Fresh off of the greatest viral campaign in the history of television, Fringe returns tonight and immediately tosses us all into 2036 to join the Fringe team as they attempt to lead the resistance against the world’s new overseers, the Observers. It’s a grim, sad place where it’s nearly impossible to find music and eggs now come in stick form. I know that the dystopian future run by the Observers is filled more with broken souls and $3000 walnuts then music and hope, but to suck all of the fun out of Fringe is an interesting choice considering it’s the final season of the show. Throughout the four years of shape-shifting, parallel universes, and deaths that aren’t really deaths, we’ve always had time for some fun. Episode one just makes everything seem depressing. There is hope for the future, but you may leave the premiere thinking that the hope is a little misguided.
Overall, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the premiere of the final season of Fringe, but everything just feels kind of fast. In particular, the relationships between Etta and her parents is played in such a way as to elicit an emotional response from the viewer, but we’ve never seen these people have any sort of relationship. “Letters of Transit” may have reunited Etta and Peter, but Olivia and her daughter have never spoken on camera prior to this season. Hell, we’ve never even seen the daughter prior to last season. It becomes a tall order to sell audience members on a relationship when we haven’t seen any of the development of it. Given the radical change in time and place, I’m not sure there is a better way to do it. That being said, it becomes problematic when they attempt to use this relationship to pull on our heartstrings.
There’s still some kinks to be worked out on the interpersonal side of things, but Fringe didn’t fail to deliver its usual dose of sci-fi action. It would appear that our future is filled with awesome guns and cool devices that can help unscramble your thoughts. I know my busy wife would appreciate such a device in her life today. You aren’t going to get a lot from the Observers in the first episode (save for a pretty harrowing encounter with Windmark). As the resistance progresses forward, it appears that we are going to get farther and farther from institutions in the year 2036 as we chase around the Fringe team trying to overthrow the Observers.
Lots of things are scarce in the year 2036: music, fun, real eggs, oxygen and everything listed in the new promo (which is really cool looking). What’s not scarce is questions surrounding the world of 2036. What’s the plan to defeat the Observers? How can I get my hands on one of those future guns? Do all Observers have one suit, or do they have a closet full of them like Superman? There are so many questions to be answered by Abrams and company over the final 13 episodes. Hopefully it doesn’t end with Olivia’s father explaining everything to her while her friends wait for her in a non-denominational church. Abrams has used that one before.
Feel free to report back here to discuss your thoughts on the episode after it premieres tonight at 9 PM on Fox. I’d love to hear what you guys think?