Fringe In Trouble? Yes and No. Mostly No


Not yet life support

Earthling seems to be somewhat of a watershed moment in the Fringe fandom. It’s not that it was a bad episode, per se. (I stand by my 7 out of 10 rating because it did address some earlier problems of the series). However there seems to be more frustration being voiced about this episode than any other. I put this down to 3 things – the hiatus,  the flaws in the episode, and the growing fears that Fringe will be canceled due to the recent Nielsen ratings.

Below the jump are my honest opinions on what I think is currently wrong with the show, and the solutions that I believe would help make the show better than ever.

Problems with Fringe

Problems

  • It’s moving too slowly in telling the overarching stories – that is, the stories we CARE about. It’s not that we need everything now, but too many of the mini arcs seem unimportant and meaningless, whereas last season’s equivalents at least felt more relevant with the possibility that they’d be followed up on.
  • Not enough character development. There have been signs of character expansion this season, but only in 2 of the 6 episodes so far. Important characters are getting left by the wayside (Nina, Phillip, Bell, Shape-shifters) and those with potential are all but ignored (Astrid, Amy, Sam). The producers have said that season 2 will be more character driven, but it hasn’t lived up to that so far. We have some seriously fascinating characters in play (including the likes of Nick Lane, the Observer, the many villains locked up in that imaginary FD jail, not to mention all the alters) but we are not exploring the show through them – they are playing second fiddle to the procedural element. We need the characters to remain interesting, to surprise and shock us, and to be relatable so that we can invest in their journeys without having to worry that our investment is a waste of time. No-one cares about Dr. Nayak or Tomas – these are characters we’ll never see again, and there are far too many characters of that ilk taking up valuable screen-time.
  • The show is scared of its own mythology. Having created a fantastic world that fans have bought into, the show seems to ready to apologise whenever things get a touch deep or complicated. Case in point, William Bell warns viewers that things have got a bit too ‘myth-heavy’ and so sends Olivia back home and effectively closes the door on serialization for a few episodes – MOMENTUM DEFERRED. Literally. The trouble is, it’s difficult to invest in the world of the show when the show is afraid of its own shadow. Forget the casual viewers, and tend to the world that the fans respond to – a world which needs populating with interwoven stories, a world where each episode should absolutely ‘go for it’, because the way things are going there might not be a tomorrow for Fringe.

I purposefully haven’t mentioned the lack of serialization because at this stage I see it as more of a solution..an opportunity to put things right, if you will. That said, I’m not demanding a serialized show – I just want an awesome show, however it’s done. But I do feel that the time is now right to readdress the balance.

Solutions

Solutions

  • Scrap the “news cases” procedural/stand-alone format of the show, or at least inverse the ratio and make the show have a much larger serialized format. Allow the stories to overlap into neighboring episodes. Let the characters drive the show instead of the “shock and awe” moments – which are cool, but not cooler than our characters. Embrace the mythology of the show – give us more to get stuck into, and allow us to explore the world of the show by making the stories deeper. Make every episode matter because shows with this much potential don’t come along too often, and I’d hate for the casual ‘3 episodes a year’ viewers to catch Fringe on an off-day. Increase the tension in episodes by making the situations and characters believable, however fantastical (the two can go hand in hand). Raise the stakes. Creep us out. Give us a sense of danger. Make us laugh. Let us know what’s happening with ZFT, the Pattern, Cortexiphan, Bell..remember them? Where’s Nick Lane at, remember him? What’s going down with the shape-shifters and the gate between worlds, remember that? Seriously, just thinking about these things reminds me what a cool and exciting show this is underneath the procedural element. Whilst these ‘solutions’ are mixed in with ‘hopes’, I believe that some, if not all, of the above need to happen for the show to realise its potential. I’m confident that these elements will be addressed, but I’m also concerned that by the time they are, no-one will care. We don’t need episode after episode of dense mythology, but how can Olivia fail in her mission to find the shape-shifters leader one episode, and for it not even be mentioned in the next episode? That’s crazy! That’s more unrealistic to me than the very idea of shape-shifting soldiers from another universe, man!

Ah yes, I miss those serialized episodes. Good times.

Maybe I’m trying to make Fringe into something it was never intended to be, but as a fan and follower of this show since the very beginning, I just don’t see it as a CSI-type show. Leave CSI for the CSI fans, and let Fringe be influenced by its greatest episodes – the likes of: “Arrival”, “In Which We Meet..”, “Ability”, “Bad Dreams”, “Road Not Taken”, “More Than One”, “New Day”, Momentum”. Notice a pattern?

