at exactly the right moment. Takes no time at all. Once in a while they toss out a 50 or 70 second curveball, but its usually 60 or 90 seconds which makes it very easy. Using a 30-sec-forward button makes Fringe the easiest show on TV to record and skip commercials if you are inclined to do so.

And I agree the show is getting better, although I've enjoyed it from the start. As they focus more on connecting the cases and revealing character backstories, its gotten even more interesting.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

KB, how do you do that on your Comcast DVR?

Anonymous said...

Matter-Eater Lad,
See the steps below. I use the 'A' button as suggested. I now do all my commercial skipping with a combo of hitting 'A' repeatedly and then the 15 second back button when I go too far. Much faster and easier than using the normal DVR fast forwarding. Along with Fringe, the 30 sec skip is particularly awesome if you ever watch football that has been recorded. 30 secs is the perfect amount of time to skip between plays due to the play clock.

Here are the steps:

Choose an unused or unneeded button on the “silver” remote to be the 30-second skip command. I used my “A-lock” button, its close to other DVR controls.

Press the “Cable” button at the top of the remote to put it into Cable Box control mode.

Press and hold the “Setup” button until the “Cable” button blinks twice.

Type in the code 994. The “Cable” button will blink twice.

Press (do not hold) the “Setup” button.

Type in the code 00173.

Press whatever button you want to map the 30-second skip command to (again I suggest the yellow A button).

That should do it.

Nicole said...

I think it's getting better too. I don't mind that it's resembling Alias because I liked that show. My only complaint was that they wasted James Frain as the lawyer with not much to do in this episode. Maybe I watch too much British tv, but he's been Cromwell in the Tudors, and was on 24, so I don't understand why he was in what was pretty much a bit part.