Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fringe: It's Time for a New Kind of Hero

Just recently I started watching Fringe. I know, I'm behind the times, welcome to last year and all that rot, well listen, The Prisoner waited 40 years for me to watch it, and it wasn't bitter about it. In a year or two I might get around to watching Lost, and then you can all bitch about how I'm only writing about it now that it's over.



Fringe has more to do with Lost than just me being late to the party, they were both created at least in part, by JJ Abrams. Along with Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Together this trio always rebooted the long stagnant Star Trek franchise with a motion picture this last summer. One could say it's got a good pedigree, but Orci and Kurtzman also wrote the script for both Transformers movies, which no one will accuse of featuring stellar plots or dialogue. Perhaps that's not their fault though *ahem*.

Back to Fringe! Fringe kicks off with an airplane landing during a medical emergency, which it turns out was a virus intentionally let loose inside which melted everyone's internal organs and turned their skin transparent. It's a horrifically gruesome scene, and totally unlike anything else I've seen on television.

The most featured character up to this point has been FBI Agen Olivia Dunhum:


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She is a tall drink of water, but not oversexualized as is the costume in most current television shows. She's thoughtful, intelligent, and determined. Everytime I see her though, I can't help but think: "How is it that an FBI field operative can get away with having hair that long? Isn't that against some kind of regulation?". Other than that, I like her, there are some quirks to her character, but nothing particularly interesting. I'm sure a lot of people would consider her the hero of the show, but I propose a different candidate.
During the course of her investigation, she discovers a tie between the virus released on the plane, and the work of a Dr. Walter Bishop from 20 years ago, turns out that the good doctor has been in a mental institution for the past two decades, the only way to get him out is to obtain the permission of, and have him supervised by, his next of kin, his son, another ultimately forgettable character.
Once Bishop is set free, now we have our "hero":

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It quickly becomes evident that not only is Bishop not in full possession of his faculties, but even when he was, the work he did was hardly the sort of thing that would be accepted by the scientific community. Ladies and gentlmen: we have here a genuine mad scientist enlisted among the forces of good. It's not uncommon to have an anti-hero, a killer with a heart of good, a completely amoral blackops agent, any one of a hundred cliches, but it's not often that you get a genuine mad scientist with out the word evil thrown somewhere in his title.
I believe the them of the show is supposed to "Fringe" science. I'm going to steal a broad definition from Wikipedia: "Fringe science is scientific inquiry in an established field of study which departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories, and is classified in the "fringes" of a credible mainstream academic discipline. Mainstream scientists typically regard fringe concepts as highly speculative or strongly refuted, as opposed to frontier science which is plausible emerging science"
So, Walter dabbles in all kinds of fields, in the show, he's basically portrayed as being the expert on any kind of science the conspiracy theorists have claimed exists. In the first episode, he puts Agent Dunhum into an isolation tank in order for her to share dreams with her terminally injured partner. Another episode had them discovering someone who was tapping into a telepathic communication network that the "Pattern" (the bad guys of the show) were using. Last episode, after discovering a man that could electrical systems with his body, he programmed homing pigeons to seek out the man's unique energy signature, and then implanted GPS chips into them in order to track him down. "Are you sure this is going to work?" "Of course not!"
The show has a very X-files-y feel to it, although it seems a lot more structured towards where it's going, as opposed to X-Files just taking a monster of the week approach until they decided to go for broke on an alien conspiracy. I'm having a lot of fun with, if just for my favorite mad scientist.

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