Friday, January 18, 2013

Fringe S1 Ep1: Pilot

"Suffice it to say, that we've reached a point where science and technology have advanced at such an exponential rate for so long it may be way beyond our ability to regulate and control it.  You should know what you're getting into Agent Dunham.  I would say this to my own daughter - be careful and good luck." 

-Blair Brown as Massive Dynamic's Nina Sharp, Fringe-





Once upon a time, beginning September 9, 2008 to be precise, I watched the first three episodes of J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci's Fringe [2008-2013].  I found the show generally intriguing, but its pacing, while not slow [I was clearly spoiled by Abrams and Damon Lindelof's Lost Pilot and anticipating something else], combined with a sense of familiarity likened to The X-Files [1993-2002] made it difficult for me to disconnect expectations and fully embrace.







I'm not sure what was I was expecting.  I knew the moment I heard it of the series I wanted to check it out.  It sounded up my alley, but I was coming off a lengthy run of Lost [2004-2010].  By 2008, I was slogging my way through Season Four of Lost somewhat beleaguered by flash forwards and flashbacks and a seemingly endless litany of unanswered questions.  With each ensuing season of Lost it was losing me [and I promise I will one day return and reassess].  Lost had wrapped up its fourth season before Fringe started.  It was also at the end of that season I had grown weary of the Lost structure.  The One To Be Pitied was an equally avid follower but she fell off after Season Three, which still remains one of the best for me.  She simply couldn't take it anymore.  Off to the Real Housewives I suppose where the mind could check out after a long day of work.











Still, I remained faithful to Lost longer than many of my colleagues too who dropped off from viewing the series midway through it.  But, alas, beset with endless mysteries, despite my enjoyment of the characters, my interest waned and I became less-than-enthusiastic or even optimistic about Lost's outcome and where it was going.  Thus, I gave up.  I stopped watching.  To this day I don't know what became of Kate, Jack, Sayid, Locke, Hurley, Desmond, Ben and the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.  I do know I want to know and that one day I will take time out of a busy schedule to reconnect with that series. I understand that it was like a religion for many and its philosophical underpinnings and other intellectual infusions made it something of a feast for those willing to dig deeper, analyze and stay with it.  Again, it may have been through sheer exhaustion that I had come to tire of the one answer, two questions rhythm.  It was like singing Bruce Springsteen's One Step Up and two steps back [1987].  The inner geek in me wanted to know a lot more about the polar bear and the other oddities dropped at my feet along the way.  I loved the Smoke Monster too, but even that wasn't quite what I anticipated the rest of the way following that amazing Pilot episode.  Still, Lost was entirely inventive and refreshing and mostly filled my imagination with surprise and epic excitement.







Thus, along came Fringe, another one word title, from the same creative minds as Lost.  Expectations were indeed high.  Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci were out to strike delicate, complex science fiction gold once again.  My first impression was not one of wonder or escape or gorgeous Hawaiian beaches [okay, I needed to let go of Lost], but rather of a cold, sterile place that somehow didn't invite me in quite like I had hoped.







Like Lost, the Fringe Pilot opened with an exciting enough airplane sequence but the science fiction mystery, the three primary characters and even Gene [as in genetics] the cow, weren't enough to convince me Fringe would be better than The X-Files. And I love bovines.  Remember the one from Lost? Was I prepared to invest my valuable time into The X-Files-lite?  Was that even fair?  Was I wrapping the baggage of former television classics around my mind like mental chains?




By the time I reached the third episode I still wasn't convinced to return.  Trust me, I was disappointed.  I didn't dislike Fringe.  I just didn't have a strong feeling on it.  Breaking Bad [2008-present], Sons Of Anarchy [2008-present] and Dexter [2006-present].  These shows left very strong impressions.  Lost had a similar impact.  When I saw the Pilot for Lost, that series had me at hello as the saying goes.  Quite frankly it was a revelation and one of the most exhilarating television series I had experienced in quite some time.  I wanted Fringe to be that next series, but then I let it go.  I never gave it a proper chance.  What if it was a grower?  What if it planned to weave its way into my subconscious like The X-Files did?  I might be missing out on something special here.



Months passed into years and my scouring of the Internet always led me to the latest, inevitable science fiction updates.  By God, Fringe was renewed for a second season.  Wow, can you believe it? Fringe was renewed for a third season.  Holy Toledo! Fringe was renewed for a fourth season.  To quote the character of Palmer, played by David Clennon, from John Carpenter's The Thing [1982] "You've got to be fucking kidding?Fringe has a Fifth season to cap off the story.  Fringe was like the pink Eveready bunny and almost as weird as I would discover.  It just kept going and going.  As the years went by, Fringe always held my curiosity.  It was like the girl that got away. Let's face it there were always a few fishes that got away.  Fringe was indeed one of those fish.  I still found myself drawn to it.  Did I get this one wrong?



