Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Fringe" Season Two

Season Two of “Fringe” was a disappointment for the most part. The writers improved on their ability to tell a story that was interesting from a mechanical standpoint. The played with storytelling devices in a creative way. However, that overall season-long story was not terribly compelling until right at the very end. Meanwhile, their individual, episodic stories were far from interesting and fairly prosaic—for the genre. Especially for people who had watched the series that clearly inspired “Fringe.” “The X Files” had already done many of these themes far better.

That being said there were a couple compelling moments this season, especially in the redemptive thread that runs through the series (so far) in the character of Walter.

Episode 15, entitled “Peter” does a good job of telling us the back story that reveals what motivates Walter, and why he is seeking redemption. It is something that the series had been doing too good a job telegraphing up to this point, so there is no surprise reveal. It is interesting to see a man of pure science and self-confidence make the shift to a humble man full of self-doubt through the mistake that he makes in this episode.

At the same time, this episode unmasks the appeal and inherent weakness in the Multi-verse device. At its heart, the idea that every potential decision generates a completely new reality is an exercise in wish fulfillment created by regret. We all live with the decisions we make and the consequences they generate. The idea that somewhere out there is a parallel universe where no missteps have been taken is appealing, but in the sheer volume of infinite variations—not to mention the impossibility of being there when our decisions have landed us here—diminishes that appeal rather greatly.

A couple episodes later the show decides to do a straight time travel episode, which is a huge mistake for a show centered on the multi-verse theory because time travel is multi-verse dependant. In theory every time this episode repeats a strand of time we are seeing a different reality and we are no longer in the same universe(s) that the show has established. One’s head is in danger of exploding if too much thought is attempted. It is best to simply imagine that the episode never occurred, which is how the episode concludes anyway.

Right before the big season finale we get a fun, drug induced, bed time story of sorts from Walter. Given the “reality” of this series it is fun to imagine that it is not merely a story, but actually one of the infinite varieties of parallel universes theoretically possible.

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