Tag Archives: Peter

Fringe – “The Man from the Other Side”

“The Man from the Other Side”

April 22nd, 2010

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have been caught up in thesis edits last week, as I thought “White Tulip” was such a pitch-perfect installment of Fringe that it deserved some sort of mention. The episode had a twisty narrative which was meant to be disorienting rather than confusing, a standalone emotional struggle which echoed the serialized emotional struggle that Walter is dealing with, and Peter Weller in a really enjoyable guest turn which built to that absolutely fantastic penultimate scene which was so poetic that I didn’t really know how to react. It is without a question the show’s most arresting standalone story, and the kind of episode that both rewards long-term viewers (in providing another chapter to Walter’s struggles with his darkest secret) and crafts a compelling science fiction narrative in its own right.

I’ve written in the past about how I don’t necessarily think that this show is that much better when it becomes “serialized,” and that those kinds of standalone installments are just as capable of tapping into the emotional core of this series. “The Man from the Other Side” further demonstrates this point, to my mind: while effectively creepy and emotional in its own right, the clear return to serialization makes the episode actually feel more procedural than “White Tulip” was. It’s a solid episode, certainly another in a string of successful hours since the show returned from its hiatus, but I think I prefer a subtle nod towards the show’s serialized story than a traditional mystery surrounding the two universes.

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Moving into a Higher Genre Bracket: Consistency and Balance in FOX’s Fringe

Moving into a Higher Genre Bracket

April 1st, 2010

There are some shows that I can honestly say I’ve given up on: I stopped watching shows like Desperate Housewives because it was clearly not going in an interesting direction, and it had long gone past the point where the strength of the performances could carry my attention. However, there are other shows that I stop watching where there isn’t that moment of decision, where I don’t consciously make some sort of decree about it. I didn’t give up on The Mentalist or Grey’s Anatomy so much as I gave up on finding the time to watch them, which is a completely different situation and one that is particularly common on Thursday nights.

And so when I stopped watching Fringe, it wasn’t some sort of judgment on the show’s standalone episodes, or any sort of disappointment with its serialized development. Rather, Thursdays are busy, and the NBC comedy block having become four-strong this year (at least in theory) has made Thursdays busier than ever. Sure, it says something that Fringe was the first show I dropped, but I don’t want to make that out to be some sort of judgment when it wasn’t one.

I’ve spend the past few days catching up on Fringe’s second season, which I dropped after the second episode, and it’s been quite an illuminating experience. When you step away from a show like Fringe for so long, and end up watching it in this sort of condensed fashion, you see a lot of things that you might not have seen before: your perception, in other words, becomes more important (or at least more noteworthy) than reality, fitting considering the role that played in the episodes I had a chance to watch this week.

While some may argue that Fringe is “inconsistent,” I would argue that it is our perception which varies as opposed to the show itself: depending on where we place our expectations, Fringe is either a compelling procedural with a (relatively) complex serialized mythology or a blasé procedural with intermittent signs of serialized intrigue. I don’t think either of these perspectives are wrong, or unfair to the show, but I would argue that it has been pretty consistent in its ambitions in its second season.

And while I don’t necessarily perceive the show as one of television’s finest, I had a lot of “fun” catching up on the show…in fact, I had more fun than I had expected.

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White Collar – “Hard Sell”

“Hard Sell”

January 19th, 2010

Through the magic of Twitter, I’ve known for a few weeks that critics have been fine with how White Collar resolved its midseason cliffhanger, which I…well, let’s just say that I wasn’t buying what they were selling. So, going into “Hard Sell,” I knew that I wasn’t going to be writing an extended treatise on the show’s incongruous plot twist tarnishing what goodwill it had.

However, although I was able to put away that particular hat, “Hard Sell” remains, well, a hard sell for me. While they may negotiate the cliffhanger in a way that doesn’t damage the integrity of the show, it also does absolutely nothing to make the show more interesting. There’s some vague potential on the margins here that makes me wish this were an entirely different show, but as it is all this mid-season premiere demonstrates is that no matter the crazy ideas the show might introduce, it’s always going to revert back to a pretty blasé procedural with some charismatic leads.

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Heroes – “I Am Become Death”

“I Am Become Death”

October 6th, 2008

When “Five Years Gone” debuted last Spring, I was amongst those who were a bit lukewarm on the episode. Sure, it was interesting to see this potential future for our Heroes, but at that point the “here and now” drama of the series was actually quite compelling. Every time since that point, though, the future has been getting more and more attractive: with the future comes a promise of getting away from the doldrums of the present, of the slowly changing landscape actually getting around to changing before we all grow old or, worst of all for NBC, impatient to the point of tuning out.

What “I Am Become Death” does is follow in this same tradition, as Heroes plagiarizes itself in an effort to keep people interested. I would love to report that it doesn’t work at all, but the episode throws enough “Isn’t the future wacky and crazy?!” at the viewer to give them some (likely irrational) hope that the series is heading in some exciting directions. The entire thing plays out as, in combination, Future Peter ushering Present Peter into this new world, and Matt Parkman witnessing the thing while in a hallucinatory state in Africa, and while there are some interesting broad divisions being drawn as related to the key theme it feels like a lot for the future to live up to.

And Heroes isn’t good at living up to its promise.

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Season Premiere: Heroes – “The Second Coming”

“The Second Coming”

Season Premiere, Part One

[For my review of the second part of the premiere, “The Butterfly Effect,” click here]

I don’t hate Heroes – I just find it really difficult to like Heroes.

There is a difference: there are elements of the show that I really want to like, and parts which remind me at every turn that there is something unique about what the show offers. But after a while, these can only go so far – I’m to the point where I’m the epitome of a cliche when I start prattling on about how nothing on the show will ever live up to “Company Man.”

So I don’t want to open this review with the new cliche, the understandable if overused complaining about the show’s second season. When it comes to coverage here at Cultural Learnings, the kiss of death is not outright negativity but rather sheer disinterest: I stopped recapping Heroes at a certain point primarily because I stopped caring about its characters. That was the second season’s biggest problem: not that its new characters were amongst the worst I could possibly imagine, but rather that they went so far as to render previously acceptable characters worthless. When even Hiro ends up feeling like we’re wasting time, the show is in trouble.

But as a television critic of sorts, I’ve got to keep an open mind – the end result of this is that the first hour of the evening’s premiere represents an important step forward in that the storylines we are seeing develop as part of “Villains,” in particular within “The Second Coming,” are about discovering what makes these characters tick as opposed to them saving the world. Yes, the show has every opportunity to fall off the rails, but I can understand why the Comic-Con crowd was satiated by this hour: it offers more hope for the future than the show has offered since…well, probably since “Company Man.”

…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some issues.

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