Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why I Enjoy Fringe

My one hour of television viewing each week is on Tuesday to watch Fringe. Last night sidling up to the tube, my housemate was watching the end of her show and when I sat down she said, "Are you watching 'Cringe' or whatever?" That's the love in our house. Against the grain go I. Esoteric science mixed with conspiratorial derring-do, smart dialogue and enough mystery to generate a thousand harebrained theories -what's not to enjoy?

Yesterday's was the last episode for a few weeks and quite eventful it was. One of the "fringe" elements in the show is memory overlap, specifically between the main character, Olivia Dunham, and the man who betrayed her, John Scott. In the show pilot (sadly the worst episode of the season thus far) Olivia entered his memory to retrieve information crucial to that week's plot. This was tricky: John was dead at the time.
Subsequently she has seen him pop up in random places. It turns out that parts of his memory overlapped with hers and now reside in her brain, and as a result she sometimes experiences his memory as her own.

Sound confusing? Over the stretch of several episodes, the show has worked admirably to explain this phenomenon to the audience, culminating in a great moment last night when Olivia mistook one of John's memories for her own. In a previous episode she actually went into one of his memories to search for clues, very Charlie Kaufman-esque with creepy overtones of lost love gone terribly wrong.

One of the show's core strengths is the relationship between Dr Walter Bishop and his son, Peter. They are wonderful. Joshua Jackson plays Peter with a lot of soul -which I suppose fans of Dawson's Creek will recognize. John Noble, last seen as Denethor in the Lord of the Rings, treads a thin line with his character, teetering between cute nonsense and scientific brilliance, finding at the intersection a fascinating study in obsessive behavior.

The show has it's problems. One of the villains is a Hannibal Lecter knockoff, while others are under-cooked. The actress who plays Olivia could use some coaching on how to act outside of the one-note range. Nevertheless, there's nothing else so weird and fun like Fringe on tv these days, and to judge from the season so far, it's just going to get better.

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