It is very easy to get scared away from watching a show because of continuity. Especially drama. Especially convoluted science fiction drama, where literally anything can happen. Did anyone independently begin watching Lost after the first five episodes?No, television is what you watch to relax, everything else good that comes out of it; getting into the story, relating to the characters and laughing at the jokes, are effectively weapons used to get you happy enough to keep watching. So watching a show where you have no idea what’s happening is difficult, and unless it’s very well made, impossible.
That would normally put me at a horrible disadvantage in reviewing a sci-fi drama -heading into its fourth series – which I’d never seen before. A show like Fringe. But, on hearing that the last season ended with the multi-verse getting rewritten, I decided to try it out. After all, even the die-hard fans would be, kind of, in the same place as me.
To elaborate on the reality shake up, last season the parallel universes of the show were rewritten when one main character completely disappeared from existence. I was worried that it would matter why, but it didn’t, not really. All that’s important is that now we have two universes trying to work together while resisting the urge to back-stab each other.
Aside from that, there’s a bunch of FBI/scientists who investigate wacky science. The characters are standard; cold, tough agent Olivia; crazy old Walter; nurturing Astrid, and newcomer Lincoln. The writing is generally okay, though a little heavy on the exposition.
But dang, Fringe is clever. I don’t mean incomprehensible either, this show is really, really easy to watch. It’s clever because it knows that it’s clichéd and silly and it plays that brilliantly. In the alternative universe the same actors are recast as another set of equally predictable, but completely different stereotypes which is like the writers are saying “look what we could have done!” And the alternative world itself is one of the best ones I’ve seen it is detailed, realistic and just slightly, unsettlingly weird.
These opening episodes themselves are lovingly making fun of the concept of an opening episode. Lincoln exists in the parallel universe as a key character, so they’ve taken someone who’s normally up there being tough and knowing and joking around with his universe’s Olivia and made him our way in, this could have been the opening episode of season 1.
I’ve heard it compared to the X-Files, but from what I’ve seen Fringe is better, or at least far, far better delivered. If you like your sci-fi played straight, you can just ignore the irony, but that would missing the point. Fringe is smart.