Ragged Fringes

by Charles Miller on January 2, 2009

Donna and I are enjoying Fringe, a neat new J. J. Abrams science fiction drama that owes more than a little to the X-Files. It's not blowing me away, but it's a nice bit of escapism, the characters work well, and it's nice to see Joshua “Pacey from Dawson's Creek” Jackson avoiding being typecast… oh who am I kidding? Pacey plays the snarky side-kick.

A couple of years ago I went to see a play at the Sydney Theatre Company, the name of which now escapes me. It had something to do with hats and rebellion against an oppressive state, and spent most of its running length deeply lodged in the confines of its own arse. About two thirds of the way into the play, a disgusted ticket-holder stood up, shouted “Sack the director and shoot the playwright!” and walked out.

After seeing Episode 10 of Fringe, I came rather close to jumping out of my couch and shouting “sack the script editor!”

I know this kind of show requires a strong dose of suspension of disbelief. Ultimately you know it can't make sense because, y’know, at some level you have to believe that with all these incredible scientific breakthroughs, any one alone capable of changing the world as we know it, the best thing anyone could think of doing with them was a reasonably incompetent conspiracy.

All this makes it even more important to have the show at least be internally consistent, otherwise the whole house of cards comes falling down.

Many spoilers follow.

  • Episode 7 revolved around an incredibly risky and convoluted plot to get a two word message from two men in the USA (one of whom dies and the other comes within seconds of killing himself in the process) to another in a German prison. In Episode 10, the surviving guy in the USA is organising bank heists for the same man in Germany, and they are communicating quite happily through his lawyer.
  • The information they went to all that trouble to pass on was rather pointless, as it doesn't really make any difference to the guy which particular field he was going to be teleported to. Unless he really wanted to check it out on Google Maps first and find the nearest Red Lobster.
  • You're escaping from prison. You will need: a complex plot to torture a series of idiot savant geniuses until eventually one completes a formula for walking through walls so you can steal a teleportation device that has never been demonstrated to work or even switched on, but to which you will be entrusting your life. Oh, and a team of people who seem to instinctively know how to operate said device.
  • You're being teleported out of prison. You'll be met at the other end by your accomplices. Instead of having them bring things like food and a change of clothes to the meeting point, you ask your lawyer (who is obviously not in on the plan and might betray you at any moment) to bring you a bunch of stuff that could only possibly be useful to you if you were planning a break out. And the prison doesn't even think this is weird.
  • Oh and the bank heists? Of all the ways to open a bank vault, you pick the one that will immediately bring you to the attention of the guy you're stealing from. You trust that his highly unpredictable mental illness will give you just enough time to finish the job.
  • Pacey, with his 190 IQ, can't figure out a simple numeric sequence.
  • Two groups of FBI agents leave a building at the same time. One has time to get chased down, abducted and taken to the field she were supposed to go to anyway. Did the rest of the agents stop for a beer? (Fringe drinking game. Every time Olivia goes to raid the suspected location of a dangerous criminal mastermind with no backup except Pacey, or with backup she is immediately separated from so that the weird stuff can happen to her alone, finish the bottle.)

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