Friday, January 21, 2011

Fringe - "The Firefly"

Walter (John Noble) and September (Michael Cerveris) take a walk and discuss cause and effect.
Photo Credit: FOX
Review by Paul Steven Brown

Season 3 - Episode 10
"The Firefly"

A lot of hay has been made about the decision by FOX to move 'Fringe' from Thursday, arguably the most watched night of television, to Friday, the night where a lot of shows have gone to die. Also, there is the irony of the first Friday night 'Fringe' being titled "The Firefly" since the much beloved 'Firefly' was a show that FOX aired on that night and horribly mismanaged. Still, FOX believes that if 'Fringe' can retain most of its Thursday audience on Friday, it will greatly increase viewership for the network on a very dead night. If the show can pull this off, as one FOX executive put it, 'Fringe' could be on for several years.

Another positive outcome to the Friday exile is that the powers that be at FOX will more than likely let the show runners on 'Fringe' do what they want with less interference. The show has it's audience, who have become more loyal and passionate during a very solid, serialized and mythology heavy third season. Creatively 'Fringe' has been all the better for this.

The second half of season three gives us an opener that was in many ways quieter than I expected. Yes, there was a car crashes and a wonderfully executed scene involving the Observer named September, foiling a robbery, but there was a lot less run and gun than a typical 'Fringe' outing. In fact, this was all myth and no Monster of the Week. This is by no means a complaint, but an observation (no pun intended) and I hope we continue to see this show break form and do the unexpected.

Christopher Lloyd was a delight in his guest role as old and troubled former musician Roscoe Joyce. While Lloyd is probably more known for his comedic turns, he has delivered some sold dramatic performances in the past. There was some good-natured humor in small doses in his scenes with Walter, but it was moments of sad reflection upon Joyce's remembrance of the night his son died in which Lloyd was really stellar. I hope we get to see Roscoe Joyce in the future, if only to see Lloyd and John Noble work together again.

I fell in the floor when Walter put on the red and blue lensed glasses and attributed them to an old colleague named Dr. Jacobi from Washington State. I'm sure my fellow 'Twin Peaks' fans picked up on that reference right away. I love the fact that the creators of 'Fringe' are very aware of their genre heritage. Last season, there was a reference to the old X designation that used to investigate strange cases before the Fringe Division. I do love a well-placed homage once and while.

For some reason, I really like the way the Observers speak to one another. It's very old school sci-fi. It's the type of language you'd expect otherworldly visitors from a 1950s matinee to use, but it just seems to work for me here. Also, their retro attire seems to re-enforce this out of time vibe the Observers give off.

The main thrust of "The Firefly" was the idea that the Observers needed to create a scenario to test whether or not Walter would be able to sacrifice Peter to save others. Despite his fears, Walter did indeed let Peter go after September, while he stayed behind to help the woman with the asthmatic attack. Still, there is the bigger picture that Walter's stealing of Peter from the other universe set off a chain of events that disrupted life on our planet. Peter is an x-factor that has caused some unforeseen chaos and has upset the balance of our timeline. It's the Observers' job to fix that apparently.

If the previews are any indication, 'Fringe' is going to keep with the mythology even more intensely than the first half of the season. Fine by me. The Monster of the Week episodes can be really entertaining when they have the specter of Fauxlivia hanging over them, take place in the other universe, or do something truly strange as in "Marionette". However, 'Fringe' really works for me when it stays focused on big picture and let's us see how the events effect the cast from week to week.

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