Friday, May 21, 2010

May It Live Long and Prosper: The FRINGE Season Finale - Reviewed!

FRINGE Thoughts:

- What an amazing season it's been for FRINGE. Over the course of Season 2, Fringe has morphed from a pretty good show into a truly *great* one, and there's a strong argument to be made that it's the single best show on the air today. While some of TV's aging and soon-to-be-gone behemoth's have been struggling creatively, Fringe has been hitting its stride, delivering epic scifi TV week in and week out. For the last several weeks, what has been THE must-see drama on network TV? Not Lost, not 24 - no, the show to watch has been FRINGE. So congrats to all involved - cast, crew, etc. - on an absolutely phenomenal season of television.

As for last night's Part 2 of the two-part finale - once again, Fringe delivered the goods. I don't think this week quite matched the overall intensity and sense of wonder present in last week's game-changing episode, but still ... this was pretty badass.

In this one, we were thrown back into "the other side", the alternate reality where a cold, calculating, and still-sane Walter Bishop utilizes a bigger and badder Fringe Division to deal with otherdimensional phenomena. "Walternate" wants his son back, and now, he's finally united with Peter - taken back after 20 years spent in our world. But, Walternate doesn't just want Peter back so he can have a family reunion. No - in this episode we learn that Peter is the key to operating a device designed by his real father that could be used to destroy our dimension. Peter is informed of this by our version of Olivia, who is working with Walter and William Bell to bring Peter back to our world.

There were a ton of amazing, badass moments in this episode. First of all, hot damn, EMMYS FOR EVERYONE ON THIS SHOW. Watching JOHN F'N NOBLE portray two completely different versions of Walter Bishop was basically a master class in acting. Absolutely incredible to see Noble so convincingly portray a quivering madman and a stone-cold leader of men in one fell swoop. Just awesome. Similarly, how 'bout Anna Torv's excellent portrayal of Olivia's 1 and 2. Kudos to Torv for really stepping up to the plate anc convincingly and semi-subtlely portraying two characters as well. And yes, the catfight between the two Olivia's was pretty awesome - who doesn't love a good fight scene between evenly-matched otherdimensional dopplegangers?

And how about Leonard Nimoy?! It was great to see Bell finally get some substantial screentime, although it was bittersweet knowing that this was Nimoy's swan song as an actor. Nimoy's measured, calm presence was a great counterbalance to Walter's twitchy craziness, and the two had some incredible scenes together. I loved Walter's greeting to Bell. "Oh, hello Bellie. I see you've aged." And the scene in the alternaverse's Harvard lab, in which all of Walter's pent-up resentment for his old colleague came pouring out - well, sonofabitch, was that intense! Emmy moment, if ever-there was one! And Nimoy even got one last chance to be the badass - when he broke out his experimental Massive Dynamic heavy artillery, blasting a bunch of thugs to smithereens, it was a real "hells yeah!" type of moment. In all honesty though, Bell's ultimate fate was a little less explosive than I'd imagined. Especially given that Bell basically turned himself into a living nuclear reactor, his final goodbye seemed a tad muted. Still, it was awesome having Nimoy play a key role on Fringe, and dammit all, we salute you Sir for a distinguished and iconic acting career. May you live long and prosper.

You also had to love all the awesome work that the show put into differentiating the other side from our own world. From the big - Boston quarantined and people encased in amber, zepellins flying through an art-deco NYC skyline, etc. - to the small - like the alternate versions of classic comic book covers (Red Arrow / Red Lantern, a version of The Dark Knight Returns featuring Superman instead of Batman - and yes, I'm a nerd) that adorned the walls of Peter's alternaverse room.

And by the way, how about the revelation that Walter had devoted time in the 80's to uncovering all of the secret ingredients to KFC's chicken recipe? Classic.

I think my main quibble with this episode is simply that it felt a bit rushed. The overall pace was much slower than last week's action-packed epic, but it felt like some of the big character moments happened super-fast. I felt like we never 100% got inside Peter's head here. How tempted was he to stay on the other side? He sided with Olivia and Walter pretty quickly, and never really confronted Walternate to ask him about his allegedly sinister plans. I was also hoping to get more of a glimpse of the fascinating machine we saw in the schematics. With more time, it would have been cool to see Walternate's plans in their more advanced stages, with real universe-spanning stakes. It almost felt like Part 2 of a 3-part finale ... as there is now a TON of plot set to carry over into next season. Meanwhile, I think it was easy to predict that the other side's Olivia would eventually switch places with our version (why else give her the telltale tattoo?), but still, it made for a compelling cliffhanger. Other Olivia on our world, our Olivia locked up in a cell on their world.

Like I said, it's been a hell of a year for FRINGE. Sure, there have been a few hiccups (the ill-timed musical episode), but mostly, Fringe has become the new standard-bearer for mind-melting TV entertainment. With Lost about to end, I really hope that fans of JJ Abrams' other scifi TV show spend some quality time over the summer catching up on Fringe - Season 1 starts out slightly shaky, but by the end of that first season, the show is off to the races, and Season 2 is nonstop awesomeness for most of the way. By the latter half of Season 2, it's clear that Fringe had really evolved into something special - with a fascinating overarching plotline, lots of action and intrigue, some really emotional moments and character arcs, and one of the best TV performances I've ever seen in the form of John Noble as Walter Bishop.

All hail the new king of event television, and bring on Season 3.

My Grade: A-

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