Thinking the point was step on every crack

9 10 2013

I’ve been dilatory (cause: laziness) in continuing my reviews of Fringe.

That’s because (in addition to laziness) I did not continue watching Fringe.

There are basic leaps one needs to make whenever watching science fiction (or police/security procedurals), and for the most part I leap away. An FBI agent has a math genius brother who’s able to fulfill his teaching and research obligations to his university while also romancing his former grad student and chalking out formulae to help solve crimes? Okay. An FBI agent who partners with a socially awkward forensic anthropologist genius and her wacky pack o’ squints and their cool tools in order to solve crimes? Sure. An FBI agent whose sister was stolen by aliens when he was a boy paired with a rationalist medical doctor-slash-FBI agent to chase down oddities and supernaturalities in order to discover the truth out there? Sign me up. Hop hop hop.

An FBI agent who partners with a lobotomized genius who accidentally killed a lab assistant and whose been locked away in an asylum for 17 years as a result but now runs a lab in a spare basement room at Harvard in order to chase down oddities and cross-dimensionalities (while romancing that lobotomized genius’s son)? Wellll. . . .

I like the characters, I really do.  Olivia seemed like a real person, and I like(d) her relationship with Charlie and Philip. Nina Sharp is a fabulous cypher, and William Bell is, well, Leonard Nimoy, so, okay. Astrid, the FBI agent-turned-new-lab-assistant, is pleasant, but mostly a non-entity. Peter’s hinted-at background as a criminal matters not at all—and no, one doesn’t need to be a criminal to know dodgy-yet-conveniently-helpful small-timers—and his ambivalence about hanging around his head-chopped dad is meant to connote a kind of agony but shrinks into mere irritation. Still, one can hop along with these two.

The problem, really, is with Walter. He was apparently a real sonuvabitch pre-brain scoop, but while he retains his genius and enough of his memory, he’s mostly just pathetically creepy. He has a hankering for weed and candy, keeps a cow in his lab, and shuffles quite convincingly between his burbling beakers. He giggles at the thought of some of his experiments and appreciates the weirdness the Fringe Division throws his way, but coupled with his constant mispronunciations of Astrid’s name and his keening for his son’s love, his own weirdness comes off as less lovably eccentric than, well, pathetically creepy.

As I write that, I wonder if the show wouldn’t have done better to have pushed even further on the creepiness. The other characters periodically voice their concerns about his trustworthiness, but more because he’s pathetic than that he’s creepy. Had he retained some of those characteristics which made him such a piece of work before, Walter might have become something much more compelling than a quivering mass of goo in a sweater.

This is not a great leap (!) on my part: Alternate-universe Walter, who retains all parts of his brain, is an arrogant, vengeful leader out to destroy those who are destroying his world. He turned out to be far more complex than goo-Walter, and offered a far better character through which to consider how far one should go in order to defend oneself—and one’s world.

Still, as good as “Walternate” was, the extended stay in the alternate universe in season 3 leached away a lot of my enthusiasm for the show. I like dips into alternate universes (one of the best episodes of the terrible Star Trek: Enterprise was bad-ass Enterprise) and well as skips across the timeline (at which Star Trek: Voyager excelled), but I do not react well to permanent shifts in the time/storyline. At all.

I thoroughly enjoyed Eureka, but when they time-shifted the series in the fourth season, I stopped watching. When the fifth season hit Netflix, I did go back and rewatch the entire series, but that shift was something I had to get past. I did—Eureka‘s comedy-drama sensibility helped—but had the show not acknowledged, through the necessity of the characters themselves constantly managing that shift, that they had just messed with something good, I would have stayed gone.

Fringe was hampered in this shift-management insofar as Peter was the only one aware of the previous timeline. The other characters apparently come around (I did dip in and out of season 4), but, coupled with the cross-posting of “Fauxlivia” (yeeks) in the regular universe, I just thought, This shit is too much.

And the fifth season? Haven’t seen it, not least because the setting has been shifted once again, this time into the future, where our plucky gang has to save the world from, apparently, genocidal Observers. Whatever.

I’m not saying I won’t go back and finish it out. But that will only happen once I no longer care so much about those characters, and thus am no longer so bothered by the artless manipulation of them.

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11 10 2013

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