Friday, January 20, 2012

Fringe: Enemy of My Enemy

The message hidden in the commercial break glyphs on tonight's episode of Fringe was DEATH. Pretty ominous... But while I've enjoyed so much of this season (as you can tell from my posts every week) I must admit, as I hinted at last week with the multi-verses that have been built up this season, I'm starting to feel a detachment from it. I didn't realize it at first, but two things triggered that realization.

1. People have begun the "Will there be a season 5?" chatter now that it's the new year and we know many networks begin making their decisions in February and March. I thought, season 5? We were damn lucky to get season 4, and most of us were surprised we got a season 3. I just assumed all along that this was the final season and the writers were going to wrap things up. Apparently that's exactly what they're planning to do, and if FOX picks it up for a fifth season they'll keep something open so they can go in a new direction. But I'm thinking a fifth season will be one too many. I want them to wind it down and come up with a hell of a finisher this year. EW quoted someone from FOX saying that if the show remains this expensive, they simply can't afford it. Fans think otherwise, and want it to continue. But my reaction was different.

2. Olivia about to go through the portal and Peter shouting into his walkie that she'll die if it closes. Last year, I would have been on the edge of my seat. This week I thought, "Yeah, but... if she dies you'll just go to another universe and find the other Olivia who's still alive because you were always in her life and she's not this Olivia."

I don't KNOW who this Olivia is. I just don't feel like I know who anyone is except Peter anymore. These aren't the characters I've grown to love for the past three years. I was very intrigued by the premise earlier in season 4, but this week I noticed that Anna Torv, when playing Olivia, is using a similar swagger that she uses for Alt-Olivia. Last year she was able to separate the two (AND play a version of Leonard Nimoy) with very subtle differences. She could play Olivia and Alt-Olivia. She could play Alt-Olivia pretending to be Olivia, and vice versa. Her performance was staggering. But this year, Olivia isn't our Olivia. She SHOULD be, since Olivia only met Peter a few years ago, and therefore should be a similar person to the one we knew. But she has too many elements of Alt-Olivia, like Torv has forgotten the way she originally played the role.

I really liked the scene between Walter and the alternate world version of his wife. But that wasn't our Walter, who still had Peter, who was broken but back together and loved that boy more than anything. This was a different Walter. I wished I could have seen that scene with our Walter. (That sad, I adored the line, "You should know that your mother was a wonderful woman. Every version of her.") I was happy when this Walter showed up to see Peter, because now maybe he'll start to feel more like ours. But he really isn't.

What I did love about this episode was the two universes working TOGETHER against a common enemy, instead of against one another. There's so much potential with that idea I don't even know where to begin. Too bad neither universe remembers Peter...

And the "Nina, WHAT?!" moment was undercut by me thinking, Which Nina is this? It's getting near impossible to keep track of everything. I feel like I need a whiteboard permanently attached to the wall.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a show I look forward to week after week. But my emotional investment is slipping away, and that worries me. What I've always loved about Fringe is that it's sci-fi that favours love and the power of the human heart over science and technology. But this season? It's about science, technology, cleverness, and a bunch of people who look like the ones I love, but aren't really them.

So I guess I just have to sit back and continue to love Seth Gabel. Which, to be honest, is not a difficult thing to do.


Andy said...

Although I'm not feeling quite as detached (Ever hopeful that these story lines in World 3 and 4 will help Peter back in his as well as being designed to give us as viewers insights into aspects of the characters we love). But great post and good analysis and insight.

The Broyles World 4 alt-baddie is a bit crazy and hard to keep track of too like Nina. It does make wonder if these events in World 3-4 with DRJ, Broyles, Nina prepping Olivia was the goal of those same characters in World 1 and 2 where Peter comes from, which means when Peter gets back...Nina might have some splainin to do.

Andy said...

Check this out when you get a chance. Pretty insightful interview with the producers of Fringe on Huffington Post,

The detachment we're feeling is normal and what the creators are aiming for. Interesting.

Fred said...

Nikki, I agree with your feeling of exhaustion with the multi-universe, the multi -Olivia -Walter -Astrid and so on characters--white boards are needed to keep it straight. It's as if the complexity of the story has taken over as the reason of the story, whereas, before, we all loved it for the character depth, the feeling that we had something invested in the fates of Walter, Peter and Olivia. I guess, as you point out in the near death moment that Olivia escaped from, that that "blah" feeling arises from two parts: (1) we've seen this before, and even Peter foreshadowed this in his talk with Jones, and (2) we can't figure out what we (and the characters) have at stake.

Let me elaborate on the last one. Yes, yes, Jones may blow up the universe (which one, I have no idea, maybe both), but this sort of high drama was better handled at the end of Season 3 when Peter entered the machine--"Was it going to destroy the world or not?" was our question of the Season. And so we are left feeling there is a lot of old ground being repeated with a slightly novel approach, but still old ground. It seems at this point that this Season may go down as the "waking from a dream and discovering Bobby in the shower" Season. If we were to get more of a direction where things are going, the writers might include more exposition through Nina, or even through the Observers.