I loved The X-Files as much as the next self-respecting science fiction fan.  It was mandatory Sunday night viewing for a time.  Fringe's continued renewals had to be proof enough there was something to this thing.  Hell, despite using The X-Files to mature its network, Fox never renews anything.  R.I.P. Firefly [sorry I wasn't there for you originally].  I was convinced I had missed the boat on this thing called Fringe.  And then comments kept resurfacing across the blogosphere about Fringe that were entirely positive further underscoring the essential importance of revisiting this series one day.





Then back on Thanksgiving 2012, I was in Florida visiting my mother.  The Science Network, which already purchased syndication rights, was running a marathon of Fringe, Season One.  It was late in the evening and everyone was sleeping.  Fringe, coming to me again like a ghost from Christmas past.  Was it a sign?  I stayed with an episode just to see if it was something that still deserved another chance.  It was The Equation [the episode I've reached as of this writing].  The test worked and the answer was affirmative.  Lo and behold, it intrigued me and John Noble's performance was riveting enough on its own merit to prompt an exploration.  I was prepared then to right a wrong.











Immediately, with Black Friday sales in full swing, I purchased all four seasons of Fringe on Blu-Ray at a reasonably good price.  I managed to catch two seasons still at 16.99 and two at 22.49.  I'm a big time bargain shopper when it comes to Blu-Ray discs and I simply will wait out the price points until they bleed out.

And that my friends is where I am today revisiting the Fringe, Season One, Pilot.  The Pilot, in retrospect, seeing it again, is incredibly well-produced [at $10 million], well-filmed with fantastic exterior shots in the snow primarily taking place allegedly in Massachusetts.  It makes sense most of these crazy events will take place in MA, but mostly filmed in Canada.

The story device centers on FBI Agent Olivia Dunham's love interest and FBI partner John Scott who is exposed to a man made compound and affliction whereby the skin becomes translucent.







As I mentioned, the Pilot, perhaps with a nod to Lost, opens with the tragic events of an airliner en route from Germany to Boston whereby the passengers are all exposed to the same deadly combination of chemicals.  Unlike the survivors on Lost, the Fringe group dies in a gruesome fashion.

How fitting a character, Dr. Reyes, is played by Peter Outerbridge who once played the role of one-time dogged Special Agent Barry Baldwin from Millennium [1996-1999] Season Three.  As if Fringe didn't already have a problem separating and disconnecting itself from the creepy world of Chris Carter they had to tease us with that.  Darin Morgan even joined the team on the consulting producer end for a period.



And when John Scott dies, not from the Fringe incident, but an accident, his body is brought to Massive Dynamic where Executive Director with "clearance" Nina Sharp, deliciously performed by Blair Brown, asks that Scott, a man dead for five hours, be brought in for "questioning," the inquisitor inside of me yearned to know how and why?  I always wanted to know what became of the Scott character.  Already there are questions growing about trust and motivations regarding a number of characters particularly Homeland Security, Senior-Agent-In-Charge of the Fringe Division Phillip Broyles as well as Chief Operating Officer of Massive Dynamic Nina Sharp.



Taking a self-contained look, and despite some character reservations, the Fringe Pilot is a reasonably exciting, well-conceived, terrifically edited piece of television with special effects that look convincing.  Everyone knows my distaste for poor CGI, but Fringe's use of lighting and camera work makes it a wild introductory ride that I may have enjoyed a bit more on this second look.

Like I said, my initial reaction may have been tarnished but the distance of years from Lost and The X-Files, the usual glut of poor television outings and a hunger for something even remotely resembling a quality program like The X-Files had me appreciating Fringe that much more.  The Pilot holds up as a solid piece of Sci-Fi television.



The actors, primary and secondary, certainly demonstrate a natural promise for their respective characters.  It will be up to the writers to make them work.  I have my reservations about Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop, but I have faith these concerns are nothing more than my biases over his association with Dawson's Creek.  Time will tell.  I do think the Peter and Walter Bishop dynamic is a fascinating one based on this episode alone and look forward to that development.  FBI Agent Charlie Francis is also a terrific supporting character played by Kirk Acevedo [The Thin Red Line, Oz, Band Of Brothers] along with Lance Reddick [Lost, Oz, The Wire].









Though I would prefer authenticity in my location shooting, their is indeed a haunting, New England-like quality to the sometimes raw and snowy proceedings.  Terrific camera work, a decent budget, solid special effects supported by a wonderful Michael Giacchino, Chris Tilton and Chad Seiter score only heightens the dramatic tension magnificently a la Lost. This combined with solid performances and strong writing should combine for what could be a top tier program to build upon.  Still, there are a lot of ifs on the table following the conclusion of the Pilot.  And of course the promise of our dear Leonard Nimoy in the role of Massive Dynamic's William Bell, a one-time lab partner of Walter Bishop, further ups-the-ante.  How could the promise of Spock as a recurring character be disappointing?



