TV: Lost in space

 
 

Following the success of Lost, Richard Drumm takes a look at JJ Abrams’ new venture Fringe

When people heard that JJ Abrams was working on a new TV show and that it began with a mysterious incident occurring on a plane, eyes were rolled and heads firmly placed in hands. The words “not again” may even have been mentioned. However, this show was Fringe and how unjustified those reactions were.

Fringe follows the exploits of FBI agent, Olivia Dunham, who is brought into the FBI’s Fringe division. Here, along with her team, she investigates all those pesky cases of weirdness which the government prefers to keep private.

You may be thinking that this all sounds like a certain show called The X Files, but Fringe isn’t quite so blatant in its sci-fi fixation. The writers try to ground the plot in some kind of real-world science and tend to avoid anything explicitly paranormal.

Naturally, any attempt to ground sci-fi in reality requires vast amounts of exposition. Enter the show’s ace in the hole, Dr. Walter Bishop, played by the brilliant John Noble. Twice now, the Emmys have come and gone and this man has not even received a nomination.

If there had been any doubt of his character’s engaging nature during season one, season two’s Peter proved what a truly talented actor Bishop is. Initially in season one; he comes across as a comic-relief figure with his lack of social nuance, bizarre experiments and frequent drug use.

Rarely has a lead character been seen in an altered state of mind from their home-brew LCD, and so often. But as the show has progressed, he’s not only revealed to be integral to the show’s entire mythology, but he has also become one of the most complicated, tragic and well-written characters in television of recent memory.

Aside from the great writing and acting, it’s also a very nice show to look at. You don’t often see a television show pay so such attention to its aesthetics. Between the very symmetrical lettering of the giant, floating, location-change titles, to its cold-blue filter and the quite fashionable costume design, you’d be forgiven for thinking Christopher Nolan was somehow involved.

The plots themselves contain far too many spoilers to describe in any detail, suffice to say, the season arcs have so far have been wonderful. What starts out as a nice little CSI-type show about science gone too far becomes something so much bigger.

They’ve also nicely avoided the trap of cheap, easily-resolved cliffhangers. Every major plot point thrown out has been maintained and built upon properly. Not to mention its well-constructed mythology, at the heart of which is an utter moral grey area.

Forget Lost – it started off promising, but they just had no idea what to do with it thereafter. Fringe, on the other hand, knows what it’s doing. Moreover, it’s doing it better than Lost ever have dreamed. It may just be time JJ Abrams was forgiven.

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