Now onto Earthling. Not a bad episode. I’m really happy to see Lance Reddick have something more to do than exposition, and we got a golden nugget with the CIA guy at the end (Ala Peter being kidnapped at the end of Dream Logic). But despite that, this episode wasn’t a complete joy to watch. I actually zoned out at one point. This is Fringe, I can’t zone out!

Although I have aired some criticisms in this post, I think they’re constructive. We always try to be honest on this blog, that’s why it was created, so that we could support the show and explore its good and bad points. It just so happens that we think Bad Robot are the best at what they do, and even an average episode of Fringe is better than most things on TV. So I’m fully behind the show. I believe in the creative team, many of whom have helped create some of  my favourite shows and productions (FB probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for LOST). Serialized or stand-alone I will support the show because I want it to get better and I truly want to see these fascinating stories told to full effect.

So to answer the opening question; Is Fringe in trouble? If it is, I really don’t think it will be for very long. But as always, we’ll keep watching it, and supporting it, and talking about it, and tearing the clues to pieces until we figure it all out. Because aside from LOST, there’s no other show like it on TV.

Ramble over..as you were.

EDIT: Feel free to cast your opinion in the poll if you fancy:

[poll id=”112″]

Comments

    • Pedro says

      YeeYang, I’ll give you this. If the format changes soon or in the next couple of episodes so that they focus on the storyline then I will definitely admit that I was wrong.

      However, if they keep going down this Murder, She Wrote meets The Twilight Zone of the week crap then they deserve to be cancelled.

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    • says

      @YeeYang:..and there’s no sign of the current format changing, either verbally from the creators or in the episodes themselves.

      My isn’t post suggesting that Fringe will be canceled – quite the opposite, but the problems I’ve identified in the post are problems that have been apparent for a while now. I don’t think the fact that we’re only on episode 6 of season 2 is enough to wash these issues away. Change is needed, if it comes then we can worry about getting to the end of the season.

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  1. YeeYang1 says

    well, roco, that remains to be seen since oh, only 6 episodes aired and we don’t what the next 16 episodes will be about. I don’t think i can take this Fringe bashing anymore.

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    • says

      My point is that we might not get to see all 16 episodes if things continue as they are. I actually think things will pick-up (as I mentioned in my post), but to ignore the problems is to bury your head in the sand (unless, of course you absolutely love the stand-alone/procedural episodes, which is fine).

      I don’t think anyone here is bashing the show. I want the best for Fringe (hence the blog!), but the Dream Logic‘s and Earthling‘s of this world are not the best of what the show has to offer.

      My hope is that the producers are kidding when they openly embrace the procedural element, in a similar way to how the LOST producers were kidding when they said the show would steer clear of sci-fi. But from the interviews I’ve read, they seem content to see this one out, which would be worrying, as I need more than 4 ‘main story’ episodes per season.

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  2. YeeYang1 says

    I hope the writers do improve the show so that I won’t read stuff like this and Fringe getting better ratings so i won’t hear the constant droning about how the show sucks. Then i can read Fringe articles without reading all this upsetting stuff.

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    • says

      Well FB by its nature is about opinions on the show – good and bad. If I thought the show sucked I wouldn’t blog about it, certainly not with such frequency and dedication. Like I said, I think things will pick up, but I also think that something needs to change in the long run regarding the format of the show. That said, give me more stand-alones like “Fracture” and we might be able to find a happier medium.

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  3. Karo says

    “Not enough character development”

    This is my main problem right now with the show. I watch Fringe for the characters, the interaction between the 3 leads. I’m interested in Olivia’s journey, Walter and Peter’s past, William Bell, etc. I’m disappointed that in the recent episodes, the characters have taken a back seat while all the focus is on the (mostly boring) cases.

    I love the show, will be watching for many years (hope so) to come, just have to express my opinion, cause i get the feeling many people are feeling the same way.

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  4. gil_cdn says

    Amen to what you said Roco!
    We love to have more episodes on ZFT, Shape-shifters, that omega sign bald head guy, and the other Cortexiphanies (those who are supposed to be ready to activation to become super solider), the war is coming, we need to see signs of this war.

