Friday, October 16, 2009

Enter Sandman

Fringe: Dream Logic
Season 2, Episode 5

For a few weeks now, I've been mentioning my favorite parts of the second season so far. The third favorite, Kirk Acevedo's terrific work seamlessly moving from playing Agent Charlie Francis to Fake Face Charlie, is all over now, but like Olivia I mourn his loss to the show. The other two highlights are both on prime display this week. Walter, who carried the show significantly in season one and still does a bit more than his share to this day, continues to be a fabulous man-child when confronted with things he doesn't understand. And I always like a bit more of the depth the storyline behind Peter's past provides.

It's safe to say this episode delivered on everything I enjoy about the show in spades. Walter is in full mad scientist mode. Peter continues to lend a hand in ever more involved ways while hinting at his tragic past. And Olivia... um... is there as well.

I was bound to dislike Olivia's storyline from the very beginning when she went to visit her bowling instructor/life coach Sam Weiss. Kevin Corrigan's performance as Weiss continues to grate on me. It's not just a case of not liking Corrigan (eventhough I really, really don't). His character is so shrouded in quirkiness, it doesn't even fit for this show. He's a zen guru who runs a bowling alley and has acted as a therapist for the CEO of one of the biggest corporations in this world and FBI agents. So there's obviously more to him than just being an average schmo. But that's how he's played for now until his larger purpose and place in the grand scheme of things is revealed. He's no substance and all showy-ness; basically everything I hated about the early days of this show. It's the same story we've seen a hundred times. Teacher roles acts crazy and makes student do stupid and pointless things. Student gets mad and wants to give up. Student realizes they've learned something. It doesn't change the fact that Mr. Miyagi was a dick that got thousands of dollars of free labor to remodel his home. At least Yoda settled for a piggyback ride and a flashlight.

John Noble on the other hand, him I love to death. His unique and humorous role was one of the first things that started reattaching Fringe for me on the DVDs. But this year continues to be a big step forward. He isn't just the convenient source for the writers to provide answers through like their own private deus ex machina. This week, he displays both his frailty (being unable to work long term outside his lab at Harvard) and sense of wonderment. Almost as fun as him experimenting on the FBI agent that escorted him back from Seattle is watching him talk Astrid into doing it. He just loves discovering answers to impossible questions. And now that he doesn't no everything, Peter gets to help out more. I loved the look of pride on Walter's face when Peter suggests the idea of mind control. Noble and Joshua Jackson have by far and away the best chemistry on the show (definitely more than Broyles and Sharp...uuggghh).

It is disappointing the show hasn't been able to prove more successful about improving their third lead. Olivia spends the episode following the nonsensical advice of Weiss (cringe-worthy), being depressed that Charlie is gone and being there when we need to shoot something. I hope now with her getting to that "You're Gonna Be Fine" message that she can leave Angst-land and have some fun with the rest of the gang. It seemed to ring false that after Walter and Peter do all the heavy lifting to solve the mystery (finding the device in their minds, making the leaps toward mind control and ultimately solving the mystery that someone is receiving the dreams of the victims and absorbing them like a drug), that Olivia gets to just throw the random connection of her father's Jekyl and Hyde approach to alcoholism to decide it must be the doctor. Considering she was along for the ride asking people for business cards to discover Weiss' message, I loathed that she got to just randomly come up with the answer. Yes, she confirmed it with good old-fashioned police work by comparing the writing samples, but once again - that was just a confirmation about her utterly wild assumption. It would have worked so much better if she was just studying the note (you know, like an FBI agent would) and found the evidence, using her personal history to back up the evidence. It's a bass-ackwards approach to presenting a resolution. This episode seems to nail the Dreams, but for the resolution at least doesn't have much Logic.

But all my complaints go away when Peter talks about his past. The fact that Walter taught him not to remember his nightmares reminds us all that Walter had a good reason to try and make Peter forget everything before he was abducted from his reality. That's the double-sided tragedy of that story because Walter needs him to forget and be like his dead son. If Peter is his son, than he is a hero in a loving father. If Peter is not his son and remembers his life before coming to Earth-1, than Walter is a sick monster that stole a child from his bed at night.

The main thing to love about this plot is how this season, we as the audience know more than a main character (in this case Peter). So much of science fiction on television today (Lost, Flashforward) is about the audience discovering something at the slower pace the main characters do. Some character knows the truth, but we can't view the situation from their perspective most of the time. So we identify with the people discovering the truth (Locke and his hatch, Jack and how to get off the island, Joseph Feinnes and why the world blacked out). It's this carrot that the creators of the show dangle in front of us for months or years at a time. And in that time we stop caring because we're tired of reaching for some truth only to have it pulled away time and time again.

In this case, we already have the carrot - the truth about Peter's early life. And now we get to enjoy how that truth is hidden or revealed a bit every week. When Peter talks about being conditioned to forget his nightmares, we don't have to wonder about the backstory. We can figure it out easily with the information we already have. His nightmare at the end isn't a clue. We know what is happening when he is snatched out of bed. And we're in a unique place that because we like Walter, we don't want him to remember and are kind of glad when he says he doesn't. Of course, if Peter does remember, it will make his eventual confrontation with Walter all the more interesting.

Walter did something we can understand, but is utterly indefensible. He couldn't accept his son's death and would bridge the gaps between realities to get him back even at the cost of his life and sanity. But you can't excuse it from Peter's perspective. He was kidnapped from his home and taken away by a man who pretended to be his father and did a poor job of it due to his mental illness. It's a lot easier to wait for the confrontation than the mystery. There are enough mysteries on this show.

1 comment:

Corporate Gifts said...

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