Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ask Matt - January 18 (Spoiler)

Question: I really want to be a Fringe fan. I gave it 13 episodes during its first season, and just found myself bored with the storylines and uninspired by the characters. Due to the overwhelming love from many I respect and admire, I decided to go back and watch from the second season on, and the majority of my complaints have been completely erased! I'm not sure if I was wrong the first time around, or if things have gotten better, but I am really enjoying it. I'm completely engaged in the mythology and relationships. Initially, I couldn't stand Walter; I just found his ramblings annoying and cliched. But he has completely endeared himself to me.

There's only one thing keeping me from loving this series: the case-of-the-week storyline. I still find these mostly uninteresting. It's not that they aren't well done; I'm just not a fan of procedurals. I'm a huge fan of shows like Deadwood, The Wire and Breaking Bad: dense shows that become baffling if you miss a single episode (I know, I'm in the minority there). Fringe is very episodic and follows many of the procedural conventions when it is not focused on the overall mythology, but when it is...wow! I just wish it could find a better balance between the overarching story and the individual cases. For me, a great example of a series that balanced this well was the first season of Veronica Mars; each episode devoted some time (however small) to advancing the overall plot. Another good example would be season 3 of Buffy. I'm about halfway through the second season of Fringe; can I look forward to more mythology? Otherwise, despite my great enjoyment of the mythology based episodes, I may not have it in me to stick with it.

(Addendum in separate e-mail: I've just seen the "Jacksonville" episode and I've changed my mind. I'll sit through as many case-of-the-weeks as I have to for TV this entertaining. I'm no longer considering dropping Fringe.) — KatelynMatt Roush: All I can say is you're in for a treat when you finally catch up to season 3 — which, by the way, continues with new episodes starting this Friday at 9/8c. BE THERE! This season has been so dense with mythology it almost killed the show (in the ratings, anyway). You seem to be savvy enough about the business to know that the HBO/AMC shows you revere — as do I — would die instantly on network TV if they pulled the puny numbers they do on cable. These are boutique shows, and a player like Fringe does not have that luxury. It needs to be able to tell self-contained suspense stories to appeal to the more casual viewer while rewarding the obsessed fan with developments in the bigger arcs surrounding the characters. That arc, of the warring parallel universes, took over the first half of Fringe's third season, and while I was thrilled, it may have alienated others. And while any episodic series has its ups and downs, I will say Fringe improved greatly after the first season. I was always on board with John Noble as Walter, but Anna Torv in particular has stepped it up the deeper we got into Olivia's back story. And when doing double duty as Olivia and Faux-livia, she has never been better.


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