I’ve been a fan of Fringe since season 1. It had a shaky start, but I gave it leeway because there is nothing I like better than a television program showcasing capable women, mad scientists and weird events.
From the beginning it was clear the show rotated around the character of Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), and what I liked most about her was her drive, ambition and her ability to emphatise with those who have been preyed upon by stronger forces. This is a woman with a mission to save people, and women in particular. She also had her heart broken quite badly in the first season, with a long period of not knowing if her dead boyfriend had betrayed her and their country.
Alongside Olivia is the charming and demented Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a scientist who has been mentally unstable for nearly two decades but seems to be the key to understanding all the odd happenings (known as the pattern) occurring in the world. His reluctant handler is his son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), who has been emotionally distant from his crazy dad for a long time, and seems to specialise in shady deals and knowing all the right/wrong people.
While season 1 might have taken a while to get off the ground, once it got up to speed it belted along at a fantastic rate, introducing alternate realities, dastardly corporations, multi-dimensional observers on the human race, bizarre science experiments and one of the best cliffhangers I’ve seen at the end of any television show.
I waited for season 2 with great impatience, but as the new series unfolded I found myself increasingly disenchanted. Olivia faded into the background as it became the Peter and Walter Show, along with the glimmerings of a plot device I particularly dislike: the Prophetic One who will solve/destroy everything. This plotline was centred around Peter, of course.
The season 2 episode, ‘Brown Betty’ epitomised what was going wrong with the show: it could easily have dropped out of the season and it would never have been missed. It was the kind of indulgent episode showcasing the cast’s extra talents that I expect in the 5th or 6th season of a long-running television series. Finally, they introduced an element that seemed entirely shoehorned in: a relationship between Olivia and Peter. Based on Olivia’s character and her past history I found this unbelievable and frankly annoying. Olivia had always been about getting the job done, no matter the personal cost to herself.
Alas, episode 1 of season 3 was implausible on so many levels, and when you hear the writers put the words “I know it doesn’t make sense but there is a reason, just trust us” into the mouth of a character you know you’re in trouble.
However, I stick with Fringe because it still has great moments of strangeness and invention, which is probably why episode 2 of season 3 has been more my speed. Plus, there was a magnificent ‘Walter moment’.
Walter had been popping brains out of dead victim’s skull, and agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole – still terribly under-utilised) points to Walter’s tie and says “Walter, your tie! I think there’s a little bit of brain on it.”
Walter, looks down, and then sucks on the tie before pronouncing, “It’s raspberry jam.”
And, someone’s head exploded. It’s been a while. I’ve missed it.
I’ll still stick around for season 3 because there are enough moments in the show that satisfy my need for weird mystery. I’d prefer more bizarre science and less fake romance, however.