And the voice inside my head welcomed me back to the crazy world of obsessive sci-fi fandom

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Fox has done it: I’m officially a Fringe fan. I have been very wary of the show; the beginning of the season was intriguing enough that I kept watching even if Anna Torv (the actress playing Olivia Dunham) only seemed to be able to emote one thing (which would have been, at the time, nothing), even if the story was advancing a little too slow, and even if I kept missing my ‘Fringe’ dates every couple of weeks.

However there was always potential, and as a devoted X-files fan in dire need of something to make up for the X-files-ness void the show’s rather sad ending left, I couldn’t help but cling to the hope that Fringe would deliver. And it did.

Some things were predictable in the finale. For one, Walter constantly talking about how sick Peter was as a child throughout the season, topped off with a couple of comments from the finale made the graveyard scene a delightful confirmation that my neurons function quite well, thank you very much. And it was obvious that Nina Sharp, using the alternate world-hopping technology, would make that meeting happen between Olivia Dunham and William Bell; it was only a question of when and how.
The finale’s last scene left me with quite the tingle; it was a typical one from back in the days of the X-files, when in the back of your head you realised that such a scene was possible and, knowing the way the X-files were, you knew the chances of such a scene being in the episode were high, and yet when you finally did see that scene, you couldn’t help but become a bug-eyed and slack-jawed viewer – which was the delightful picture I painted as I watched the camera back out of William Bell’s office to span a Manhattan-skyline untouched by September 11th.

Which made me start surfing the net for interesting Fringe-related articles, and here is a dangerously interesting one from Nathan Alderman.

Why “Dollhouse” Struggles and “Fringe” Soars

Last night’s exhilarating, ambitious season finale of Fringe plunged the show headlong into fantastical territory, after a season of gingerly dipping its toes into that end of the pool. Viewers as a whole supposedly don’t like the sort of straight-up science fiction the Fringe finale embraced, as evidenced by the fan-lamented apparent death of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the low ratings suffered by Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.

But if anyone can sell sci-fi to folks who just want to leave the TV on for a bit after American Idol, it’s J.J. Abrams, who currently stands athwart the entertainment world like a bespectacled, Apple Store-loving colossus. After comparing Fringe’s season-ender to Dollhouse’s murkier but equally excellent wrap-up to its season’s main story, I think I might know why.

Here are a few reasons why the same folks who shrug at Dollhouse seem to embrace Fringe — and one way in which Whedon’s latest creation definitively thumps Abrams’.

Warning: SPOILERS follow for Fringe and Dollhouse’s finales.

1. A simpler concept
On Fringe, bad, icky stuff is happening, and good (and good-looking) people have to stop it. That’s easy for anyone from Joe Sixpack to Jane Radcliffe to grasp. The series’ mission statement is just that — a statement. Dollhouse, in contrast, has more of a mission question. What makes us us? If you separate our minds from our bodies, does any part of us remain behind? If you allow us to overwrite our identities, and swap our bodies at will, could you destroy civilization? And seriously, how hot is Eliza Dushku in dominatrix gear?

OK, maybe that last one is less central to the series (answer: profoundly). But in general, Whedon is a philosopher who also likes to entertain; Abrams is an entertainer who dabbles in just enough philosophy to make his work look cooler. He’s not interested in the ethical implications of a mutated monster smashing up an airplane — he’s interested in the awesomeness of a mutated monster smashing up an airplane.

Fringe did veer briefly into meatier mental territory with the finale’s revelation that mad scientist Walter Bishop abducted an alternate universe’s version of his dead son, who’s since grown up never knowing his true origins. But in general, the only question Abrams’ work invites the audience to ponder is a simple and admittedly brilliant one: What’s gonna happen next?

2. Clear-cut good and evil
Mind you, I’m not saying we’ll have any idea who the various factions in Fringe’s world are working for, or what ends they ultimately serve — not until the end of the third season, at least. But we’re pretty sure that the hot blonde FBI lady, her hunky brooding surrogate brother-slash-love-interest-and-all-of-a-sudden-this-just-got-a-little-freaky, and his wacky lovable weirdo genius dad are the good guys. (Maybe not so much the wacky weirdo genius, but we’re constantly reassured that he means well.) Meanwhile, the slyly evasive lady with the robot arm? And that freaky English dude with the bandaged-up face and the one creepy eye? Yeah, they’re pretty much evil.

On Dollhouse, no one’s quite so cut and dried. The white-knight FBI agent out to rescue the girl is paranoid, slightly creepy, and ultimately putting her in danger. The bodyguard who keeps her in her cage also loves her like a father. The icy mommy figure is secretly ravaged by guilt and regret. The lovable wacky nerd is a self-loathing sociopath. The doctor with the scarred-up face is kindly and compassionate — right up until she isn’t. And the damsel in distress herself is in no particular hurry to be rescued, and may actually be the most powerful one of all. With the possible exception of Dushku’s Echo and the other dolls — who are literally different people every week — there’s no one on Dollhouse you can feel entirely comfortable rooting for. And we all know how much viewers love that sort of confusion.

Read the rest of the article here.

I can’t wait for fall!

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