Wednesday, April 13, 2011

That One Time Fringe Ate My Life

I remember it in obscure flashes and prolonged moments of déjà vu: a time of functionality, when I was able to perform the basic tasks required for human survival, a time when my legs walked farther than just the bathroom for toilet breaks and my hands did more than just clasp the sweaty plastic remote. I remember it, because I am sure that at some point, this was my life, a life now slowly slipping away from me, a life now devoured by Fringe.

My recent experiences with television shows has left me cynical and wary. After LOST chewed up my heart back in May only to spit out the electromagnetic

pieces and feed it to the polar bears, I promised that never again would I invest in any serial drama/sci-fi. It was too dangerous, it left me too vulnerable. The hole left by the passengers of Flight 815 was too great.

But for a while, I was swayed and abandoned my rules when I fell head-over-heels for the incredibly cracky, wonderfully endearing Legend of the Seeker. For a time, I was happy.

I found new joy in  Cara this fantasy treat based on Terry Goodkind’s epic novels. But then it was cancelled and I was left with the violent and intense desire plunge a dagger into the heart of network television:

So I did what any good obsessive TV viewer would do – I became a show-slut. It was dark time, one that I’m not particularly proud of. In succubi-fashion, I devoured pilot after pilot, watching but never quite feeling, never letting the characters in, half-listing to dialogue while checking Facebook on my Blackberry. I was left in a sea of insipid plot lines, fearing that soon I would be tempted to watch CSI: Utah.

And then... it happened. Like destiny finally calling, I remembered the first season of Fringe had been saved onto my laptop almost a year ago. With little enthusiasm, I watched the pilot, prepared to sit through yet another sci-fi/fantasy show -  inspired by Lost but not quite as inspiring (I’m looking at you Flashforward). Instead, I found my happy place. A place carved out by the ingenious J.J. Abrams (you’re forgiven, JJ, I know you had nothing to do with Lost’s horrendous ending). A place inhabited by a mad scientist from Gondor, Pacey Witter and Agent Olivia “how I love your angry face” Dunham.

It started with a slow-building momentum and eventually sucked me into a vortex of obsession.

The show has often been compared to The X-Files, which is pretty justifiable considering it follows an FBI assigned team as they investigate weird and

unexplained phenomena. Much like The X-files, each episode has a self-contained “monster of the week” plot, with elements touching on the over-reaching arc, then a few episodes dealing directly with the larger scheme. But  what makes Fringe better than The X-files is the fact that the weird and unexplained doesn’t stay weird and unexplained for long. Fringe refers to a branch of science dealing with pseudo-scientific occurrences such as cryonics, reanimation, parallel universes, genetic mutation…so basically all the cool stuff. Most of the time, the exploding heads and mutated monster-people are ‘rationally’ explained away, which is pretty neat. Add to that the list of well-rounded characters, the clever-plot lines and Anna Torv holding a gun and the show easily becomes the best sci-fi drama since its inception in 2008.

After LOST plunged a knife into my heart, it seems Fringe has managed to do the impossible: reanimate my faith in television.

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