We may never get all the answers.  If this is anything like Lost perhaps we'll never know what happened to Scott or certain characters, make entire sense of things that are said or hinted to or completely breakdown the Pattern.  But some of the best programs are never entirely spelled out.  As much as we loved The Millennium Group in Chris Carter's Millennium or just about any thread from Chris Carter's The X-Files, we never got complete closure.  It's these things that bring me back to shows.







Something tells me Fringe, while imperfect, at least in the early going, will have an equally intriguing run with some great stories to weave and an endlessly fascinating mythology to explore, and one, unlike Lost, which exploded out of the gate for me, may actually grow on me in a different way.  With any luck it may craft some semblance of a beginning, middle and an end with acceptable amounts of existential questioning and characters we grow to like, maybe even love.  I see great potential in Fringe based on the solid yarn the Pilot packed warts and all.  While I didn't fully appreciate it initially, with the advent of the Blu-Ray it will look amazing and remain commercial free for a proper go of it.  I'm no longer on the fringe on this one.  I'm all in people.  A second examination yields superior results in retrospect.  In hindsight, I can imagine that after five years of Fringe these earlier episodes including this origin story bringing Olivia, Walter and Peter together will one day have greater emotional resonance in the things that are shown, said and introduced. Some shows get it right the first time out while others need time to find their place and be discovered like fringe science itself.





Pilot: B/ B+.
Writer: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci. Director: Alex Graves.
Glyph Code: OBSERVER





Additional commentary:
Of course, it's just like The Sci-Fi Fanatic to have a second look at a Sci-Fi series as it exits the airways on this very day, January 18, 2013.  Five seasons and 100 episodes later and this post arrives on the very day Fringe airs its final two episodes.  That wasn't really planned.  I do this though.  It's strictly a result of time constraints.  Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and now Fringe.  Better late than never I always say.





There's a fine line between derivative art and art tending toward homage, but Fringe looks to be the heir apparent in quality paranormal-driven stories.  It's inevitable to make comparisons between Fringe and The X-Files. As I am discovering in a look at Season One, Fringe is nearly every bit as entertaining as The X-Files, if not as meticulous as the latter in its logic at least in the early going, but with the former leaning more heavily on the corporate-sponsored paranormal than the government-conspired ufological.  Both are steeped in conspiracies and cover ups compounded by trust issues with three-dimensional characters.  Anyone who thinks Fringe is simply derivative of The X-Files, myself included, would be mistaken upon first glance.  After all, The X-Files did its own fair share of tributes in its first season run paying tribute to John Carpenter's The Thing in Ice for starters among other tributes as it established its footing.  We are victims of our own culture and our love of science fiction knows no bounds even influencing new ideas by today's creators.  Escaping that reality entirely is rare.  Even The Matrix [1999], as mindblowingly original as it appeared, owed a debt of gratitude to Mamoru Oshii's Ghost In The Shell [1995] which was based on Masamune Shirow's manga [1991].  It's an incestuous business.  This is both the curse and gift of pop culture.  And Chris Carter's influence has indeed been profound.



Whereas The X-Files gradually unfolded its mytharc at a much more deliberate, methodical pacing and thoughtfully revealed the dynamic between Agent Fox Mulder and Agent Dana Scully as the heart of its show, Fringe is revealing itself to be a trifecta or ensemble-based dynamic between Anna Torv's Agent Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop and scientist Walter Bishop with support by Charlie Francis and others.  That component sets Fringe apart from The X-Files almost immediately.  Not to mention my other half whom I affectionately refer to as The One To Be Pitied noted that "unlike The X-Files and its often shadowy meeting places between government officials, everyone, on their face, seems on board and working together rather than on their own."  On the surface, cinematographically things are much more open on the surface rather than shrouded in dark lighting The X-Files so effectively employed. And while I loved Chris Carter's The X-Files and examined Season One closely, Fringe Season One is exhibiting a mythology, pacing and energy all its own.



Abrams and company approach Fringe with an even brisker pace than The X-Files, which seems fitting for today's technologically fast-paced and globally connected reality.  Like Nina Sharp says, on the scientific and technological fronts things are raging essentially out of control.  Perhaps Fringe can feel purposefully messy by design, but it should be tighter.

On the character front, Australian actress Torv leads the troupe as Olivia Dunham, and like Mulder and Scully, is interested in discovering the truth, but perhaps without the pedigree of Scully and Mulder.  Her Dunham character initially rejects being pulled into a massive and dark fringe universe preferring to make a difference on a more traditional investigative level.  But as the mysterious Phillip Broyles essentially tells her, you can't close your eyes to the reality of societal terror bringing Fringe into a more contemporary world.  Fringe is an artistic portrait of our political and global realities and is designed and emphasized beautifully through a lighting and camera palette that is trademark Abrams on a visual level.



