Now that I’m once again using my TV for its original purpose — that is to say, watching broadcasts of shows, rather than treating the TV as simply an output device for the DVD player — I’m watching Fringe, Fox’s new X-Files-style show.
I suspect at least a couple of other people on my friends list are watching it, too, so I decided to toss my (non-spoilery) thoughts on the show up here.
First, and most major: the shadow-conspiracy. Fringe is in danger of falling into the same trap as its predecessor, namely, failing to make me care at all about the metaplot. In the case of The X-Files, it was a problem of concept as well as execution; at the end of the day, I just don’t care very much about UFOs and alien abductions. So when the execution was vague and muddy and confusing and pulled out of Chris Carter’s posterior, well, that didn’t help. In this case, I’m willing to invest more in caring — but they’re going to have to stop doing nothing but monster-of-the-week plots and start building up an actual pattern, with something that makes it hang together. So far, the only connecting element is that practically everything derives from some cracked-out experiment Walter did twenty years ago, thus giving the characters a way to solve the problem.
But I’m enjoying the characters, so I continue to watch. I like the way they have history; Walter and Peter are the most obvious and most enjoyable case, but also Dunham and her FBI boss whose name I can’t remember — not Broyles, the white guy. There’s a sense these people knew each other before the pilot episode started. And in general, I like that it’s a show about smart people being smart, where they have to bring all their mental capabilities to bear in order to figure out the puzzle. If that occasionally involves a dose of WTF, well, that’s kind of built into the premise of the show.
And I like Dunham. I like the fact that she’s a strong character who happens to be a woman, rather than a Strong Woman ™. Aside from that one time she blew up at Broyles, there’s been very little in the way of flashing neon gender signs, and more of her just being who she is, rather than a representative of her sex.
I fully expect a relationship between her and Peter someday, but I like that they’re not rushing into it. Peter himself is interesting, but like the metaplot, he needs more forward movement; he spends too much time being little more than Walter’s interpreter. I like it when he proactively contributes something to the puzzle, when his intelligence matters, too. (Not to mention the clue Walter dropped at one point, about Peter’s medical history. What kinds of experimentation was Dear Dad doing on him, anyway? More on that, kthxbye.)
Also, tonight’s episode made me notice something: if the plot calls for a main character to be strapped to a table or dentist’s chair and subjected to pain, that character has generally been Peter. Which makes sense on a structural level, but is also a refreshing change from media’s default victimization of women.
No overall thesis here; just scattered thoughts and reactions. Anybody else keeping up with this one?