Thursday, February 04, 2010

Fringe, "Jacksonville": The glimmer woman

A quick review of the "Fringe" winter finale coming up just as soon as you get me some pretzels...

As "Fringe" heads into another long, frustrating hiatus (so that Fox can find a timeslot for the very silly "Past Life"), I'm wondering how strong my interest will be in seeing the show when it returns in April. There are some things it does very well. You can always count, for instance, on freaky/cool/disturbing teasers, like tonight's collision of two buildings from parallel universes, and the people in them(*). And John Noble will always be wonderful, whether he's being endearingly wacky (the pretzel gag), or terrified, or forced to face up to the despicable nature of all those experiments he did with "Bellie" all those years ago. And episodes can usually be counted on to wrap up well, as we got the swirling building disappearance (with better CGI effects than I've seen on a number of shows this week, like "Lost" and "Human Target") and Olivia discovering Walter's terrible secret about which universe this Peter Bishop came from.

(*) The most prominent of said people was played by Jim True-Frost, well-known to "Wire" fans as Prez. I was a little disappointed he didn't get a chance to do much with old co-star Lance Reddick, frankly.

The problem, almost always, is in the long, boring middle between the disturbing teasers and the episode's resolution - and that seems to be true whether it's a standalone episode like last week's evil Nazi story or a mythology-heavy one like this. I also don't find Olivia wandering around a fantasy dreamscape nearly as fascinating as the show's producers do.

Because "Fringe" airs on such a busy viewing night for me and simply isn't as high on my priority list as, say, the NBC comedies, I tend to let episodes stack up on the DVR for a while. And when I get to them, it's usually in conjunction with completing some other task. (The Nazi episode accompanied yesterday morning's workout, and then the sorting of some laundry.) It's not a bad show, but even in is more mythology-heavy episodes (which tend to be the creatively stronger ones), it's rarely compelling enough that I feel in the need to hurry to see it. And with it being out of sight, out of mind until April Fool's Day, it may feel very easy for me to just cut the cord.

The ratings have ticked up in recent weeks, and some people at Fox I spoke with at press tour seemed perfectly content with the ratings when you factor in DVR usage. (They knew when they moved it to Thursdays that its audience might wait a day or two to watch it, but would be technologically-adept enough to be willing and able to do that.) We'll just have to see how much loyalty there is over the next two months.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Walter said the combination he didn't know the significance of was 5-20-10. That, not coincidentally, is the date of the season finale.

Steve said...

I'm surprised Walter didn't track down his old assistant (lover?) who was played by Theresa Russell earlier this season. She had the ability to see the "glimmer" as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand why Olivia only noticed the glimmer on Peter at the end of the episode and didn't see it earlier when she said she was afraid right before he was about to kiss her.

compain87 said...

I really liked the winter finale. As long as they have John Noble playing Walter Bishop I'm in.

I listened to you and Feinberg talk about Fringe on the podcast. I don't mind the middle during the Mythology episodes, but I think they might want to tweak the shows that aren't mythology episodes. You were right in that they need to improve the procedural part of the show (or was that Feinberg). I really enjoy the Mythology heavy episodes because with fringe even though you might be confused at least we have Peter Bishop to explain Walter's Ramblings. I think it is by far the best lost knock off show. Oddly with the whole alternate reality thing going on in lost they both are discussing the same things. Now if only we could send Walter and Peter to the Island. If this happened last season there could have been an epic meeting of the minds between Walter Bishop and Daniel Faraday with Peter Bishop as the interpreter.

One thing that I found interesting is how Walter is the one being blamed for all the things done to Oliviaand other children. Feinberg even wanted to compare him to Hitler. if it wasn't for Walter saying Bellie then i really feel like no one would remember that it was more than just Walter. Walter did these horrible things but in the end it seems like what he wanted was to get his son back even if that meant stealing him from another dimension. William Bell it seems just wanted to get rich. Until the audience saw he was Leonard Nimoy we accepted he was just exploiting science for his company. Now there is this shift that he is almost a General in this Inter-dimensional war between alternate realities. Personally I feel like this shift wouldn't have occurred if it was anyone else but with Nimoy they almost changed the dynamic to Nimoy. Is this just me?

