Sunday, 17 May 2009

Of Fringe Season 1

Fringe is the new show from Lost co-creator J.J Abrams. Whilst he hasn't had any involvement in Lost since very early in Season 3, his fingerprints are all over the show. Problem is I can only think of J.J Abrams being a great director. The Lost pilot looks gorgeous and in my eyes in probably the best directed piece he has done in his career (yes better than MI:3 and Star Trek). Thing is Lost is sustained by Damon and Carlton not J.J, so even if there's a new show with him attached, you have to go in knowing it probably isn't going to be as good.

To start with Fringe definitely wasn't anywhere near as good as Lost. Whilst there are definitely some cool moments in those first few episodes it takes until about episode ten for the show to hit it's stride. After the show is fairly consistent with very few stumbles.

Problem is, Fringe has yet to elevate above a stage above merely enjoyable. I'm not actually invested in anyone and I could safely miss the show for weeks before I bother to catch up. It definitely isn't as riveting as Lost where I have actually watched the three times already and will be watching the finale in about an hour.

Luckily the show does have a lot going for it. The cast is pretty damn cool, Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble all put on great performances. John Noble is by far the best performance on the show and is also my favourite character in the form of Walter Bishop. After spending decades in a mental asylum he comes out and he's definitely a little bit insane, remembering things wrong and with a constant craving for food. Luckily John Noble doesn't make the character grating in the slightest and it's always a joy to see him on screen.

Unluckily due to the series being semi-serialised/procedural none of the other main characters actually get any development. They play essentially the same role in every episode and it would be nice to some actual evolution in those characters. However the main three characters do receive enough development and all the actors are very cool so I guess we can't complain when by appealing to a mass audience we do get more of this show which looks like it is going to get a whole lot better next season.

Now I'm not saying Fringe is bad, it really isn't. In fact some of the Fringe science is very nicely done. Thing is the procedural element occasionally gets in the way and the show is really at it's best when it's dealing with some of its more serialised elements such as ZFT which thankfully makes up a large portion of the season. In fact this show has a real uncanny ability to tie in episodes that were seemingly standalone episodes and would never be brought up again. This is where the true strength of the show lies. The way that the show just ties in so many plot elements from proceeding episodes makes the eventual pay off even more satisfying. Only problem is I felt they waited a bit too long to do it and the second half of the season is definitely a lot stronger than the first.

The show definitely has some stand out moments, "The Arrival" is the first episode where the first signs of greatness appear. Episode 10 "Safe" is the payoff for the first nine episode and just is superb pay off sadly I just couldn't get invested in the show. Then the finale "There's More Than One Of Everything" was great and probably the best episode of the season. I'm not going to spoil any particular plot lines or Fringe sciences from the show, but in a very similar manner to Dollhouse I would say that the show suffers a little bit from under-serialisation from shows that really need it. Fringe definitely found the best mix of the two but it still started off just a tad too slow.

I will definitely be watching next season because the show really started to come along in the last half of the season. In fact the finale of Fringe was great with some great twists and one scene which is sure to be debated over the summer by fans. Problem is I'm not ready to call myself a fan yet. I'm still an avid viewer but I don't know I hope the show keeps up the high quality it build up over the last half of the season next year.

Overall the show has a large supply of incredibly cool moments (the cold opens always being very intriguing). But in my opinion the first half of the season was a bit slow and lacked the punch of previous Abrams shows. Whilst the pay off at the end was more than worth, I just wish it hadn't taken nine episodes of a show I really wanted to love. I still think it's good, great even but I'm definitely not as smitten as I wanted to be. Although that finale was great and if the show continues along like this I'm going to look back on this and think what a complete idiot I am. 7.5/10

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