I’ve only recently caught up with the science fiction television series ‘Fringe’ and have been watching (too much of) it the past week or so. I’ve had a number of thoughts about it, which I wanted to jot down, in no particular order, to think about some more. Among these are:
1. that the concept of parallel universes, like time travel, is absurd on the face of it. The fact is that we (in general) are incapable of conceiving of the enormous complexity of any discrete instant – especially since there is no such thing as any discrete instant, no more than you could have a “slice” of the ocean. We indulge in truisms about butterfly wings flapping but cannot truly comprehend what that means at scale. The universe is a vast quantity of “things” all changing always.
2. that the series sometimes approaches, but backs away from, genuine literary possibilities. There is the case of the scientist who cannot save his son’s life in THIS universe but is given the opportunity to do so in a parallel universe. That’s one thing, but the literary potential comes in when he and his wife face the decision of whether to keep the other boy or return him to his “real” parents. The guilt involved in this decision is worthy of a Dostoevsky, but they skirt around the edges. It’s an action show, not a drama. Drama is alotted a precious few moments on occasion but must not be allowed to interfere with, or slow down, the general excitement. (they come closest in season three, episode fifteen, when the boy insists they’re not his real parents and the mother’s anguish is on display)
3. that bad acting can do serious damage to a show. There are only a few good actors in this whole show. Two of the main three are pretty awful.
4. that some popular misconceptions – modern old wives’ tales – are impossible to dislodge, such as the notion that “we only use ten percent of our brains“.
5. there is no end to the variations on the theme of monsters among us, but it basically boils down to two types, which I call “innies” and “outies” (like belly-buttons, or introverts and extroverts, or freaks and straights, or us versus them). With monsters, “innies” get you from within (think ‘Alien’). “Outies” come at you from without.
6. that buried gems are easily re-buried if not quickly captured (such as the insight that “everything you touch, touches you” in season three episode ten). The show definitely has its moments.
7. i thought i had a bad memory! but some of these characters remember nothing of the most significant events of their childhoods. it’s a tad hard to believe.