Abrams' Lost reinvented and reinvigorated television with its energy or as John Kenneth Muir wrote at his Reflections On Cult Movies And Classic TV "helped rescue ... scripted television." He equates that fine piece of cinematic television to one of his personal favorites, the Pilot to Millennium.  The Lost Pilot is indeed the very best I've seen on network television too.  It still blows me away.  The location shooting, the visuals, the color palette, the characters, the chaos.  It's pure riveting television escape and a great way to get lost.



Fringe certainly doesn't overextend its reach to be that epic and sweeping in scope.  It's a very different proposition and much more insular in feel, but for science fiction mystery mixed with criminal procedural Fringe is big and bold TV cinema in its own right.  There are some thrilling action sequences to boot.  In retrospect, Fringe is a fine debut. Fringe presents an entirely different television experience from Abrams' Lost with great production values, but it certainly owes a debt of gratitude to predecessors like The X-Files and Millennium.  In it very much in keeping with the spirit of those classic productions.



The villain of Massive Dynamic is established straight away in the Pilot and the enormity of the corporate building and its massive interiors are wonderfully utilized to represent the sterile and cold reality of which Dunham is entering and engulfed by.  This company is out in the open too.  It's in your face declaring on billboards What do we do? What don't we doThe X-Files' conspirators and the many machinations in play, as I said, were often shrouded in darkness.  The X-Files brilliantly choreographed and obscured details and did as much with its lighting to enhance plot and story as the very dialogue itself.  Fringe takes an entirely different approach in this respect.  It will be interesting to see where the openly villainous heads of its corporate hydra takes our heroes.





I often enjoy referring to sci-fi writer's writer, John Kenneth Muir, as a counterpoint to my own reflections.  Author Muir's reflections are always grounded in evidence and reason, never just pure emotion, and his impressions are often a pleasure to read.  His immediate reaction to Fringe upon its debut was indeed strong.  You have to applaud the man for hammering out an honest assessment based solely on the Pilot.  If you can't be honest as a writer you have nothing.  There's no shame in that.  I certainly did not have as negative a reaction to Fringe upon my initial viewing, but I could understand his sensibilities on the subject.  We've all experienced similar visceral responses one way or another in our viewing experiences.  I had a similar adverse reaction to Stargate Universe and have since accepted the fact that I may not have had it right.  I was unfairly holding Stargate Universe hostage to the Stargate SG-1 mirror.  That doesn't work. That's not to suggest Muir will have a change of heart or unfairly compared Fringe to The X-Files. The same kind of detailed analysis Muir gave Fringe he's also given Stargate Universe and made me a believer.




Muir, who loved the Abrams written and directed Lost Pilot, like myself, dubbed it "the finest I've ever seen," yet deplored the one filmed for Fringe calling it "one of the absolute worst" and an "embarrassment."  He called it a "charmless, brazen rip-off" that feels "positively soulless." Ouch.

Of course, Muir points to a host of intersects between the two shows ticking off a handful of comparisons.  Both Fringe and The X-Files orbit the FBI and center on "extreme possibilities, with fringe science of the week stories. Both series feature "derided" figures by society like Fox Mulder, the Lone Gunmen and now Walter Bishop.



Both series share a much larger "mytharc" or "pattern" comparing Blair Brown's character, Nina Sharp, complete with "cheesy" robotic arm to the suggestively more effective Cigarette-Smoking Man.  Admittedly Blair Brown is brilliant in the role, but to pigeonhole the Pattern as Fringe's answer to government conspiracy may be entirely too premature to assume. Where these variables will take the series will take some time to reveal themselves, but I understand his comparisons on the face of the Pilot.





Muir points to a "malicious agenda" and the tangled X-Files' web of government conspirators versus Fringe's Massive Dynamic.

Further, both series boast a male/female duo, but The X-Files Scully and Mulder are specialists.  Chris Carter was indeed one of the best at writing character.  This much is undeniable.  Muir calls the Fringe duo about as "interesting as wonder bread. Without the crust."  Hey, I like Wonder Bread, but the crust does make it more interesting.  But seriously, the character dynamic is different on Fringe, and the existence of Walter Bishop makes this so, but his point is well-taken regarding Dunham and Bishop as lacking an intelligent and articulated field of specialty.  This is glaring.



Muir points to the "vulnerability" and "trust" in his recent review of The X-Files Pilot when Dana Scully, without calculation, simply disrobes in front of Fox Mulder.  This scene represents an immediate trusted connection in their relationship.  Fringe pays homage to that scene in a similar move when Olivia Dunham disrobes for both Peter and Walter Bishop.  These are different times, but the same issues of trust are in play.  Comparing the two scenes one could argue the success of those scenes largely falls on the grace of those cast for each respective show and how those scenes are written and received.  Nevertheless, culturally, Fringe arrives at a different time and the creators take a much harder Abrams-styled approach over Chris Carter's more ethereal presentation.  Would you believe, research determined some writers felt Duchovny's performance made "wood look lively" [Entertainment Weekly]and Torv undressing was "indulgent" and an "object of scrutiny" [The Globe And Mail].  How soon we forget and how attitudes towards what is socially acceptable continue to change.