Unlike a lot of other series, I have faith in the writers of Fringe if for no other reason than they haven't let us down in the past. Thanks, Andy for the heads up on the Huffington Post; read it and quite agree. Despite all our nerdiness about sci-fi and love of plot twists, the soapishness of the relationships between Olivia and Peter, and Peter and Walter are central to the story and pull at our heart strings. We may have denegrated shippers in Lost, but all that melodrama was a large part of why we watched the show.

I for one want to see a fifth Season, and cost be damned! Afterall, residuals and marketing of products, even product placement, can help pay for all this. 24 managed to get money with those Motorola phones positioned in key scenes, not to mention car companies. So here's hoping for more Seasons, like a sixth.

Page48 said...

This week's episode picked up right where last week left off, which is as it should be, IMO, casual viewer be damned.

I thought EOME was very enjoyable and far, far superior to the first year episodes which were all the same (dead people found, call Walter, take body to lab, insert Walter's fart joke, Walter pees pants, solve mystery, lather, rinse repeat).

I'm not opposed to the new timeline as long as they don't just burn off episodes solving standalone cases, and let's face it, much of this season so far has done just that. Let's not loiter in this timeline, solving purse-snatchings and going after aggressive drivers. As long as we're here, let's deal with the real meat of the story. And, it has to somehow have meaning to the original timeline, otherwise it doesn't seem to be worth the effort. It could be a Massive Disappointment.

I do want them to bring the show back to the original timeline (because anything else would leave me feeling cheated), and probably sooner rather than later, but right now, sooner doesn't seem to be in the cards, as Peter is already spoiling for a cage match with Jonesy.

Here is what I don't want to see. Please don't let Peter fall in lurve with Newlivia and lose sleep over whether or not to return to Oldlivia. I don't want to go there. Peter just needs to let Newlincoln ride the Newlivia train while he focuses on getting himself back on the right track.

Batcabbage said...

My opinion is the complete opposite to what seems to be the popular view of season 4. I like the new alt worlds. I have no trouble following it. I know which Nina spoke at the end of the show, and I love Peter's journey to get back to his own universe while interacting with just-slightly-off versions of the people he knows and loves. I love that season 4 Walternate doesn't seem to be a complete monster bent on destruction, and I love that Elizabeth and Walter had a scene together this episode. I loved the scene Walter and Peter had in their old house. It's the show I look forward to most each week, and it doesn't disappoint me. I hope there will be a season 5, but if there isn't... well, there's always books, right? People still read, don't they? :)

Anonymous said...

Nikki - I couldn't agree more.

Seems like they've run out of ideas & are rehashing old villans & plots.

NEW shape-shifters and another quest to cross universes. Sigh

I hope we're wrong and this is all leading to something awesome but I think it's time to end it.

-Tim Alan

JS said...

i concur

Old Darth said...

I'm with Batcabbage and my investment in these characters is growing week to week. Especially after these last 2 episodes.

Believe the widely held assumption that what is happening is irrelevant will be demonstrated to be incorrect. These are the characters of the past 3 seasons but altered because of Peter's absence.

Also believe Peter's belief that he is not home is incorrect. The trick for the showrunners will be how they merge the experiences of the previous 3 seasons with this timeline.

I suspect Dr Jone's reappearance, September's warning to Olivia, and the cortexiphan injections will all coalesce to create that merging.

Love the risk taking the show runners are tackling this summer.

Sagacious Penguin said...

Hi, Everybody! I JUST caught up with this ENTIRE show over the past two months and absolutely adore it! My mind is spinning with 3.5 seasons of story, but just wanted to add two things to the discussion here:

1) Nikki -- you mention that this Olivia3 should be very much the same as Olivia1 since she only met Peter a few years back, but I'm pretty sure they mentioned that Olivia3 ran away from the Cortexiphan trials early and escaped getting AS damaged as Olivia1. This makes sense since in that 2nd 1985 episode, we saw that it was L'il Peter that brought L'il Olivia back after she ran away. Also this apparently resulted in Olivia3 actually killing her stepfather as opposed to just wounding him like Olivia1. So it DOES make sense that Olivia3's personality would be less vulnerable than Olivia1 but not as free-spirited as Olivia2... right?

2) I completely get everyone's concerns about these current iterations of the characters. If the show weren't still so consistently great and if they weren't somehow progressing the post-machine storyline with the worlds working together, etc. I think I would be furious we've spent so long with these 'other' folks. My ultimate hope is that Peter is being set up for a major surprise in that he doesn't need to LEAVE this timeline as much as repair it. He's so convinced he's not in his universe... but I think (and am hoping) that he is. It would be great if the endgame here was getting everyone to remember him again, but not forget how the world was without him... like a merging of the non-Peter and present-Peter timelines. That way ALL the development we've seen in both timelines can apply to the characters and Peter ends up regretting his encouragement of Lincoln and Olivia. PLUS, I'm all about what Andy pointed out in the top post here. Massive Dynamic sure was looking shady back when the DRJ from Season 1 was on the loose. I would LOVE to return the focus of villainy back to MD and Nina Sharp who only seemed to turn "good" when her Universe was under threat.