swatkat: Batgirl! (dcu: smiley batgirl babs)
[personal profile] swatkat
Indistinguishable from (Powerful) Magic:

Or, why I was sad when I discovered that approximately three people in my sci-fi loving flist actually watch Fringe. This is basically a tl;dr version of what I told my sister ('do yourself a favour and watch Fringe'; 'If you tell me you don’t like Olivia I'll refuse to recognise you as my sister.'). With pretty pictures. Pictures are always helpful. I've done my best to avoid spoiling any of the significant plot points, because Fringe is a show that's best watched unspoiled—watch out for the comments, though. Warning for serious tl;dr. ETA: Now without typos!


This is a scene from the Fringe S2 finale:



This is Peter Bishop. He was Pacey in Dawson's Creek, of which I once watched half an episode. Look closely. What's in those frames right behind him on the wall? That’s right, they’re comic book covers. Not just any comic book covers—some rather iconic DCU covers (you can imagine my geeky joy when I recognized what they actually where). I'm sorry the picture has to be so small, but that's because of [SPOILER]. The point is, however, that they're iconic DC covers, tailormade for the show by the DC folks when approached by the showrunners and a love letter from the show to its comic book roots (a better view of the covers here, but DO NOT CLICK unless you have watched the S2 finale). You really need to keep this in mind when you start watching this show.

Before I started watching, I was told that Fringe was sort of an Alias meets The X-Files show. This is true, but doesn't entirely define Fringe's special brand of crazy—it's actually Alias meets The X-Files meets the DCU meets Dexter's Laboratory, complete with a mad scientist and Powerful Television Skience, very often, as Walter (the resident mad scientist) once points out, indistinguishable from magic. This is something you have to keep in mind when you're approaching the show. If you, like a naïve viewer, try to make sense of the skience, you will succeed in nothing but giving yourself a headache, you're probably the wrong viewer for this show in the first place. On the other hand, if you're willing to approach it as you'll approach your comics and just go with the flow and delight in the insanity, hop in: there's much fun to be had. It's a JJ Abrams show. Relax. Lie back and think of Rambaldi.

Make me a willow cabin at your gate:

Different people have different reasons for being drawn to a show. Mine was very simple: Olivia (flist, you're still fired for not telling me about her earlier).

Special Agent Olivia Dunham is the show's protagonist. She is reserved, focused, driven. She would make Batman proud with her detection skillz. She doesn't stop asking questions and she never takes no for an answer. She is a hopeless workaholic. She wears geeky glasses and sensible underwear. Sometimes she has trouble sleeping. She's always hardest on herself. She is a crack shot. She beats up people on a regular basis and is very adept at rescuing other people AND herself. She loves to spoil her adorable niece, takes her to amusement parks and makes her pancakes. She doesn't like to tell people when she's scared or feeling vulnerable. She will protect everyone. The weight of the world is on her shoulders. She keeps going, going through sheer willpower alone. She seldom breaks.

I have heard some people find Anna Torv ‘wooden’ and expressionless. These are some of her facial expressions in the course of the pilot.

You can understand my initial confusion.

Of course, then I remembered that Lena Headey was—apparently—similarly 'wooden' in TSCC, and things fell into place. This post (spoilers in comments) by [personal profile] ignipes sums it up perfectly:

I think it has something to do with how we (TV viewers in general) are not conditioned to like a character like Olivia. We're conditioned to expect our crime-fighting female leads to be sexy and smartass and in-your-face, and to expect the woman to be the caretaker and genius-wrangler when there is wrangling to be done. We're supposed to view the standoffish and snappy and serious female authority figure as an antagonist, somebody who gets in the way of the good guys making wisecracks while doing their jobs, not the main character the entire show is built around.

But who we get instead is Olivia, who is so serious it takes about half a season after the pilot before we see her crack a real smile or laugh a real laugh, who leaves the traditionally female tasks of care-taking and genius-wrangling off to somebody else (two someones, I guess, because Peter and Astrid both count there), who wears sensible underwear and bland clothes and ties her hair back and never grandstands her abusive childhood and doesn't take any joy in (or make any jokes about) shooting the bad guys in the face. She's unexpected.


