Fringe starts up again tonight, and if you haven’t been watching it, you should start. Well, first you should go buy all three seasons that have already happened, then you should watch tonight. Everyone I know who has heeded this advice has become a convert, because Fringe isn’t just amazing scifi television — it’s one of the absolute best things on TV right now.
You might think you have a vague idea of the plot: X-Files-y, right? FBI agent, mad scientist, hot son for FBI agent to hook up with. And maybe for a few episodes towards the beginning, that was a fair description. The pilot was great, a movie, and fascinating, but then it relaxed a little, got quiet so it could build up soft melodies and leitmotifs that could become the crashing symphony it is now.
I don’t want to give too much away. But yes, Anna Torv is FBI agent Olivia Dunham. There was some criticism of her when the show started — people said she felt lost in the role, but that’s because Olivia herself was lost. Olivia is a very walled-off character. Subtle. And Anna Torv plays that subtlety with a sort of genius I find very rare in actors today. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but the changes she has to make for what the script requires are brilliant. She expresses these differences with a real intelligence, and demonstrates how well thought out her character is, how defined and careful every look is. Anna Torv deserves an Emmy for what she’s been doing. The rest of the cast, likewise, is amazing — I don’t want to spend too much time describing the cast, but all of them are so perfectly in tune with their characters that, despite the crazy science fiction world that they live in, the people never stop being people. Their situation may be extraordinary, bizarre, but they are always human beings, just trying to survive. It’s what keeps the show from becoming a soap opera.
And that world they live in — wow. The writers on Fringe are brilliant because they do bring everything together, they make what might seem ridiculous or cheesy in other writers hands seem quietly brilliant (and sometimes loudly brilliant). I confess, there have been a few occasions where I’ve read a spoiler or something has happened at the end of an episode and I have thought to myself oh hell, this is a bad idea, this is going to screw everything up but every time I’ve thought that, I’ve been proven wrong. Which I think demonstrates the writers’ talents — they can take what seem like bad ideas, or clichés and make them fresh and smart and leave me wondering how I ever could have doubted them.
I’m working really hard to not give anything away, you may have noticed, so let me end with this: the word I always use to describe Fringe is audacity. An odd one, to be sure. But no other show I’ve seen has the nerve to do what Fringe is doing — things that I would never have thought any sensible show would dare to do, in terms of plot, in terms of their actors, their characters — there’s a lot of chutzpah happening, and they always pull it off, which I think is the more impressive thing.
I watch a lot of TV. Way too much of it. But if I could only keep watching one show, it would be Fringe. It is hands down the best thing on television right now. And you should tune in tonight.