Author Muir certainly sees Fringe as a theft in progress based on the Pilot of both The X-Files and Strange World [1999], and I'll add borrowing its energy and style from Lost for good measure.  I would concur most of all with Muir's biggest problem with Fringe - the overgeneralizing of characters.  He recalls Mulder and Scully as three-dimensionally "smart and passionate."  The distinction of its two leads with distinct backgrounds and different perspectives certainly gave The X-Files a genuine sense of vision and razor-sharp focus to its studious proceedings.  Fringe lacks that component and it feels haphazard, empty or messy as a result at times.  Fringe will no doubt grow stronger over time, but the characters are not well-defined in the early going.  The characters lack strength in this area.



Muir argues Fringe gives "the veneer of intelligence, not intelligence itself."  He added, "Fringe already seems anti-science, railing against "science" and "technology." In The X-Files, the villain was the misuse of science and technology, not science and technology itself. There's a distinction there. One asks us to examine human nature (how do we apply our knowledge wisely and morally?) and the other is blatantly anti-intellectual." I do believe it is arguably too soon in the series to make these assessments. Anti-science may be a strong charge but if that proves otherwise we'll note it along the way. The players behind Massive Dynamic will no doubt prove to be the trigger men or abusers of the trust for the FBI's woes across a series. And like guns that don't shoot themselves, science requires someone to apply it or in the case of Fringe as you'll discover, nefarious or otherwise, apply or misuse it. The use of science is indeed part of the ongoing theme on Fringe and the traditional components, defined or ambiguous, of good and evil are at the core like any good series.



Muir concludes that Fringe offers "no joy, no fun, no sense of curiosity at all. It's a mechanical, heartless product...a machine grinding out sausage for the masses" and that it's "positively soulless. In fact, that's the creepiest thing about it."  That criticism may be undeniably hardcore, but I can understand that perspective entirely despite having enjoyed it.  There's an advantage to reflecting on any material with time, but Muir's impressions were honest and valid and Fringe has yet to prove it has the artistic depth that The X-Files respected so intelligently.  Fringe indeed embodies something colder and more contemporary that seems to represent a modern climate politically and globally or as Robert Abele of LA Weekly wrote a feeling this is all "synthetically engineered."





The debut of Fringe received varied impressions across the board and wide-ranging. Author Muir was not alone in his examination.  Travis Fickett of IGN felt the introductory entry served up "a lackluster pilot that promises to be a pretty good series."  Misha Davenport of The Chicago-Sun Times spotted the obvious references as well calling the series an "update of The X-Files with the addition of terrorism and the office of Homeland Security."  Television Without Pity had major concerns about the character issues noted earlier.  The series is "entertaining" with a "largely strong" cast, but found the Dunham character "wooden and distant" even after a half season.  The reviewer felt Nina Sharp was "one-note and lazily written" while the same might be said for Lance Reddick referred to as "underdeveloped."  The same reviewer would have a change of heart years later. Others like The Daily Herald highly lauded Torv's performance.  The Los Angeles Times noted the "masterful" John Noble as "more Shakespearean than sci-fi."  Ironically, Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe [Boston being the center of the Fringe universe] wrote that "after the electrifying start, Fringe unfolds as an uneven, unwieldy piece of work that provides very few chills and thrills."  Ultimately, many critics placed Fringe on their all-time best science fiction lists as the series progressed into later seasons.  That's enough to put any self-respecting sci-fi fan on notice.  I expect to have fun playing Where's Waldo? with The Observer [pictured passing Massive Dynamic].





As John Muir penned on The X-Files in his X-Files 20th Anniversary Blogging: Series Primer, it was "a benchmark for television horror" and "achieved... wide cultural popularity" correctly dubbing the series "the Star Trek of the 1990s." All of this is undeniable and Fringe likely intended on carrying the torch to the science fiction, mystery and horror classic with its own approach in the genre multi-verse rather than copy it.  If The X-Files legacy was comparable as the Star Trek of the 1990s, Lost was certainly the Star Trek of the 2000s.  Fringe was in good hands fusing the best of these worlds and while it would likely never be those things, in time, it is likely to establish itself within the pantheon of science fiction favorites as it is discovered by viewers, like myself, who missed it.  We'll see.  Time will tell if the series can find its own emotionally resonant identity with more confidence, but the buzz on the streets is that Fringe indeed does find itself among other selves.  But as television goes, the Pilot, on its own merit, while imperfect and not nearly as seductive philosophically as The X-Files, offered a solid foundation from which it could develop and grow.  It indeed hopes to be a direct descendant, the next generation, of the greats based on this one.  The introduction may be flawed, but for me it was certainly entertaining, as Fringe, as a series, finds closure on this frigid January day in science fiction history.  Somehow that seems fitting.





