It took quite a while, but Fringe finally got good. Like really good. It’s always been a moderately enjoyable show to watch, but this season it really upped its game and became something bigger. But it did so in a way that didn’t become overwhelming; it’s not a giant complex conspiracy theory, the plot is actually reasonably straightforward.
It was far from obvious from the first season, but Fringe is all about alternate worlds, two versions of the world that have become tied together and are ripping each other apart. Before the season even started the news was out that for a substantial period of time, the show would swap back and forth between the universes episode by episode. I was dubious at first, thinking I wouldn’t care about the alternate world at all, despite their familiar faces these were effectively new characters and why should I care about them instead of those I’d grown to know over two seasons?
It’s a massive credit to the writers and actors that not only was I not bored in the alterna-world, but in many ways I actually preferred it. Gradually the differences and the impacts of those differences became clearer. While our world is only just realising what’s happening and the catastrophic impacts it can have, theirs has had longer to come to terms. While our world is alternately depressed, desperate and generally a bit wound up about it all, they have accepted it and in many ways are more laid back about the situation. They continue to live their lives – somehow in this world that knows it’s fighting for its survival, Olivia is far more relaxed and fun. Our world still has its share of craziness (mostly condensed into Walter) but by comparison it all became a bit depressing and intense.
Fringe has turned into a very high quality show. The storytelling is smooth and uncomplicated, things are always moving along. There’s also plenty of creativity, with flashback episodes and even a cartoon episode; I’m not sure it always works, but I certainly appreciate the attempts. The acting is absolutely wonderful, with many actors playing two slightly different versions of themselves, sometimes in the same scene! This is a show that takes a stunning amount of care with the details – even the credit sequence changes and adapts depending on the episode.
I’m delighted that the show will be back for a fourth season, not least because the situations set up in the cliffhangers were fascinating. The fact that it was renewed (despite not spectacular ratings) really does make me feel better about the very nature of network television. I heartily recommend taking this summer to catch up on the series if you haven’t been watching, it’s a shaky, slightly unremarkable start, but once it gets going, it’s phenomenally smart and entertaining.
You can get Season 1 for just 11.9912quid, or seasons 1-3 for 48quid from September from Amazon