    I am not giving up yet, I am looking forward to EP.1.08 AUGUST …. but I sincerely hope we can get back to the standard of the latter half of season one (ABILITY onwards!)

    BTW, in Canada, FRINGE is led in by Flash Forward (which interesting also is talking about Quantum Mechanics … etc.) Here is a quote from one of the latest episode: “Quantum physics says until we open your hand to discovery the cat’s fate, both eventualities occur at the same time. That’s the miracle of quantum mechanics. The observer gets to decide.” …. creepy!

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  5. says

    I agree with your points, I would really like the ratio of mythology to standalone storylines to be switched. I hope this happens more over the course of the season.

    I like the standalone episodes, but I love the mythology episodes, and I want to see more of those, or elements from the mythology more mixed in to the standalone episodes. Like when Olivia’s hearing was enhanced in ‘A Night of Desirable Objects’.

    The X-Files is one of my favorite TV shows ever, and I think they did a great job of incorporating mythology elements into otherwise standalone episodes. Along with of course the terrific mythology episodes, which were spread out. I’ve thought about why it worked so well for TXF with sometimes 4-5 mythology episodes a 24 episode season, and I say it was because of one of your points, the character development. That is one area I think Fringe needs to improve greatly.

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    • Pedro says

      The X-Files was awesome, but I watched most of the episodes on DVD, so I didn’t have to wait week in and week out. I think that made me like the show so much more. The standalone episodes in TXF didn’t bother me because I watch somewhere around 4 episodes each day until I watched them all.

      I never got into Alias, but I hear that it was pretty awesome.

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      • Page 48 says

        “Alias” was ‘pretty awesome’ indeed. Treat yourself to this scene, from 2003’s stunning 2.13 game-changer, “Phase One”, which absolutely NEVER gets old. This is the kind of life-altering moment that “Fringe” never manages to get so much as a whiff of. That scene from “Phase One” is the exact opposite of Momentum Deferred. That is Momentum Right Freaking Now.

        And what allowed that scene (like so many others in “Alias”) to be so powerful? Oh, I don’t know, how about because “Alias” was a serial? The beauty and intensity and emotional impact of that scene is the product of all of the danger and duplicity and camaraderie and guilt and soul-shattering loss that took place in the 34 episodes preceding it.

        You can’t have a “Phase One” in the midst of 4 unrelated episodes. You can’t have a “Phase One” in the midst of a weekly, templated freak-of-the-week procedural aimed squarely at channel surfing, reality TV refugees, who weren’t watching last week and won’t likely be watching next week.

        The blueprint for “Fringe” was flawed from the beginning. In the early days when JJ was on tour badmouthing “Alias” for being too hard for he and Grunberg to follow, he might better have spent his time trying to remember how he caught lightning in a bottle with “Alias” and “Lost” and praying to the TV gods that he might be granted the highly coveted three-peat. So far, the TV gods seem to be toying with him and I think both Bad Robot and FOX should take some time to reflect on why that might be.

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        • says

          And what allowed that scene (like so many others in “Alias”) to be so powerful? Oh, I don’t know, how about because “Alias” was a serial? The beauty and intensity and emotional impact of that scene is the product of all of the danger and duplicity and camaraderie and guilt and soul-shattering loss that took place in the 34 episodes preceding it.

          You can’t have a “Phase One” in the midst of 4 unrelated episodes. You can’t have a “Phase One” in the midst of a weekly, templated freak-of-the-week procedural aimed squarely at channel surfing, reality TV refugees, who weren’t watching last week and won’t likely be watching next week.

          Exactly.

          While I can understand why the creators wanted to try something different, the current formula just isn’t working to the desired levels. The casual viewers aren’t sticking around and the loyal fans are getting good, but watered-down content. A show like Fringe really needs a serial thread running through it.

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  6. Nio says

    If this was twitter I would retweet this part: We don’t need episode after episode of dense mythology, but how can Olivia fail in her mission to find the shape-shifter’s leader one episode, and for it not even be mentioned in the next episode? That’s crazy! That’s more unrealistic to me than the very idea of shape-shifting soldiers from another universe, man!

    Really, as a huge Dutch fan i totally agree.

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  7. WWE Fan from LA says

    Three solutions:

    1) Bring Kirk Acevedo back (alter Charlie)

    2) Bring David Robert “Mr.” Jones back

    3) Move Fringe to Monday, Tuesday or Wednesdays

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    • says

      Agree.

      Agree.