It was nice to see Prez on my TV. I always enjoy anything a little more if it involves someone from The Wire.

Sorry Alan for the long post.

Anonymous said...

Opening Cryron "Manhatan" with one T. Thought it was a typo until I saw the New Pentagon plans before the multi-Quake.


Gabriel said...

I came to this show late, got caught up and am now fully addicted. I'm a sucker for great characters and this show has them - not just Walter, with Noble as a total knockout (another great Australian actor!), but I love Astrid too, and I think the Walter-Peter chemistry is great. I've come round to OIlvia's odd persona (I would say Anna Torv is not one of our great actors, but she's OK). I love pretty much every episode (with the exception of the one with the horrible plotholes a little while back (Grey Matters, I think - the one where oops, suddenly Olivia didn't have back up). I'm just disappointed about the imminent pairing up of Peter and Olivia. When romance is introduced it always ruins it for me.

Derek said...

The absolute worst thing you can say about a show like Fringe is that it was boring.

Tonight's episode was boring. I spent all 60 minutes waiting for the last few seconds, when Olivia saw Peter for what he was.

And it's not that I'm so smart. The writers have been heavy handed in their "Peter is from the other universe" hints since last season.


Count Screwloose said...

Loved the 'Manhatan' gag, too.

Have to agree that for all of its coolness quotient, there are pacing problems that leave one feeling like there's an empty center when it's over. Not sure what they can do besides either holding their cards a little closer to their vests, or perhaps complicating things further to create more of what is becoming a rapidly diminishing mystery.

Was having a few 'Cloverfield' flashbacks tonight, though, which was cool.

TW said...

I think it is the best show on television.

Yes, the procedural parts are often the weakest, but you sit through them because you care. You care about the characters and cherish every little moment of joy that the actors deliver through their characters each and every week.

It's no different than the other so-called great shows like Lost or the X-Files. The weaker epidodes will still be there and the overarching mythology may sometimes seem secondary, but in the end it doesn't matter when you've found the real essence of the show.

And for me, most of the 'weak' episodes haven't really been weak at all.

Jason G. said...

My biggest issue was the sudden chemistry-less attempted kiss between Peter and Olivia. It's as if the producers were taking their cues from conjecture or network executives and not the story. They have done nothing to build up any romantic chemistry between the two. In fact, they've only improved the almost sibling-esque chemistry between the two. Peter still had better chemistry with Olivia's sister.

And they just didn't build up to this properly. So to me it totally came off as something done to appease Fox or as if someone from Us weekly stepped into the writer's room and said "those two are cute...can i get a hook and an up!"

OldDarth said...

Arrrgh - now have to wait till April for the next episode. FOX drives me nuts.

I was kind of surprised they went this route with the Peter revelation. Really thought Astrid was going to be the one to break this story line open.

This revelation will split the team apart. Olivia is between a rock and a hard place. If she says nothing and Peter finds out, Peter will be upset at her and Walter. If she says anything, the rebuilding of the relationship between Walter and Peter is lost.

The salient question is, is there another Walter in the alternate universe? I hope so, for that is a more dramatic storyline.

Xeddicus said...

Seemed like a bit of a plot hole all the people got out the building/didn't cross over. Buildings need to be balanced, but not people? Minor quibble, though.

Fringe does have problems, mainly FOX taking it off the air for dumb reasons. Quality wise it's better than most of everything else on TV or as good as.

I'm pretty sure Peter is what helps her kick start her powers, he was present both times now. So if he does kiss her she'll get her fire starting powers back!

Anonymous said...

Well, at least this week was better than last.

Fringe is decent, but it certainly doesn't have it's hooks in me the way most JJ Abrams shows do. I'm mostly in it for John Noble and, to be totally honest, because I've been crushing on Joshua Jackson since his Mighty Ducks days.

The almost kiss between Peter and Olivia was totally out of left field. It felt so wrong to me. The writers haven't put any effort into building sexual tension between the two. If they want a romance there, they have to earn it, not just expect the audience to go along with it because they happen to have two attractive people to conveniently stick together. Personally I hope they drop it.

