Sunday, May 10, 2009

FORUM: The Brilliance of Fringe...



Sometimes, a show comes along, that you just know is going to be something to watch out for. Over the past two decades, shows like The X-Files, The Wire, Rome, and Battlestar Galactica have been shows that, while featuring overarching storylines that span seasons, are also able to be picked up, and enjoyed by the everyday viewer.

However, with every piece of brilliance shelled out by television studios, comes a certain cancellation as it’s the idea doesn’t feature a bunch of blondes with the brain capacity of a crap I just took, or a bunch of F list celebrities trying to win a dollar by paying their dignity.

That’s why it was a great surprise to yours truly when it was announced that not only was Fringe coming back for a second season, but Fox ordered a 22-episode season to follow up the shows 20-episode first season. At least someone in Hollywood has a brain.

While the last show I talked about, Dollhouse, was a bit more intellectually stimulating, Fringe has been on a roll as of late, and features a premise that is kind of a mix of the X-Files and the 5400, while not riping off any previous show. It’s taking ideas from other series, but it’s its own monster. A chimera to be exact.

Premiering back in September, Fringe tells the story of FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham, who is part of a special government group that investigates different aspects of what are called Fringe Sciences. Things such as telepathy, psychokinesis, and reanimation are all investigated by Dunham along with scientist Walter Bishop and his son Peter. The group was brought together after a series of mysterious experiments, spanning the globe, had begun. Called “The Pattern”, these “experiments” began out of nowhere, but as the series progressed, an apparent connection between “The Pattern” and the global research company, Massive Dynamic, has proven otherwise. Along with the rise a bioterrorist organization called the ZFT, the two sides are also mysteriously connected by a special chemical, developed by Walter and his partner William Bell (the CEO of Massive Dynamic), which was given to Olivia and other children when they were born. The drug, Cortexiphan, is at the root of this series, and it’s what is set to be discussed during the season finale, airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. on FOX.

The main reason that I think this series needs to be seen by more people, is how user friendly the series is.

Sure, the show has it’s season spanning storyline, with the points like what exactly ZFT is, how they are connected to the recent experiments, and what exactly cortexiphan is, but it was one major promise of J.J. Abrams, to make this series easy to follow.

Abrams is the same guy who created the geek favorite (although not one of yours trulys) series, Lost. Where as that show has a plot that not only spans many characters storys, but also time as well. With it’s copious amounts of flash forwards and backs, that show has a insane following, but is not open to new viewers.

However, Fringe is on the other end of the spectrum.

Where as Lost is much more of a comic book style television show, in that a viewer needs to have seen previous episodes to understand the new one, a viewer can skip one, two, or even three episodes of Fringe, and pick it up without to much lost. That’s not always a good thing, but I think it makes each episode more poignant, while still allowing for long time viewers, like myself, to get just that much more out of it. Sure, you will understand a ton more, but as a piece of television, a first time viewer is able to enjoy an episode, no matter where in the shows timeline it stands.

Lost has garnered a certain reputation for being a very complicated show and one that you have to watch every episode. Fringe is in many ways an experiment for us, which is, we believe it is possible to do a show that does have an overall story and end game, which Fringe absolutely does… We can do a show that has that, so that there's a direction the show is going and there's an ultimate story that's being told, but also a show that you don't have to watch episodes one, two and three to tune into episode four -- J.J. ABRAMS

That said, Fringe is full of nuggets for the long time viewer to chew on.

The primary mystery the show attempts to have the viewer decipher is actually so unbeknownst to most viewers, as it is in the interludes to commercial breaks.
One thing that this show, along with Dollhouse, is pioneering is what FOX is calling Remote-Free TV. The normal television drama is roughly 6-7 minutes shorter than Fringe, as the commercial breaks are in small amounts (probably 5 an episode), and only last for 30, 60, or 90 seconds. Also, when the show fades to commercial, one of nine special “glyphs” can be seen, and it is these little images, mainly a frog,
that Abrams has hinted at as to having meaning in the show.

The frogs first appeared outside of the commercial breaks in episode 109, The Dreamscape.

As the episode unfolds, we discover that the frogs produce two separate toxins: 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin – both belong to the family of hallucinogenic tryptamines. While these frogs don’t truly resemble the frog glyphs from the interludes, it goes along with them, along with the Origami frogs which are shown in Walter’s lab notes.

However, within the frog glyph from the breaks, the frogs contain the Greek letter, phi. Phi is a greek letter, that, in mathematics, means what is known as the “Golden Ratio” or 1.6180339887… Many organisms grow according to this ratio, and even the branching veins of humans and animals follow this ratio.

Along with the frogs, each of the other eight glyhps have special meanings

Apple – Split in half, and instead of seeds, human embryos are in their place.
Butterfly – Has bones for wings
Sunflower – Has dragonfly wings as some of the petals, and in the center, there are counter rotating spirals, which represent the Fibbonaci sequence. Also, it has mirror symmetry, and a spade playing card can be seen.
Hand – Has six fingers, seen as a left and right hand (which doesn’t play into the location of the yellow dot seen), and it appears in every episode during the title sequence.
Horn – Shaped as a Fibonacci spiral, and has the number Phi inscribed along the horn.
Leaf – Has a Delta symbol on it
Seahorse – Has a Fibonacci spiral on its side, which can also be seen in the tail
Smoke – Forms a womans face
Yellow dots – Appear in many glyphs, and could be a possible code, as many people believe that the location of the dot along with the glyph could be a code, with the dot being a specific letter, and the glyph being another.


There is evidence relating to each of these glyphs, all of it adding a ton to the experience, at least for me, but I’ll let you all hunt that stuff down. Head over to Fringepedia for all of this information, and then some.

So, enough of my rambling. All I really want to say is that this show is something special. It takes the basis of The X-Files, or a show of that style, and throws in terrorism and a hot ass female lead. What more could you ask for? Relevant issues (big corporations, terrorism, bio-terror, enviornmentalism, etc.), great acting, stunning visuals, and completely engaging story makes this a must see, for those who care to spend an hour in front of the TV on Friday nights at 9 p.m. The season finale is coming up this Tuesday, and I hope this has sparked at least a bit of curiosity for those of you previously not interested.

Go see something good!

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