Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fringe, Season 1: Pilot, Same Old Story, the Ghost Network

I haven't watched many movies lately, but I did watch the pilot and the next two episodes of the first season of Fringe last night. I have to say I was thoroughly entertained. There are a number of elements that are pretty standard for these kinds of sci-fi cop shows: a rugged cop with emotional scars (Dunham), a hapless but occasionally critically useful partner (Bishop junior), comedy relief (Bishop senior), a boss with mysterious connections (Broyles), a huge corporation with a corner on cutting edge technology (Massive Dynamic), and a great conspiracy involving said technology that threatens to rip the fabric of existence as we know it (the "pattern")! This is honestly a setup for just about every dystopian-reality plot out there.

Nevertheless, where it differs is in the types of, well, fringe scientific ideas it plays with. Granted, I've only seen a few episodes, so it could get worse, but the scientific subject matter reminds me an awful lot of a Warren Ellis script (I re-read Planetary recently, and am looking forward to the second issue of Captain Swing, so his style is fresh on my mind). He happens to be one of my favorite writers in comics. He's not as gloomy and occultist as Moore, and not as predictable and coy as Gaiman, but encompasses some of the better elements of both of their writing styles. And he, too, is apparently a fan of fringe science. In the series so far, we've got things like communicating with the brain waves of the dead, rapid aging, reading images off of an eyeball via electrical impulses, flesh-eating viruses... bring it on, I say! I have a feeling it won't take me to long to get through the rest of the first season, and I also have a feeling that I won't be getting much sleep this week.

I only noticed one continuity issue which I'd love for someone to explain away to me if they care to: the image that was read off of the dead woman's eyeball was that of a bridge. Dr. Bishop makes a big deal out of elaborating on how the last image a person sees upon death is imprinted on the retina. But the bridge was not the last thing the poor woman saw. She was still alive as Speedy-Gro was about to extract her pituitary gland. So he is actually the last image she would have seen. The bridge works better for the story, but it's sloppy and you can't do too much of that kind of thing in a series and expect the audience to play along every time. That's part of what ruined Heroes for me. I felt like the validity of the plot (if you could call it that, really) absolutely depended on my willingness to lend liberal dramatic license. I resented it after a while, even though I loved the idea of the series and hung on much longer than I really wanted to, hoping it would get better.

I only saw the second X-Files movie, which I sort of enjoyed, all the while imagining I would have appreciated it much more had I seen even a single episode of X-Files. No tomatoes, please- I was in college(s) when it was on, and didn't really keep up much with television. So, I will throw this out to anyone who's familiar with both Fringe and the X-Files: are there any similarities? I was wondering if I saw a bit of a Scully/Mulder vibe between Dunham and Bishop junior, and of course, fringe science and the paranormal would certainly share ample space in a Venn diagram.

I'm still looking forward to the rest of the season. I'll keep you posted if it seems worth it.

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