FINALLY, FRINGE! Fringe season 3 begins on Thursday, September 23rd at 9pm on Fox. If you are not watching this show IT IS NOW TIME. Season openers are a good test for deciding if the show is for you, because they are usually written by show-runners and/or head writers, and Fringe is no exception. “Olivia,” the first episode of season three, was written by Fringe creators and sci-fi powerhouses J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci (Star Trek). It is also a good time to check out the series since season openers generally do try to help out the newbies with a bit of extra explanation.
This is a spoiler-free zone, so if you want to see what has been going on in the show, get the DVD or BluRay sets. Season 2 was just released last week, and is a terrific collection. Season 1 has been out for almost a year, and is equally a treat. Both are highly recommended, whether or not you have seen the episodes before, since there is nothing like watching a show without having to fast-forward through commercials. The lack of interruption has an amazing effect on story presentation. The bonus features are alternately fascinating and hilarious, much like the show itself, and are great additions to the sets.
If you are totally unfamiliar with the storyline, it follows the adventures of the Fringe Division of the FBI, led by agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and her consultants: the brilliant but brain-affected scientist, Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his dishy, brilliant, and formerly somewhat shady son, Peter (Joshua Jackson). They investigate bizarre occurrences that may have been caused by “fringe” science – science outside the bounds of standard ethical practice, an area in which Walter once excelled.
So, what do I love about it? It is smart, it is dark, it has amazing effects, plausible (to me, anyway) explanations of how the weirdness happens, weekly mysteries that are resolved without being corny or too eye-rolling, an intriguing mythology, some nice bits of action, a lot of suspense, two really attractive people in the lead roles, great chemistry between the characters, and some of the funniest lines on tv today.
There is a series-long mythology in this series that has been nicely plotted and paced, but there have been a number of “monster of the week” episodes as well, a la X-Files, the show with which Fringe is most often compared. If you loved X-Files and/or LOST and have not tried Fringe, now is the time! This show was on the bubble for a while last season, so please do not allow it to be threatened again this season – watch it, watch it live, watch it often, and please buy the DVD and/or BluRay sets as well.
The other sci-fi show that deserves and needs your attention is Haven, which airs Fridays at 10 pm on Syfy. This is a first-season show that has not yet been renewed, so if you haven’t been to Haven yet, GO NOW. There are three more episodes in the season, counting this week’s “The Trial of Audrey Parker,” and there are four to five episodes available weekly to watch on Syfy.com.
Haven is a small town in Maine where FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) has been sent to investigate the murder of an ex-con. There she meets Chief of Police Wournos and his son, police officer Nathan Wournos (Lucas Bryant) and a variety of local townspeople, including bad boy charmer Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour). It is during the investigation that Agent Parker learns that something “unusual” is going on in Haven, and that the town may hold answers to some of the mysteries of her own past.
Haven is based on a short story by Steven King, but what that means is that a plot line and some characters came from that short story. There are moments of horror, but they are only moments. They make up the “monster of the week” aspect of the series, but there is something more here. Nearly every one of the deaths – and there is at least one every week – is caused by a resident, but not through any standard means, and that is the source of the season-long mythology: “The Troubles.” “The Troubles” that settled on the town inexplicably over twenty years ago, and disappeared as mysteriously, and have now apparently returned.
I love this show because it is dark, and smart, and has great strong characters with really terrific chemistry (as well as really attractive lead actors) like Fringe, but where Fringe is dense, Haven is spare, and open. The dialogue, stories and action (well, other than the horror bits) are like the town; reserved. The mysteries are sharp, the relationships are not heavy-handed, and the manifestations of “The Troubles” are creative. It does not have the two-season history and depth that Fringe has, but I would love to see it get there.
Both Fringe and Haven are amongst the best of the sci-fi shows currently on the air, so if you’re not watching, do yourself and the shows a favor and give them a try.