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Fringe – “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”

“Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”

April 15th, 2011

“I can see it in your eyes – it’s not you.”

Well, that was quite the experiment.

Part of what has made the third season of Fringe so compelling is the degree to which the other universe has been fully realized. It is a place we can journey to, a place with a heartbeat and which moves us beyond the imaginary. Olivia being trapped in that world wasn’t a problem that needed to be solved, it was a situation that begged to be explored. It was an instance of science fiction storytelling that had room to breathe, that could be revealed gradually rather than being defined immediately.

By comparison, the Inception-esque journey that Walter, Peter and William Bell’s consciousness take into Olivia’s mind is pure imaginary. While I do not want to discount the value of the imaginary, and would applaud the show for testing the boundaries of its visual storytelling with its use of animation, the fact remains that “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” just absolutely failed to resonate for me. As the episode came to its emotional conclusion, I felt one level removed from the action, and I don’t think it was simply because of the fact that the characters in question were cel-shaded.

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Lost – “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

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“The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

February 25th, 2009

Because there’s a war coming, John – if you’re not back on the island when that happens, the wrong side is going to win.

The question of destiny plays a pretty fundamental role in how things operate in the world of Lost. John Locke, of course, was a man who believed in the foundational aspects of destiny, who took on the role of believer while on the island because he had been most affected by its healing, most drawn in by its mystery, most wrapped up in its central nervous system of sorts.

But Locke has never been unwavering in that faith, until more recently; when the island began skipping, his insistence that he needed to go and find the others came from the words of Richard Alpert, and was something that has never made sense in and of itself. Locke does not know why he is to bring them back, or what good it will do, but he has committed himself to Alpert’s word, and to the island that he has some sort of a connection to. We knew, from the show’s fourth season, that Locke got off the island, and that he spoke to the Oceanic Six in order to convince them to return, convince them to come back with him. But what we didn’t know is what drove him to do so, and even before this week’s episode, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” that point wasn’t entirely clear. Was it fate and destiny that brought him to this place?

There are, however, two faces of fate that linger around this narrative, two people who appear to profit from and are driven by the manipulation of fate, this power lust of sorts for something approaching control. When Locke returns to spread his word, the word that the island told him to tell, he is swept under the wing of two men who lay the same claims, who give the same reasons, and who ultimately offer the same thing: safety, protection, guidance. We have been taught, with time, to trust neither of them, and with the structure of this episode we have to wonder where the show now sits on these two men. The episode, written by series creators Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse and directed by Jack Bender, investigates a period in John Locke’s life where he became another man, where that man had his faith tested, and where John Locke was reborn.

And, well, there’s a lot of things to consider with this.

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Fringe – “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”

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“In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”

November 11th, 2008

I don’t think that anyone could actually be addicted to Fringe at this point, to be honest: while Abrams’ last show, Lost, became this massive sensation, there is nothing sensational about Fringe, as evidenced by this week’s episode, the first new one in three weeks. This is not to say that this episode is bad – on the contrary, it was actually one of the more memorable episodes for a few characters – but rather that it feels as if it is operating at a near glacial pace.

The episode is one of the most expansive: when Fringe science pops up on the FBI’s doorstep, solving this individual mystery unlocks the secret to something much bigger, opening up this world to new scientific terror cells organized as “ZFT.” Really, this is nothing new for a procedural: you take what you’ve been doing all along, solving crazy scientific mysteries like this week’s pirahna plant organism eating away the FBI agent’s insides, and suddenly make solving them about more than an individual life and more about driving our heroes to search out new questions, new answers.

But the show has, honestly, been extremely slow with answers: we might only be 7 episodes in, but things like character dynamics and organizational terror-like cells are the types of things that might have been useful earlier. There were questions early about whether or not the show could last very long, but they insisted they had a plan: is there plan, however, just to move really slowly in opening up this world? This wasn’t a bad episode in execution or in design, but there was a point where Broyles was ranting about Olivia being stubborn in wanting to control what can’t be controlled, contained what can’t be contained that stuck with me. It felt like Abrams was telling me not to ask questions, not to want more out of this show.

And while I’m willing to be patient, I do think that the eponymous Mr. Jones has some potential, and forgive me for hoping that we’ll see it sooner rather than later.

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Series Premiere: Fringe – “Pilot”

“Pilot”

September 9th, 2008

One of the fascinating things about Fringe is that, at its core, it is many things we normally associate with lesser television series. It’s blindly derivative of The X-Files, is a procedural in an era where the term is a dirty word, and J.J. Abrams’ creative influence feels like a simplified version of Alias. Combine with a rather outrageous sense of psuedoscience that takes some time to get into, and there’s plenty of reasons why Fringe could have been a disappointment.

But it’s not: from the opening scene, Fringe raises a central question that begs an answer, a scientific mystery that is caught up in something very large and, most importantly, something very real. I don’t mean real in the sense that this exists within our own universe, but that it is not some conspiracy trapped within pure shadows: yes, there is definite mystery, but the actual structure of the series represents a clear and, at least generally speaking, easy to follow setup in which these questions can be answered.

While this does mean that the show will not be quite the action-based and serialized rollercoaster that Lost or Alias were on occasion, it more importantly allows the show to focus on other things. In particular, there is some very strong character work throughout the episode, with strong performances and good scripting creating both interpersonal relationships and personal motivations that drive the action forward. While the result is a pilot that lacks the same punch as Abrams’ previous projects, it might actually be a better pilot at foregoing a few twists and turns (not that the ones in the episode are poor) in favour of building a sustainable foundation for the future.

Plus: that dude’s jaw totally just melted off.

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Pilot Preview – FOX’s “Fringe”

“Fringe”

Fall 2008 Pilot Preview

[As per pilot screener regulations, this is a preview and not a review. The content of the series may change between now and the show's official airing, so all thoughts are of a preliminary nature pending said changes. For a full review, tune in for the show's September premiere.]

When Fringe debuts in September, there are going to be a lot of comparisons made: to the past work of producer J.J. Abrams, to television’s last prominent science fiction procedural, and also to the rest of the pilots coming to the networks this fall. In all three cases, the show will play well – in its current form, Fringe is a tight series with a compelling cast, a winning premise and (most of all) the mythological underpinnings that drive any great piece of Abrams drama.

[Warning: The review will not feature any major spoilers, but there could be a few light ones as I make some comparisons to other series, so tread lightly if you're worried about learning a single piece of the show's plot.]

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