Olivia is unexpected, and it's kind of glorious. The way, for instance, the show gives her all the traditionally male roles and characteristics in an extremely matter of fact way, without making too much of a fuss—much like Olivia herself. Anna Torv plays her in this really subtle, understated way, expressing emotions with fleeting facial gestures while bringing a sort of physical, masculine (for the lack of a better word) grace to her movements, like the way she practically struts in her fabulously cut suits. And the camera emphasizes the beauty in this, and the narrative doesn't question her femininity because of it. As I said, it's glorious.

Then there's Peter 'Pacey' Bishop. I admit I don't find him nearly as compelling as Olivia or Walter (we'll come to him shortly), but Peter has his charms. He's the smart wisecracking sidekick, a boy genius and an ex-conman who doesn't quite know how to stay still and hides his insecurities underneath a veneer of lighthearted charm. Just like the show gives Olivia all the traditionally male roles and characteristics in an extremely matter of fact way, it designates many of the traditionally female characteristics to Peter—he's the nurturer, the comfort-giver, the genius wrangler. Olivia is the white knight and he's the princess—very often, the damsel in distress. And that's okay too, his masculinity is not in question because of it. Did I mention it's glorious?

And then there's Walter, Peter's father. Walter is a genius, the mad scientist who spent 17 years in a mental institution. His scientific genius rivals that of Rambaldi (and that should tell you everything you need to know about the show's brand of science). He ran unauthorized drug trials on children and was (is) capable of doing unspeakably horrible things in the name of science. He loves his son. He is a monster and a child, a broken genius, a modern day mishmash of Dr. Frankenstein and King Lear, wandering half-mad in a storm as he watches the destruction he has unleashed. He is the other major player in the show's mytharc, played with extraordinary conviction by John Noble.

Peter, Walter and Olivia and their little dysfunctional family is, as far as I’m concerned, the heart of the show.





Because even Batman needs his Bat-family:

Then there is a host of supporting characters, who are all wonderful in their own right.


Astrid, who was criminally underused in S1 and still needs much, much more to do, but is wonderful in her adorable, gently sarcastic Walter-handling, stress-baking ways.


Charlie, who is the only adult other than Olivia's sister who calls her 'Liv' and one of the very few people who sees right through her when she says things like 'I'm fine.' Who, when Olivia waltzes in and announces that she needs X and Y and Z and oh, a partridge in a pear tree, looks incredulous, and then goes ahead in GETS IT FOR HER, because he's awesome that way.


Broyles, who is badass and possibly somewhat morally ambiguous in ways I can't tell you about but I assure you is fabulous. He and Olivia have a wonderful working relationship. It helps that Lance Reddick is HOT, even more so in [SPOILER].


Nina Sharp, who is at least moderately evil and deeply sinister, even when she's kissing people, and ALSO A CYBORG because she has a ROBOT ARM. She keeps offering Olivia jobs, and occasionally bickers with Broyles about whose protégé she should be.


Rachel and Ella, Olivia's sister and niece, the only people in the world guaranteed to make her smile. Okay, this is just a picture of Olivia being adorable with Ella, but you get the picture.



Gene, who is a cow. I ♥ Gene. Gene is integral to the show's narrative.



So how do I start watching?

I'm rather obsessive about following order, so I'll recommend starting from the beginning of S1 and not spoiling yourself for the plot twists, especially that of the mytharc. The show, in its first ten episodes or so, takes some time to find its footing, and it's the characters who keep you going. And then, halfway through season one, the show's mytharc comes on its own and suddenly it's no longer a X-Files wannabe; the S1 finale is jaw-dropping, the S2 finale even more so (a horrible, horrible cliffhanger).

Is there any slash in it?

Nope. Sorry. The most popular pairing in the fandom, from what I've seen of it, is Peter/Olivia, which doesn't really attract me as a romantic relationship, although I do love their dynamic on the show.

Does this make up for the lack of another season of Legend of the Seeker?

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


No, really, this is exactly how I feel about the cancellation. Seeker was cracky and sparkly and SHINY; Fringe, while cracky, has a different tone altogether. And even Olivia cannot fill up the Cara&Kahlan-shaped hole in my heart. NOTHING EVER CAN. /melodrama

That said, don't let that stop you from giving it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised. I've missed having some wacky sci-fi fun to watch after BSG and TSCC (which wasn't wacky, but you know what I mean), and Fringe fits the bill perfectly.