But I am interested to see where they take Peter's story, now that it's confirmed he is from the parallel universe. And I'd love to see Astrid get a bigger part, she has fantastic chemistry with both Walter and Peter.

7s Tim said...

So what kid from our side got sucked over the Earth-2 when Walter stole Peter? Is he gonna be the big reveal in the season finale (I also felt a large smack on the head from the writers when the "I don't know why our combination matches our season finale" line was said--- Hey guys, listen to this, it's important!)? Is Anti-Peter the general of the invading hordes?

I believe Walter and Bell were trying to prepare our side for the invasion they could see coming and not just messing with kids. I also wanna know how they could see it coming-- a psychic from his past gonna crawl outta the woodwork when the season returns? As horrific as experimenting on kids may be, and as ruthless a person as Old Walter has sometimes been shown to be, they are fighting a war for our reality, so maybe some ends mitigate, if not justify, the means.

Commenter who said the non-mythology episodes should be a little peppier was right since it would solve some of the pacing issues. When big ol' craziness is going down, having the characters take a beat and just process it, or showing that even during inter-reality conflict there are quiet moments, can be a good thing. But having it happen every episode can be frustrating. A could one-off eps that fly by at breakneck speed would make the quiet moments more of a novelty. They just need to trim that fat a little: Olivia wandering around the schoolhouse, and playing on swings, and sitting in a burned up little room-- we get it, there is a feeling of helplessness building, but you don't gotta make it seem like the potential for failure is exacerbated by their inability to adapt to the situation. Liked the scene of Walter finding his old glasses. Maybe he can regain a little of the old walter while at the same time still being a likeable character.

Anonymous said...

I laughed, I cried, I reached me, it made me feel, and that to me is the bar by which I measure wether or not something is a good show/episode. This one worked for me.
I enjoy "spelunking" through the dichotomy of Walter's personality. A man who struggles daily, almost minute by minute, with his own personal demons. His seemingly amoral decisions of the past creeping back in to demand payment because, as he stated in this episode, the universe (multiverse) demands balance.
Sometimes things like "pacing" and "ratings" and "cgi" are irrelevant, just as whether or not something is aired during a "busy viewing night" in the age of streaming anything/anytime online when you are in the mood.
Thia episode brought to a boil several plot points that had been previously simmering throughout the show. Peter's is from "the other side" and Walter is a big-fat-selfish liar for bringing him here and not being honest about it/facing it, Walter's love for Olivia manifesting in a desire for her to marry Peter, Olivia's need to confront Walter for experimenting on her when she was a "defenseless child". I found it poignant, heartfelt and real.
This show is not without its flaws in the areas of science and cinema, but I "suspend my disbelief" and I feel that it is worthy of being judged on its own merits. Taken back to an obscure basement laboratory on the Harvard campus, as it were, and being examined objectively.

dez said...

Peter still had better chemistry with Olivia's sister.

I missed a few eps last season. What happened between Peter & Olivia's sister? I thought they had something going.

Whatever pacing probs (and much less Prez than I wanted) in this ep, Glimmery Peter made up for it. I cannot wait until April for this show to come back!

Anonymous said...

Prez! That really made my day, even though he didn't interact with Daniels.

The glimmers reminded me of Doctor Who in the episode where Rose gets trapped in the parallel world - In DW, it was people who travelled in time who gets the timey wimey dust stuff on them, here the glimmers are on things from the parallel world.

Unknown said...

for me, the ONLY thing wrong with fringe is that i don't care a single bit about olivia. unfortunately, this is a relatively major thing. it makes all the scenes and dynamics centering on her labor really hard to work, if they work at all. i don't know if it's an acting problem or a writing problem, but it just feels like she's in the way of the show. it shouldn't. she's the lead character (even if it's an ensemble show), and she's got crazy powers. but it does. i still look forward to episodes, but anything focused on the other characters or the larger mythology is going to work much better than stuff that focuses on olivia. at least for me and my friends who like the show.