Director footnote: Alex Graves. American director who delivers a stylish, haunting, raw and snowy New England-like vibe despite the lack of location authenticity.  Graves would direct the pilots for Terra Nova [2011], the under appreciated The Nine [2006-2007] along with three other episodes from the series and 666 Park Avenue.  Fringe would be one of his greatest successes as far as fronting a successful series.



Fringe Cast: Olivia Dunham [Anna Torv]/ Walter Bishop [John Noble]/ Peter Bishop [Joshua Jackson]/ Phillip Broyles [Lance Reddick]/ Charlie Francis [Kirk Acevedo]/ Nina Sharp [Blair Brown]/ Astrid Farnsworth [Jasika Nicole] a.k.a. Asterix, Astro, etc.

12 comments:

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Ok, so here we go. I could write all day about this one. This of course is nothing against you, but I am tired of people comparing Fringe to The X-files. For, me I don't really see the big comparisons...there may be some things here and there, but Fringe in my mind definitely stands on its own..it's as good as if not better than the X-files.

Like you fell off with LOST, I fell off with the X-files pretty much after season 4 and haven't visited the series since. I've tried on many occasions to pick the series back up, but once I pop in an episode to restart the watch, I just get bored and end up turning it off.

I remember watching the Pilot of Fringe and loving it. Yes, there are some imperfections in the episode, but by and large, it's fantastic television. After the premiere of the pilot, I started to read all these comments how Fringe was a rip off of X-files, so I went back to watch the pilot of the X-files and I have to say, wasn't very impressed after a second viewing. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the X-files and owe that show alot, because of its popularity, Millennium was born, which is far better in my opinion.

I sometimes try and figure out all the hoopla over the X-files and remember when I first watched it, it was right up my alley, but for whatever reason, couldn't sustain my interest and I love all the kind of stuff.

Fringe on the other hand had me hooked from day one. I just finished watching the series finale last night and it did answer alot of questions, but of course, a few remain unanswered and I am ok with that.just like I was ok with LOST leaving ALOT unanswered.

I guess what i am trying to say is people should not judge or compare Fringe to the X-files and let the show stand on its own for what it is...fantastic science fiction.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Troy,

Trust me, no offense taken. I love your vocal alternate take on Fringe. It's refreshing.

I love what you have to offer on television my friend.

SO let me take my observations further and respond to your thoughtful response.

I can see where people, including myself, had their caution lights on a little with Fringe at the beginning and perhaps unfairly so.

Looking at that Pilot again, and of course I've seen a good handful of episodes as of this writing up to and including Whedon's The Dreamscape which I thought was very very good, my view of the Pilot is shaded now a little by the things I've seen since in fairness.

Trying to speak objectively strictly on the Pilot I can tell you that, first, as I've said here with high marks, I thought the Pilot was very very good. But coming into it with some expectation this was going to be am X-Files-like series perhaps I did not give it the benefit of the doubt and kept allowing that to shade my viewing experience.

Still, in broader and more sweeping generalizations, I can see the comparisons to The X-FIles people connected to. Having said that, it was still a great starter Pilot and I didn't fully appreicate it when I first saw it. I did like it. I think I liked it more now. HAving seen all of the Fringe episodes I've seen I am thoroughly enjoying the series and connecting to the characters and stories more and more with each passing episode. It's shaping up to be what I hoped for and what you referred to it as, "fantastic science fiction."

That is so funny regarding your experience with The X-Files. I found that really interesting. Because, I came along to The X-Files right about the time you dropped off and became a complete addict. SO it won me over with its midway point until the end. Those days seem a tad like a blur to me now but I made every effort to stop and watch that series for awhile.

With Lost, I did the same thing and dropped off around season 4 /5.

Now, you raise a really interesting point about The X-Files.

I have been watching both The X-Files and Fringe simultaneously. I just wanted to see what it was like watching these two series together.

I've been alternating each night.

Well, with that little experiment I can see where you would feel that way about The X-Files. That series has a much different look and pacing. In fact, Fringe and The X-Files on atmosphere, mood, lighting and style are so very different that I think you are correct in your assessment that they seem worlds apart.

Like I said watching them back to back lately they feel and look and work very differently. There is the FBI component, but even the way the FBI operates within the two series is very unique. Fringe, of course, has a high tech corporate/ science element that is extremely unique to that series versus this government/ FBI conspiracy vibe within the FBI along with how Scully and Mulder break down a crime scene with their backgrounds versus Walter's lab. The series both behave and move very differently. Fringe had a very irreverent sense of humor going on as well that I really like not that Mulder isn't great for a one liner with Frohike.

But I do know exactly what you mean and I'm sure the further I go the stronger your perspective will resonate. So thank you for making the point and I don't disagree. Wathcing the two together really makes a much greater contrast of styles and approach. Fringe is indeed a different series from many I've seen.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

CONTD..

Based on the Pilot I was skeptical and I should have been a little more open to, well, these NEW extreme possibilties with Fringe. It's been a lot of fun to watch Season One so far.