      Agree.

      Seriously, the show will suffer without Charlie. Killing of characters does not endear us to the reality of the universe in which they live. I hate it.

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  8. macphisto says

    Wow, Pedro! This has got to be one of the BEST posts on this blog EVER! I LOVE Fringe just like you do (so I’ll just ignore that useless rambling and “bashing” from YeeYang1) and you pretty much summed it up perfectly.

    You should (in whatever way and while I don’t think anyone would really bother) send this to the producers and writers of Fringe. :)

    Let’s hope for the next episode(s) that all the Fringe-stuff we love (ZFT, “upcoming war”, mystery around Nina Sharp & Massive D. etc. etc.) returns – and when I look at the promo/teaser photos from the next episode we might get our treat! :)

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    • Pedro says

      I sent emails to Fox every week with recommendations and comments, both good and bad, sort of like Rocco. The bottom line though is that I doubt seriously anyone reads them and if they do, they probably go nowhere. I’ll keep doing it though because I love this show. I think it has great potential and so much so that I think this could be one of the best shows around if handled properly.

      To me it is like having a blank canvas and paints. One set you give to a Monkey and one set you give to an Artist. The truth is that the Monkey may be able to smear some paint on the canvas and it may even resemble something if we look hard enough, but the Artist is going to make Art.

      We just have to hope that the Fringe canvas gets to the Artists and not the Monkeys.

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  9. Frobozz says

    Very well said. I really haven’t enjoyed how they’ve set up things like the “war” and Olivia’s failure to stop the shape-shifter-king from being re-activated…and then drop it all like it never happened for several episodes.

    One of the things I thought back when Season 1 was airing was that perhaps they announced “The Pattern” way too early (and then beat it into our heads too much). This season is the opposite, it seems like they are going out of their way to avoid certain aspects they introduced in season 1. Hence the feeling like we’re getting a season of “padding” and “filler,” even though it really isn’t. And you’re right about the pacing…it does seem quite a bit slower than before.

    I’m holding my opinions until after thursday night’s episode. I hope it’s not another “monster of the week” X-Files-style episode.

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  10. Dr.Bishop says

    I agree with you somewhat..the episodes definitely don’t have that Season 1 momentum, with little clues throughout a batch of episodes. Still, I’m not giving up on Fringe just yet, there is plenty of time for redemption in the remainder of the season.

    One thought I have had, regarding the standalone eps, is how they (or how the producers) can arguably be considered crucial to the show. We all know that the Pattern, according to Nina Sharp in the first season finale, is caused by us..expanding/advancing technologies, causing soft spots blah blah. Well, it makes sense in my head that these standalone episodes, while having no explicit connection to the pattern, are a crucial part of it. In the standalone episodes, we usually have some phantom figure out trying to change things for their own interests..it could then be argued that these people are as responsible for the pattern as the ‘big bads’, like ZFT, shapeshifters, etc.

    Just a thought.

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    • Jodie says

      I agree completely. The standalones have much more to do with the overall story arc than most of the viewers seem to understand. How many times have I read that season 1 standalones had more overall story arc when watched on DVD. Everything is Pattern related. And by the way, Nights of Desireable objects was all about the fact that Walter genetically altered Peter when he was a fetus. The glyph code was “mirror.” This episode referred back to Unleashed. It’s glyph code was “Peter.” Yet another episode about a genetically modified creature that runs amok when released.

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      • Pedro says

        Jodie – “And by the way, Nights of Desirable objects was all about the fact that Walter genetically altered Peter when he was a fetus.”

        Hey Jodie, I didn’t realize that. I’ll have to go back and watch that again.

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        • Jodie says

          Keep you eye on Walter’s reactions. He gets very excited about Dr. Hughes’ super baby. I’ve often thought that Walter reacts to a present situation with a filter on the past. Almost like he is in the past while the present is happening. I saw the same thing happen in Unleashed: Walter wasn’t so much feeling guilty about this monster as what he did to Peter.

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      • says

        Jodie, I agree that the standalones serve the overall story, but I think there are better, more captivating and meaningful ways in which to grow those stories.

        I think the main problem (aside from fans growing restless with the pacing, etc), is that Fringe doesn’t have a limitless time in which to tell its stories. Episodes like “NODO” and “Dream Logic”, whilst ‘good’, are not the “special” kind of story-telling that we know Bad Robot are capable of. Having seen episodes like “Ability” and “New Day”, why are they wasting valuable time with stories that could be told more effectively when they have a format that would contribute more to the larger arc?

