Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Enemy of Fate

I think The Walking Dead has broken me. Until the final episode of Telltale's deservedly acclaimed adventure games, I don't ever remember being emotionally affected by a film, TV show or game1. The Walking Dead is definitely the first story in a long time that caused me to tear up.

A few minutes ago, we watched the last episode - ever - of Fringe.

I didn't get along with Fringe to begin with. The first season, in particular, relied a bit too heavily on "monster of the week"-type cases, and the frequency with which the weekly disaster happened to be exactly the same as something Dr. Walter Bishop had done in the 1960s bugged me right from the start.

But I kept watching for one reason: the relationship between Walter and his son Peter was such a joy to watch. Their (re)introduction in the first episode, when Peter is coralled into signing his father out of a mental institution, was a bit convenient - and Peter's initial reluctance to get involved with his dad's rehabilitation disappeared a bit too quickly. But as the core of the show, their interactions were fascinating.

Subsequent seasons moved towards conspiracy and evil scientist territory, with an approaching war between two parallel universes providing most of the tension and explanations. The central focus of the show remained on the Bishop family though, and low-budget special effects or convenient plot threads couldn't diminish Fringe's heart.

The fifth and final season was only thirteen episodes long; the way events unfold make it obvious that the writers had much grander plans for their characters than ratings would ultimately allow. Some of the story arcs end abruptly and there are a couple of obstacles that feel forced and artificial; likewise other goals are accomplished too quickly or easily.

But the emotional journey of the characters, especially Peter and Walter Bishop, always feels genuine and earned. John Noble's performance throughout Fringe is much better than the sub-X-Files first season ever deserved. He and Joshua Jackson managed to elevate the show's most important relationship into something worth sticking around for, whatever other hiccups the story or viewing figures might have thrown at it.

Their scenes together in this last series have always made me feel so sad, as they try to save the world and each other, while struggling to cope with the disasters that have affected both their literal and figurative worlds.

I'm going to miss Fringe, and especially John Noble's Walter. But I'm glad they had a chance to wrap up the story and give the characters the finality they deserved.

1 Well, maybe the "Married Life" segment at the start of Up.

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