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Fringe vs The X-Files

Good bye Fringe.

It’s amazing that Fringe lasted as long as it did. And now that it’s over, it’s as hard to know what to make of it now as it was when Fringe-Torvit first aired.

Oddball is the first word that comes to mind. Fringe never really worked as anything. It had interesting elements that never came together.

What the X-Files did effortlessly, Fringe struggled and sweated to do and couldn’t. Fringe brought interesting ideas and characters to the table, but somehow when everything was done, none of it felt like anything.

In its final season the series took a risk by taking us to the future and a war against inhuman human invaders from the distant future. It’s a great concept undermined by the execution. The dystopian world of the future is a place where you can wander around, plot conspiracies on cell phones, escape on trains and do most other things, even when facing an enemy that can move through walls and uses technology from hundreds of years in the future.

The resistance fighters that we meet are surprisingly blase about it. Even the old Walter who fought back with a bomb gives way to the new Walter who putters around the lab and has a plan on a bunch of cassettes to save the world with an uninteresting scavenger hunt.

The last season, like the rest of Fringe, had its moments, but not nearly enough of them. The characters are soggy. Peter’s revenge quest was the closest the last season came to coming alive. Olivia never holds the screen. She’s a weak main character. Walter is comic relief, and except for Black Blotter, is even soggier.

Fringe never got its characters right. And its stories are toned down versions of the X-Files. Where the X-Files would go for the throat, where it made the world seem like a dark and darkly funny place, Fringe always felt like a procedural, like a knockoff that didn’t know what it really wanted to be.

The X-Files was paranoid. Fringe wasn’t. The X-Files was like one of those conspiracy 1998 conspiracy websites in garish colors on a black background ranting, ranting and ranting about the end of the world. Fringe is like one of those cable conspiracy specials that wants the same audience but doesn’t have the guts to commit and instead spends its time studying goofy characters and interviewing professors.

Fringe was a show that never came together but lasted a surprisingly long time.

Meet the New Fringe

I never warmed up to Fringe. With a ratio of 60 percent character interaction to 30 percent case to 10 percent backstory, you really had to care about the characters and the arc. I didn’t.

But Fringe is somehow back for a fifth season and a new premise. Fighting invaders from the future in the future.

fringe walter

It looks more interesting than the current format, but it also introduces Henrietta, a bland new character, and the future world never felt like an oppressive society. Henrietta is too cheerful and the borrowed Nazi elements are too blatant.

Still I might give this a shot. The premise of Walter as a ruthless genius, instead of a senile punchline, is something to look for. The Fringe team trying to drive out invaders, instead of investigating strange cases also might work better and give the show a kick in the pants.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that two episodes in I’ll be yawning again and looking for something more interesting to watch.

Fringe Finale, I Wish I Cared

Give Fringe some credit, the two universes idea isn’t bad. Even if it’s the only thing that Abrams, Lindelof, etc keep hammering at over and over again, from Lost to Abrams Trek. Was there any reason to expect a disappointing ending from the guys behind Lost and Abrams Trek? Yeah. And and that’s what we got.

The whole storyline never worked all that well except when everyone was crossing universes. And turning the leads into the chosen duo was the big mistake too many shows make today. Driving it home with a crucifixion machine. Just tacky. A future flashforward. Not a bad idea for a penultimate episode, but weak for a finale. And the final twist was more of a cliffhanger setting a tedious search next season where someone will somehow remember and begin searching for, etc.

Fringe used to be more investigators in the X-Files sense, but the more the episodes have focused on backstory and explaining what’s going on, the more arcy they’ve become and less interesting. The arc is one of the things killing SF TV and one reason these shows have so much trouble keeping their hold on viewers. And trust the Lost people to blow their own arc. As usual.

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