Oh, and I think I may have already suggested it, but I could see watching Fringe and being on a roll and in a rhythm with that series and then slowing things down for the unique rhythms of The X-Files as science fiction horror and its approach throwing off the viewer.

Fringe is much more in line with the speed of today's criminal justice-based programming. There's a uptempo style to it that keeps it moving. The X-Files is uafraid to slow things down to a quiet crawl in many scenes throughout its many wonderful episodes.

I just watched The X-Files, SeasoN Two, One Breath by Morgan and Wong and it was beautifully done. I thought it was a splendid episode and could easily see why Millennium was such a huge success with the caliber of those two writers on board. It was definitely one of my favorite episodes from Season Two.

I watched Fringe The Dreamscape and thought it was just as wonderfully rendered on film and just as compelling and you know something I don't think of The X-Files for a moment watching Fringe at this point. I suppose that says something. I watch them back to back and they are two distinctly fine series. So yes, Fringe feels like an entirely different animal at this point as I'm watching.

I simply wanted to express my approach to the Pilot when it first came out and how I perceived it and how it was perceived by others and experienced.

I think as time moves forward Fringe will get a much different evaluation.

Also, I completely see the effect of The X-Files on Millennium. Carter's approach to character and the mood and tempo of these two shows is entirely Chris Carter and very powerful. It's not surprising he had such a cultural impact in the day.

I will go back to Lost and finish that one too. I am fine with unanswered questions too because, as I said in this Pilot piece, some of the aspects of these terrific series that leave open-ended interpretation bend the brain a little. I enjoy that aspect of science fiction. For example, there were some weird touches to The Dreamscape in Fringe. I wasn't quite sure what they meant, but I positively loved it [ex- the butterflies on the wall that Dunham sees fluttering]. I love touches like that.

Troy, all I can say is thanks for taking time to write. I hope I didn't drone on too long, but wanted to give a slightly new perspective since seeing some more of Fringe. You make some great points and, like you, you got me going. Thanks again. sff

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Brilliant response my friend..really enjoyed reading that. I hope I didn't come off like an ass, that wasn't my intention at all. I just really get annoyed at some of the die-hard X-files fans that no matter what, Fringe or any other show that may be similar is ripping off the X-files. I do give the X-files its props for being groundbreaking at the time it started and from the episodes I watched it was a great show, didn't necessarily blow me away, but a good show nonetheless.

I think Fringe is definitely groundbreaking in its storytelling and concept. What really made this show great to me is that it made me think. Many of the concepts on the show, the science that is, made me think is that possible? Is this just TV science fiction? It made me start looking up things, finding out more about subjects I knew little about and its helped me learn more about science and have an appreciation for science.

THe same with Millennium...it made me question things, look things up, learn more about the people that committed horrible crimes like the ones depicted on the series.

I do hope you find Fringe something fascinating to watch. I envy you as you have alot of the show to watch. I didn't buy any of the seasons on purpose because I am waiting for the complete series blu ray set to come out and then I will purchase the series and do a rewatch.

Thank you for responding..your points are very valid and may even push me to attempt to continue watching the X-files. I don't want to take anything away from Carter and the cast and crew, just sometimes it gets so old hearing the diehards comparing everything to X-files, Fringe, Bones, etc.

Now onto LOST. I totally understand where you are coming from. The show got a bit confusing during the 3rd and 4th season. It to started to go all over the place with flash forwards, flashbacwards, side flashes..insanity, but I stuck with it because at its core were the characters who I had invested so much time in. I think the first 2 seasons of LOST are some of the best television that has ever aired. I think it became a victim of its own popularity. It became so big that it was going to be hard for the writers to successfully end the show with everyone happy. I personally like shows that leave questions unanswered. It let's me talk about and debate what I think the answers are...to me that's great television.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey Troy... Patriots lose.. Depressing.
But onto more interesting things like your great follow up.

I really enjoy your comments and they are worth spending some time following up on... So thanks and no, you're hardly an ass.

Great points and a great perspective with a keen eye for quality television my friend.

Agreed. There are things in fringe I find myself asking about. If a show can do that and if it has you thinking about the possibilties as the Xfiles did then you are onto something. They are similar in this way.

Millennium too, as you said, was endlessly thoughtful and fascinating. Great writing is the key on all these shows.

And yes fringe is becoming my go to show for the moment. I'm really enjoying it. It has won me over. I just finished the great episode Safe.

I think X-Files is indeed riveting but again a different vibe and speed and generally feels like a different show at this point into fringe.

Im completely with you on the journey of those lost characters. Amen. They are the reason I will return to it. Seasons 1-3 were excellent. I'm a bit proponent of season three S well but you are right 1&2 are brilliant television. Anyway I hope I enjoy it upon my return and I don't expect to find all the answers... I will enjoy the journey as you put it. Thanks again Troy. A pleasure.

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Ah yes, The Safe is a great episode of Fringe..one of the first episodes that made me get on the net after watching it and finding out if what happened in the episode is actually possible! I love shows that make me think.

