I mauled my way through 14 episodes of Fringe, this weekend. I’m very excited, now – why? The alternate reality arc of the show is about to kick in fully, meaning that Walternate, Bolivia and company will force all the mediocre standalone stories to one side for a spell. Frankly, they’re boring, and have always been Fringe’s greatest weakness. I’m not saying this to stir, or anything, I just think they’re tiresome and detract the show from challenging its cast as well as fully characterising the protagonists.
JJ Abrams’ specialty – and, by extension, the talents of those he works with – is serialised drama. Becoming invested in a show is altogether more difficult with a procedural; that’s why I watch Mad Men or The Wire, rather than CSI: Miami or Cold Case. In the alternate reality, Fringe finally found a plot device for its viewers to latch onto. As a result, it brings the spotlight onto the cast and allows a genuinely interesting sci-fi idea to be explored in more than just an hour (with commercials).
I’m not saying the show should be deliberately prohibitive to those who turn on halfway through a season – I just don’t think anybody will be talking about the episode with the 15-year-old who can control minds in a year’s time. The procedural episodes just aren’t strong enough. John Noble’s Emmy-worthy acting efforts as Walternate, however, will remain a talking point for years to come among the Fringe faithful. The third season will pick up with the alternate universe plot straight away, as evidenced by season two finale cliffhanger – we’re excited to see where it could go next.