Friday, November 4, 2011

"Fringe" Review: "Novation" (***)

I am in such deep turmoil, you cannot possibly understand. I really love "Fringe", and I've enjoyed it a great deal for the past three seasons. I don't know what they're up to right now. It feels like they're going off on a random tangent. Remember the last time they referenced the fact that the two universes are still dying? It was at the end of last season. Has that suddenly stopped. Is the progression of the important stories halted to deal with this apparently terrifying new breed of shape-shifters? I'm sorry, but so much of this season has felt really stingy, and it's honestly left me kind of cold. What does it remind me of? It reminds me of the emotionless running about of "X-Men: First Class" and the last "Harry Potter".

If that doesn't seem so harsh, please go back to my reviews of those films. I remember taking the mickey out of both of them, especially the former. This week has brought back one of the more important elements of the show, that being Peter. He's back, but we don't know why. We're not sure why he's been erased from history, how he escaped his fate, or where any of this is going. I'm not even entirely sure if the writers have a plan for this, though I certainly hope they do. In any case, this episode should have felt a great deal more interesting than it was. But the moments when it felt most in tune with itself were naturally the silent moments.

Peter arriving at Fringe Headquarters and silently arriving at a holding cell. Him silently hacking into their mainframe to keep in the loop of things. The constant undercurrent between him and Broyles. That's what was so interesting. The problem is the dialogue, which has felt unnaturally ham-fisted this season. None of these characters are as close as we remember them, so they don't have that same way of communicating. There's hostility from all corners, but even that doesn't excuse the dialogue being as bad as it is. There aren't the same smooth nuances the show has perfected in its history. Yes, it feels foreign, but not in the right way.

But there were moments of Peter that were damn effective, most notably between him and Walter. Sure, it's only two of them, but how can you not feel for the dynamic between these two? More than any other characters, they belong together, and so the change in dynamic this season is staggering. Before it was Peter who didn't want a relationship with Walter, out of anger at the numerous betrayals in their history. We now have a changed and reformed Peter, but an unchanged Walter, unwilling to allow himself happiness. At the end of last season, he asked God that the worlds be spared, with himself as a sacrifice. I think it's no mistake that he's suffered in not only the future, but in the new timeline as well.

And Peter's frustration is palpable and believable, but his reactions somehow aren't. That's in no fault to Joshua Jackson, who is at the top of his game. It's the writers, fumbling in how to tell this story. They could've chosen better than Graham Roland, who had a hand in the worst episode of last season, and J.R. Orci, who hasn't written for the show since the first season. They're incapable of this task, and it shows. Peter stumbles onto the revelation of why he was erased all too quickly and impossibly for Jackson to convey believably. There are times when Peter just doesn't know what to say, which isn't at all like him. And there are points where he's just acting like a complete self-entitled dick, which he's not. He's a little too happy for his situation. He should feel like HE knows them, but he doesn't.

And I'm not even going to touch on the shape-shifter element of the story, because I'm not convinced by it. Melodramatic strings in play, and though I'm not entirely sure of the aim, I think I know where it's going. Out of the fun of the chase, I won't let you know my theories, because I'm 100% sure I'm right about them. The music was off the handle this week, with Chris Tilton kneeling too much on those maniacal strings this week. Director Paul Holahan is notably as incapable as the writers are, and he just stumbles on to these things. I'd love for this week to have worked, but it didn't. Fingers are still crossed for next week. I have hopes. Not too high, but reasonable. Let this show prove me wrong about this season. I don't want to quit a show I've backed for so long. Or, they could just hire me to the writers' table. I'll set them right, not to sound too self-entitled.

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