It's funny, while you are deep into your Fringe watching, I am near the end of my Battlestar Galactica rewatch. That show is so amazing, so deep, so real..it's a shame it ended after 5 seasons. I really enjoyed the way the show fleshed out the characters..made the show more about the human element then the science fiction aspect.

I so hope you keep enjoying Fringe. I am really curious to get your reaction to the third season when you get there. Some people love it, some people don't, I am one of the people who loved that season. Kudos to the actors for some fantastic work on that season. You'll see what I mean when you get to it.

Thank you for your very insightful blog posts...I normally don't respond to posts, but your site and John Kenneth Muir's are the only ones I really leave my opinion on. We should definitely have a chat over skype or something and talk television. As you say, I think we have alot in common when it comes to TV. I am really excited for you to see Damian Lewis' performance in the series Life. Not your typical cop. An amazing show that never got the justice it deserved!

There is another show I want to recommend to you later down the road when you get time..it's called Brimstone....simply brilliant!

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

And by the way, here is the trailer they showed at the network upfronts for the series premiere of LIFE. I think this will give you an idea of how special this show is...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZULI71kOUE

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Troy,

Yes, we should do skype some time That would be cool. I've never done it actually.

You've got me pretty revved up for Fringe.

I am fully engaged and I'm going to make an effort to stay with it and see it through.

Well, if Fringe Season Three goes a little askew like Lost Season Three did, I'm sure I'll enjoy it, because I really liked that third season which seemed to lose some people.

I have some additional TV questions for you but I'll ask them one one of out next conversations.

I hope to pull the trigger on Life Season One soon and I promise I will not forget to write you about it when that time comes. Thanks for the link I will check it out!

By the way, sincerely, thanks for the kind words regarding the blog. I appreciate it, and like you, love JKM's site as well. So great company. Thank you.

Francisco Gonzalez said...

I'm a huge fan of this show...it just grabs you. In contrast to your original reaction to it, FRINGE grabbed me right away! The character of 'Bishop'as played by Joshua Jackson just blows me away, that whole idea about his brain being segmented cause he was just so freaking smart....wowzers...trust me man, this series only gets better.

Of course you have to go through those chapters that have nothing to do with the main story, but the ones that are about the story...wow, they really get epic! Highly recommend going through the whole thing man, I bet by season two you wont be able to stop pushing play on your blue ray.

Performance wise, this is one of my favorite shows, everyone here is just so solid in my book.

I saw every single episode of the X-Files and I agree with you, the similarities are there, but FRINGE is its own thing. It's slightly more epic, the story goes so much further...I don't watch as many shows as you have because I hate it when they streeetch things out and you can tell they are doing just that to elongate the season...but I love it when every single episode packs a wallop and thats how I feel when I see FRINGE, I feel like every episode is concentrated energy and that it will blow my mind.

Trust me man, only coolness awaits! This show rocks!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Wow! Two in BIG favor with Fringe. Between you and Troy Francisco I'm pretty damn excited to watch the entire series.

BTW, you kinf of hit me with a spoiler on Joshua Jackson but I kind of suspected something like that based on suggestions about his medical record. But because I love you like a brother I can tell you PLEASE don't tell me anymore.

: )

Seriously Fran, I really don't see The X-Files connection and I'm sure many who felt that way in the early going will have those feelings dispelled the deeper they go.

I can't wait to be blown away, but I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoy the standalone stories as well.

"Concentrated energy" and "coolness awaits." How can I not be excited? Btw, I would go faster if I didn't have this built-in tendency to write about everything I see. It's both a gift and a curse.

Excellent. Thank you Fran.

Also, Troy, watched that trailer for Life, I see things in it that I would connect to completely. It looks very good. I will definitely give it a spin.

All the best guys
sff

Francisco Gonzalez said...

The X-File connection is obvious in my book: These guys work for a "secret" government division that explores the weird stuff that happens in the world? Each episode about a weird seemingly unexplainable event? It's similar in that sense, but of course it goes its own way with its very own unique mythology.

Sorry bout the spoiler! Didn't mean too man! But I do love that character, he really grows on you. I love how they play that fine line between him being an ultra genius and an ultra nut case! When he first appears in that looney bin, he is just so enigmatic. A great character!

Hope you enjoy the rest of the series man!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Francisco
I can honestly say you see more stuff than I do my friend but I mean it when i say I am completely pumped to watch the series in full based on your rousing endorsement along with t foreman. Those are two very solid endorsements.

Your point about the basic comparisons between The X-Files and Fringe are exactly what I see in the early going and I hope I articulated that point fairly. I expect things will change mightily indeed.

Well said about the Walter bishop character. He is exactly as you say when we a first introduced. A very powerful looking figure too. I'm really falling for the characters. The creators pulled in some heavyweight talent along the way too I suspect.

Thanks so much for the input Francisco
Bst
SFF