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"Fringe" Before the Finale: Great Ideas, Dreadful Execution

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 3, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 3, 2011 |

Last month, after giving up on “Fringe” for all of six days, only to return to it by the next episode, I’m once again scratching my head, wondering why I’m watching, particularly as it seems that the entire ridiculous Soul Magnets arc was a time killer, filler to get us to where we are now. And where are we now, days before the season finale? Trapped in a show with great characters, fun ideas, and no fucking idea how to properly execute them.

It’s a mess.

The best part of “Fringe” — its mythology — is also the weakest part. The alternate dimension is great. The “device” is interesting. That device, it turns out, is some sort of time machine, which both sets up and, it seems, resets the finale and season four, which makes it all the more intriguing, pitting this dimension against the future alterna-dimension. But the contrivances that the writers use to manipulate these ideas has been exhausting, frustrating, bad. It’s enough to ask us to suspend disbelief to see the characters jump between dimensions and, now, the future, but the idea of destiny stacked on top of it has stretched the disbelief too far. So, Sam Weiss is only important because of genealogy? Because he’s the last in a line of Sam Weisses? And now, it’s not just the cortexiphan that makes Olivia special; she was pictured in an ancient scroll which revealed that Olivia’s brain waves control the device. All of these events were fated; science is secondary. God is manipulating the pieces into place, and the Observer is watching to make sure they fall the right way. Peter and Walter and Olivia and science, they’re just cogs. We’re not watching the characters put the pieces of the puzzle together; were watching a greater force pull back the cover, revealing bits of the puzzle, all of which has already been put together for them.

Oh, and the writing is dumb.

But I’m still watching. Because the ideas are irresistible, although it’s getting to the point where I’m starting to believe that Walter, Peter, and Olivia are going to wake up in a church in the final episode and learn that they’ve all been in limbo, working out their issues before they pass on into the afterlife, a lazy and messy ending to what started out as a nifty little sci-fi procedural that, ultimately, got too bogged down in its own mythos. (After all, isn’t the alternate dimension simply another version of “The Others”?)

I wonder if Astrid is God?

Still, Peter just got zapped ahead ten years, where the Earth is in the midst of a war, so you bet your ass I’m still watching. I just hope Schwarzenegger shows up in the finale to protect him from Walternate.

Speaking of the finale, here’s a captivating movie-style trailer for it, and in only two minutes, they can highlight all the great ideas without ruining them with the messy, badly-written melodrama. Seriously, there are more hospital bed scenes in “Fringe” than “Grey’s Anatomy.”

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.