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Sunday, April 21, 2013

ONCE MORE INTO THE FRINGE: a beginner's guide to a great, but convoluted, show.

Fringe is finally available for binge viewing on Netflix and it is arguably the best project Abrams has yet produced. When Lost was screwing up it's story and when the X Files was letting its lead characters calcify into marionettes, the writers of Fringe were behind them furiously taking notes.

This is a one of a kind project, in that we will probably never see a show this weird and wonderful with this kind of a budget ever again. Fringe, ladies and gentleman, is a science fiction unicorn and I’d like to help you get on the saddle. So here are, what I believe, to be the best points of entry to a  show whose first act was its weakest. Bear with it and it will fill that mad science sized hole in your heart in no time.

Season 1 Ep,7: In Which We Meet Mr. Jones

Perhaps you've see Jared Harris around these days, doing his thing all over Mad Men and Sherlock Holmes. This is the reason. His villain arch on Fringe's first season is a high water mark for the show and sci fi in general. While this may not the best episode featuring the good doctor, more on that later, its case of the week gives you a great idea of how accomplished the effects team handle body horror. Here the show gets screaming close to hitting its stride.

Season 1 Ep, 9: The Dreamscape

Oh, look at the pretty buterfliAAAAAAAAAAGGHHHH!!!
If you can walk away from this show after the cold open I'll really be impressed. I thought I’d never see something different in a dream sequence, but the writers and cinematographers found a way to make a warmly lit tavern scene oppressively eerie. If you don’t mind having the pilot's major cliffhanger resolved for you this is a tight little psychological horror gem.

Season 1 Ep 10: Safe
Stop me if you've heard this one before...

Here it is, the one where everything clicked into place. The one when all the cylinders fired for the first time. I don't want to give away too much but this was when the show decided it wasn't going to go the law and order route and dove feet first into it's already deep lore. But you can still catch on if you pay attention. But you'll want to poke through “The Equation” and the “The Ghost Network” to see how the heist all came together. Or at least I hope you'll want to.

Season 2 Ep, 9 Snakehead

Hands down, Snakehead is Fringe's best “creature feature.” Also now that I think about it, it may also be the best standalone chapter as well. Not only does it have a spectacular monster, but the writers drum up a sensible reason for it to exist in the first place. But that’s not why this is a great episode. Sandwiched in between the parable of socioeconomic disparity is Walter's efforts to deal with his doddering mind and old age in general. His sobbing breakdown next to a stranger at a bus stop is simply Emmy award worthy acting, and its a shame John noble never got one.
Don't you just want to hug him?

Season 2 Ep 17, White Tulip

This is it, my last ditch effort. Don't watch this one out of order unless you absolutely MUST see the best Fringe has to offer. And this is one of the best. Unfortunately it directly deals with the fallout of the second season's biggest plot twist and with a show like this, surprise is often it's sharpest tool. But if that really doesn’t bother you, then treat yourself to one of the best time travel stories out there. Or at the very least... one of the very best time machines.

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