The Jury's Still Out on Fringe

So "Fringe" is the new forensic procedural show on television, but instead of being about pathology, evidence gathering, bone analysis, or glowering*, it's about Mad Science. As a fan of Mad Science, obviously I tuned in.

On the good side, it's considerably longer than most television shows - with commercials eating into program time more and more each year, there's few shows that cross the 45-minute mark these days. A few episodes of Smallville last year clocked in under 40. So it's nice to see Fringe doing a 80 minute pilot, and the second episode was 49 and change. It really feels like I'm getting a lot of content for my viewing investment.

Over on the bad side of the fence, there's the show's X-files -style overaching mythology has a bizarre problem that no character on the show seems to have noticed. The premise is that a 'pattern' of mad science has been cropping up all over the globe, as someone performs experiments on a huge scale, using the general population as guinea pigs. The connection? All the mad sciene being used in the 'Pattern' is related to experiments done by Dr. Walter Bishop (the smartest man in the world) in the 30 years between the 60s and the 90s. In the 90s, apparently Walter killed someone (details are sketchy), and he's been in a mental institution ever since.

Here's the problem - for all that time he spent doing Mad Science for DARPA, Walter Bishop shared a lab with a Dr. Bell (presumably the second-smartest man in the world) - and in the twenty years since Walter went away, Bell has used the mad science they worked on to build the biggest, most powerful corporation on earth, complete with its own private army. The face of the corporation is an evil woman with a robot arm (an effect so sci-fi it made me wonder if the show was supposed to be set in the future - it's not), and the show implies so heavily that she's the bad guy that it almost has to be a red herring.

Now, despite the fact that the only two criteria for who's behind 'the pattern' being 1: Access to Walter's science notes, and 2: the resources to carry out the experiments, it doesn't seem to have occured to any character on the show that gee, maybe it's the richest man in the world, who also used to be Bishop's lab partner? To be fair, Lance Reddick, the main character's boss, seems to suspect something, and has even let the evil cyborg onto the council of people trying to figure out who's behind the pattern, but the main character, presented with those two facts I mentioned above, didn't tweak to anything suspicious at all.

Other than that, the show's only committed two really bad storytelling sins so far - first, it's provided a really tenuous reason to keep Walter's son Peter around, some nonsense about him being Walter's legal guardian - as if the government could handle the paperwork to keep him out of the asylum in five seconds. It's as if the writers didn't think Peter just wanting to help save the entire world from Mad Science was a good enough reason for him to stay on the FBI's mad science team.

The second, slightly bigger problem, is killing off the main character's boyfriend, who turned out to have been evil all along, at the end of the pilot. That's just throwing away the dramatic possibilities of keeping around an antagonist that the protagonist has profound emotional ties to. Of course, seeing as this is a show about mad science, there's always a chance that something as small as death won't keep him from popping back now and then as a recurring villain.

I'll catch a few more episodes at least - I've got a pretty high tolerance for badness and a love for sci-fi, so this will hav eto sink to Prison Break levels of badness before I'll stop watching.

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