        I guess that’s my main issue with these standalones – on the whole, they’re not as effective or interesting as the serialized, mythology/character-driven equivalents. (in my opinion).

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  11. David F says

    This show just can’t do stand alone episodes, i’ve seen one good stand alone and that was The Equation. All my favourite eps The Arrival Bad Dreams Safe etc… are mythology. X-Files was a great show because one week it could do a farce comedy like Bad Blood and the next a rip roaring two parter like The Red and The Black/Patient X. Also, this show needs JJ Abrams input, Lost had DL but JP is just not in that class. Check out the season 3 finale of Alias or NODO this year for that proof. Fracture was mediocre and you knew it, Alias could pull of global enviroments severral times in an episode better than Fringe. Also Josh Jackson is wasted, Anna torv has no humour, personality or charisma and John Noble needs to be used please as something other than a bumbling clown, i love that character when there’s darkness to it like his wonderful monologue at the end of The Arrival. I watched every episode thus far and own the s1 DVD but the show has a real identity crisis going on.

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  12. annon says

    Great discussion, and everybody has been stating some great points. David F, agree with the second half of your statement.

    Can I also be one to say, “Can we have more about Peter”. Honestly, something would be good, writers. They can’t write development of characters on this show, even if they tried.

    I’m with all those people who are still watching because we all know the show has so much potential. However, the writing for this season has been extremely disappointing. If all the motw episodes could be like Fracture but better, I think the show would be starting to live up to what it could be. Also, the linking of episodes from one to another really needs to happen. Like what they did in the second half of season 1.

    I could go on and on, but the integration of character development into the episodes, is a huge problem I think, and one they really need to address fast. Viewers have to care about the characters and I think this season, that’s just not happening. The standalone episodes this season are killing the show. They have to be more mythology based.

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  13. everything says

    I don’t get all this drama. We have only 6 episodes. Patience! My only complaint was last week. We wasted an episode with the boring and weak past of Broyles. They could tell us that in 5 minutes. Focus on the main characters, please.

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    • says

      Hi everything: Many of us have been “patient” for a long time, and speaking for myself, I will go down with this ship. Here at FB, we’ve been saying since early last season how the procedural preference isn’t as effective as the serialized alternative. We gave the stand-alone format a chance, and will continue to hope that it works. However, I think that as fans who care about the show, we want the best for Fringe. If this show dies before the story is told as intended, the TV landscape post-“Lost” is looking very bare indeed.

      Fringe can’t afford to waste time with episodes that don’t impact the audience, and hence the viewing figures. You mentioned how you thought last week’s episode was a “wasted episode”, so surely you can understand that’s it’s not necessarily a lack of patience that some of us are lacking..

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  14. merlin says

    “It’s moving too slowly in telling the overarching stories – that is, the stories we CARE about. It’s not that we need everything now, but too many of the mini arcs seem unimportant and meaningless, whereas last season’s equivalents at least felt more relevant with the possibility that they’d be followed up on.”

    @ moderator / publisher of post

    SUBSTANCE
    in a word
    we have to know how people feel, so that we may connect with them.

    perhaps you dont watch television much, and fringe is one of the few television shows that you even watch, but i read alot in my down time,…. and the only thing i dislike is the silences between dialogue. i understand the need for visual clues and cues, but dont make me wait after big words, just after the big ideas.

    and by the by, the time slot is harsh.

    and i wish there would be something paranormal about a beach volleyball star club full of bakini clad alien stripper drug-dealers from space, and are feminists and happen to be covered in glow in the dark / black light responsive paint because of their alien traditions / or in celebration of thier conquest of MD.

    and where is the alien recon team, how is the cia involved, who are the MD benedict arnolds?

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  15. Frustrateder says

    And remember the gate between worlds, and the imminent destruction it would cause? I almost forgot about that… Wait, what about ZFT? Are they shut down now? And are the shape-shifters on hiatus? I mean, really? Roco, you rock man! (LOL)

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  16. says

    Does anyone remember what Massive Dynamics is? It’s been so long I forgot.

    And remember the gate between worlds, and the imminent destruction it would cause? I almost forgot about that… Wait, what about ZFT? Are they shut down now? And are the shape-shifters on hiatus?

    :D

    I hope the show picks up on these themes before we really do forget!

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