Fringe

In the beginning, Fringe set us up with FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham and her boyfriend, Special Agent Jughead (Okay, that’s not his name, but his head looks like a jug to me), who were called in on the case when some sort of weird terrorist attack mostly liquefies an airplane full of people. (It was as oogy as it sounds.) Jughead is exposed to the oogy-making chemical agent,  and the story gets good.

 

Turns out, the oogifying agent looks like something Dr. Walter Bishop (played by John Noble, whom you may recognize as the mentally unstable Steward of Gondor, Denethor, in the Lord of the Rings movies) was working on at Harvard years ago, before he went batshite crazy-cakes. Now he’s institutionalized, and Agent Dunham can’t even talk to him without a relative of his with her. So she goes after his only son, Peter (played with a lovely sarcastic edge by Joshua Jackson, sporting continual scruff in the hopes we won’t realize he still has a baby face). Peter is scary smart and in big trouble with bad people, so he doesn’t want to visit dear old dad. (When you consider  what Denethor tried to do to his son, maybe that’s wise.)

 

Long story short, she blackmails him into getting Crazy Dad released into his custody so he can help her save Jughead’s life.  In the process of saving Jughead, she gets in a tank with electrodes Olivia Dunhamall over and Ho-Ha-bad-science-gibberishes into his mind to find out what he knows about the oogy-making stuff. It works, but Jughead turns out to be involved with the people behind the attack and turns on her before dying from car chase related injuries.

 

That was a pretty cool beginning. The bad science was covered up with banter that was often witty, so it didn’t rankle quite as much as it should. The characters were fun and interesting, with just enough mystery thrown in to hold my attention so I gave it a go.

 

As the season wore on, I began to love Crazy-Cakes Walter and his son, and the uncomfortableWalter and Peter dance they do. This was not a close father-son relationship, and now Peter is basically his father’s keeper. It’s an abrasive and subtly affectionate dynamic.

 

Olivia was a bit of a cipher, but still mostly likable, except for the whole protracted Jughead story arc, which drove me nuts. Seriously. She took LSD (among other things) to bad-science-gibberish into Jughead’s mind, and as a result she starts seeing him when he isn’t there (which, you know, LSD). Then there are a few episodes where she realizes she has some of Jughead’s memories, and uses them to solve cases involving bad-science gibberish.

 

I was sick to death of Jughead. I never liked Jughead, from the very beginning. Even when they were all kissyface together, I was hoping he’d die tragically to make way for the pretty, pretty Jackson boy.

 

Did I say that out loud? Moving right along…

 

Finally, we find out Jughead was a good guy (ish) and he gets the full ‘moving on to a higher Jugheadplane’ treatment, which woo-HOO, I was hoping for because the story arc sucked mutant virus testicles. “Viruses don’t have testicles,” you say? But this is Fringe we’re talking about – they can have anything the writers want them to have. Reality need not be a factor.

 

I wanted more Peter and Walter, and I got it. Yay! But then they had to go and make Olivia a secret SuperWoman, because of some bad-science-gibberish experiments done on her (by Walter and his mysterious former partner, William Bell) when she was a small child. Her first clue comes when the bad guys want to steal her spinal fluid. I kid you not.

 

She is the absolute best at everything, and everyone lets her do weird, crazy things that Just. Olivia Dunham with bald childMight. WORK!  (“I keep seeing my dead boyfriend. I think I need more LSD-in-the-tank time to figure this one out.”) Also, nearly every character seems to have a crush on her; she gets through to telempathic bald children and sees connections where the writers want us to believe they exist, but are leaps of intuition, not remotely logical. (It’s almost enough to make me write fanfic in which Walter slaps her with a fish (or an over-sized virus that looks like a big fat worm). None of which would be beyond the pale for this show, believe me.)

 

I’ve made it sound as though I don’t enjoy Fringe at all, but let me assure you I do. Walter, with his sporadic memory loss and need to eat while doing autopsies, is pure perfection. He’s like a madJohn Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop scientist and the most embarrassing father-figure possible, mashed up together in an oddly tortured and vulnerable package. He’s mentally compromised, but still a genius, and Mr. Noble’s performance is so nuanced at times that you can see flashes of clarity in his eyes, when he realizes what he has lost of himself. 

 

Plus, he says some of the most outrageous things, and not all of them bad-science-gibberish. I watch partly just to see what the heck he’ll say next.

 

Then there is Peter. Ah, super-smart, super-competent Peter. Even though he mostly exists as a plot device to tell us how crazy every bad-science-gibberish thing Walter says really is. (Like Joshua Jacksonthe writers are winking at us and whispering, “See? We KNOW it’s crazy!”)  Still, Joshua Jackson gives us such charmingly sarcastic delivery you begin to think he was genetically engineered for the part by some iron-haired crazy person in a basement lab at Harvard, who for some reason needed a cow to do so. (Okay, so maybe the bad-science-gibberish is slightly contagious, but watching it is worth the risk.) Plus, he has such a sweet face, I just want to grab it and… erm, scrub my sink.  (Good save – he’s heavily scrufftastic, remember?  *nudge* Eh?)

 

The saving grace of this show has been the final story arc, complete with SuperWoman/Mary Sue/Olivia, her wonderfully creepy nemesis, Mr. Jones (who does lots of things that really can’t be done, and that with a certain slimy panache) and most of all, the sub-plot involving Massive Dynamic.

 

Massive Dynamic is a huge technology corporation founded by the non-Crazy-Cakes half of the bad-science-gibberish duo that was Walter Bishop and William Bell. This part of the sub-plot was actually subtle and enjoyable, not too obvious. (Believe me, subtlety is definitely not why this show got renewed early. But still.) You get hints early on that William Bell is behind everything, since most of the giant mutant viruses and contagions that make people’s faces grow shut turn out to be based on experiments he did with Walter back in their shared lab at Harvard.

 

(Did I mention that when a scene changes to a different location, instead of subtitles they have these big 3D floating letters that look like people might walk into them? Incredibly reminiscent of the Loyola University sign in New Orleans, actually.)

Loyola Sign

 

By the end, you begin to get the impression that the people who have insisted all along that William Bell (whom Walter calls “Belly”) is a good man and could not possibly be behind all these plagues of bad-science-gibberish evil, might actually have a point. You see, the evil mad scientist, Mr. Jones (who has been behind several of the nefarious bad-science-gibberish deeds), is out to get William Bell.

 

And if the evil, spinal-fluid-stealing bad guy wants to kill him, he can’t be all bad. Right? Right? Erm, well. The best part of the whole thing is the casting, because guess who plays the possibly benevolent, richer-than-god bad-science-gibberish mogul? Leonard Nimoy. 

 

Leonard Nimoy*SQUEE* I loves me some Leonard Nimoy. With his big ears and wonderful voice/presence, he is the perfect choice for anything bad-science-gibberish-related. Stunt casting? Probably. Do I care? Nope.

 

I’m actually anxious to see where it goes next season. Even though I have been watching television long enough to know that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive, I’m prepared to love it.

 

Just don’t bring back Jughead.