Fringe S3 returns on September 23. The promos look amazing, and the last time I was this excited about a show was when Cara and Kahlan were going to be locked in a tomb together. So what are you waiting for?

Date: 2010-08-19 06:38 pm (UTC)
musesfool: Olivia Dunham, PI (there are blondes and blondes)
From: [personal profile] musesfool
This is a great post!

And while there's not really any boyslash to be had, I think a solid case could be made for Astrid/Olivia (or possibly Esther/Olivia). I hope Astrid gets way more to do in s3!

Date: 2010-08-19 07:02 pm (UTC)
jaybee65: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jaybee65
Your timing is impeccable! I just watched the pilot last night. The pilot didn't impress me, I have to say. But I wasn't aware this was a JJ Abrams show, which explains a lot.

I've had mixed reactions to JJ Abrams shows: Alias, I loved, because it was cracky but also a bit campy (like Seeker in a way!). Lost, I eventually hated, because it was cracky but seemed to take itself terribly seriously. I'm not quite sure which way this one is headed. But I will keep going for a bit, because I like what you've described of Olivia's character (she was a little two-dimensional still in the pilot, but that's to be expected).

Date: 2010-08-19 07:22 pm (UTC)
rheanna: pebbles (Default)
From: [personal profile] rheanna
A wonderful post about a wonderful show. And now I'm getting dizzy with anticipation for season 3.

SPOILERS BUT I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT

Date: 2010-08-19 09:08 pm (UTC)
starfish: Dangermouse and Penfold (Dangermouse!)
From: [personal profile] starfish
That time when Olivia rescued herself by playing the "girl" card? Being all, "please please don't kill me, boo hoo, NOW I KICK YOU INNA FACE."

That was awesome.

My BF won't watch it with me because there is often ooogy stuff and he is avoidant, but I am so in love with all of them I can't even.

(Charlie!)
Edited ( (edited for premature post-age)) Date: 2010-08-19 09:11 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-08-19 10:15 pm (UTC)
plazmah: Fran from FFXII speaking (and looking pretty) (video games: ffxii fran)
From: [personal profile] plazmah
Fringe is a show that's best watched unspoiled

Oh. Crap!

Date: 2010-08-20 03:48 am (UTC)
plazmah: Abstract circle and square with "plazmah" underneath (inception: ariadne/arthur)
From: [personal profile] plazmah
LMAO, I do. Just trying to keep up with the cool kids!

Date: 2010-08-20 10:30 am (UTC)
st_aurafina: Rainbow DNA (Default)
From: [personal profile] st_aurafina
This is a wonderful picspam!

I am so, so glad I pushed on through the first part of S1. And now I should get all the way through S2 before the start of S3, so I can join in with the online squee. I love this show so much.

Date: 2010-08-21 10:52 am (UTC)
goodbyebird: Batman returns: Catwoman seen through a glass window. (Fringe Olivia Dunham)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
I gave up on Fringe about five eps in, but kept it on my mind since I really did want it to work. Tried again when I had an entire season at my disposal, and I'm so very glad I did. I'm so happy to have a heroine like Olivia to watch. She's such a wonderfully understated, capable, graceful, tough as nails woman. *sparkly hearts all around*

Date: 2010-08-23 01:06 am (UTC)
briar_pipe: Freya in her torn dress (Freya)
From: [personal profile] briar_pipe
We were looking for a new show. I shall float this by teh girl.

Excuse me, Lance Reddick is looking AWFULLY FINE in that suit, yes ma'am. Whew! *fans self*

Date: 2010-08-31 06:24 am (UTC)
shadowings: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadowings
I came here from randomly perusing
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<user="coffeandink">') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

I came here from randomly perusing <user="coffeandink">, and you've totally sold me on Fringe. I avoided this show like the plague because I saw the very first episode having never heard of it, it just happened to be the follow to some show I can't remember (probably House, seeing as that was the only thing I was watching on Fox at the time) and I didn't want to turn off the TV yet. I was completely freaked by the pregnancy and alien baby, and never went back.

But, strong female protagonists and crack. Sounds like something I'd like. I'll see where I can find S1 and S2.

Date: 2010-09-17 08:18 pm (UTC)
obsession_inc: Sarah Connor does not. Goddamn. Apologize. (Sarah Connor No Apology)
From: [personal profile] obsession_inc
Late to the party, but-- dude, you have sold me, I'm in.

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