Fringe has a few problems, actually. For one, it’s completely devoid of any emotional impact. That’s not completely unexpected in a show that deals primarily in the paranormal, but even X-Files, Fringe’s closest reference point in recent history, had the relationship between Mulder and Scully. What does Fringe have? The troubled father-son dynamic between Walter and Peter? Agent Scott? Who cares. Care FAIL. The show also suffers from too many indeterminate accents. Both Walter Bishop and Agent Olivia Dunham are played by Australian actors who can’t fully affect an American accent, so they just have this kind of auditory esperanto going on that creates what Brecht would call a verfremdungseffekt if he wasn’t so busy rolling in his grave at my having brought him into this. Add to that the fact that the show definitely feels like it’s treading old territory (cough X-Files cough, wink wink, hint) and the fact that it all centers around Massachusetts (no offense, Massachusetts, it’s just that you are not what anyone thinks of as the centerpiece of a global conspiracy) and the seams on this show really start to show.
But I think there is one over-arching problem that is way more serious.
Take, for example, this moment in last night’s episode. Walter Bishop is chasing after another one of his elaborate and wild-eyed theories in the hopes of solving some incredible mystery.
HEY, FRINGE, ENOUGH WITH THE KNOWING, SELF-REFERENTIAL, INCREDULOUS SARCASM.
This is the show’s greatest failure. I know it’s the ’90s and everything, and that we all have to be super jaded and cynical all the time (I am!), but it just doesn’t work in a show that demands so much willful (and sometimes unwilfull) suspension of SO MUCH disbelief. What makes science fiction so enjoyable is its earnestness. I promise you, J.J. Abrams, that very single person watching this show last night thought that the idea of ripping someone’s personal electro-magnetic pulse signature off of an REO Speedwagon cassette tape (because in Fringe’s stainless steel world of near future science, people still use WALKMEN?), imprinting that signature into the magnetite in homing pigeons’ beaks and then using those pigeons as a tracking device to find a man who can control heavy machinery using the magnetic force field of his brain was ridiculous. No one needed the characters on the show to remind them of that. The same goes with Walter’s shared dream state experiment, as well as the time that he extracted electrical impulses from a dead person’s retina and turned them into JPEGs. Leave the scoffing incredulity to us, YOU’LL FIND WE CAN GIVE YOU PLENTY. But if even your own characters find the world you’ve built for them ridiculous and impossible to believe, then what are we supposed to do? HUH, J.J. ABRAMS?