Thursday, December 30, 2010

Television Review: Fringe, Season 3.0

When J. J. Abrams left LOST to start producing Fringe, I was a little diffident. What right had he to abandon such an awesome show when we didn't have all our answers, yet? The series started out with a format that was largely (but not entirely) stand-alone episodes rather than serial episodes, which further added to my disappointment. Similar to Abrams' first series, Alias, the main protagonist is a tough girl working in intelligentsia. Fortunately the series progressed to a more serial format and things have gotten interesting. And I've come to terms with Abrams leaving LOST.[1]

In order to keep things interesting, there are easter eggs hidden in the show. For example, every episode has a character, called The Observer, who appears in at least one scene.[2] Also, each episode contains a clue about when the next episode will be about.[3] Finally, an image is briefly shown before each commercial break. The images correspond to a Caesar cipher and can be used to decode a single word clue about the subject of that particular episode.[4]

As we move through the first and second seasons more is revealed about the mysterious (and eponymous) "fringe" events. We also start to learn how the main characters are tied up in these events. At the end of the second season one of the main characters is split apart from the rest. Thus for most of this season the format has alternated between episodes about the isolated character and episodes about the rest of the characters. While each storyline is interesting, presenting it this way sort of kills the momentum of the story as a whole. The mid-season finale was rather unimpressive and went out on a rather predictable note.

My verdict: I definitely like this season better than I liked the first season. But the jury is still out on whether or not it can top the second season. And even though in the history of television programming there has never been (in my experience) a show of this type that answers all of the questions that it poses or reveals all of the mysteries it tantalizes us with [5], I still hold out hope.


[1] Although it's not really because of Fringe—it's because I'm not sure he was really bringing that much creative input to the show in the first place.

[2] Though, like Waldo, he's sometimes difficult to spot.

[3] This one is usually impossible to figure out until after you've seen the subsequent episode.

[4] Truth be told, though, I don't take the time to find/figure these out myself. I just look them up on Fringepedia, which is fairly up-to-date (except for the next episode clues).

[5] I'll admit that Alias was pretty close and Defying Gravity meant to before it got canceled.

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