Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thoughts on "Fringe"

Ok, I want to get this off my chest. I've been a fan of "Fringe" the television show for over a year now, and after last night's episode I feel the need to talk a bit about it.


I first discovered "Fringe" last year via my sister who had started watching it in the middle of the second season. The rest of the family got hooked on it, and we bought the first season and watched it through. Basically, this is the show's premise: an FBI agent named Olivia Dunham contacts Peter Bishop, who is a cynic largely wanting to do his own thing but has a mysterious past, in order to get his father Walter Bishop, who has been put into St. Claire's mental institution, because the quirky scientist knows how to save her boyfriend. However, it turns out that there is a much bigger threat to the world in the form of strange scientific experiments that are harming and killing people. And so Fringe division is born. The first season focused on following a group known as ZFT that is somehow connected to many of these strange cases, a drug called Cortexiphan that Olivia was treated with as a child, and mention of a parallel universe. The second season focuses more on the parallel universe, on Peter's mysterious childhood, and a bit more on Cortexiphan. The third and current season has introduced an arc focusing on interactions between the two universes and Peter's connection to a machine that can either create or destroy.

What I loved the most about "Fringe" was particularly the first season. I loved the characters and their interactions: Olivia's determination for justice, Peter's sarcastic cynicism, Walter's off-kilter behaviors, and Astrid's long-suffering attitude towards Walter. I enjoyed the plot and its various arcs, and altogether the show looked like it was destined for great things. The second season was also good, though to me it was not as good as the first. And now, I'm not very confident in this third season.

One of the reasons is the characters. Walter used to be genuinely funny, but this season John Noble's acting seems a little more forced and Walter's behavior is not as humorous as it used to be. Peter has lot his sarcastic, cynic touch, and this season he's proven to be fairly stupid with him not recognizing the truth about the Olivia/ Fauxlivia switch; it does not help either that the love triangle between Olivia, Peter, and Fauxlivia is still going on. I sympathize with Olivia because of the switch that was made, but her character seems weaker than it previously was. And poor Astrid seems to have been pushed into the background, barely appearing in the episodes anymore.

Another reason is the general plot itself. There were plenty of imaginative, interesting stories such as Peter's heritage from the Red Universe and the Cortexiphan experiments, and they made for good arcs. However, the ones for season 3 have turned a little odd, with Peter's connection to the machine and the whole Olivia- Faulivia switch and that entire mess. And, not to mention now the pregnancy story, which is unimaginative and will probably doom the show. Besides that, the cases that the Fringe team investigates are not as interesting as they used to be, and they have been replaced with more focus on the drama.

A last reason is the loose ends and inconsistencies within the whole frame of the story. Several story lines such as the man in "The Arrival" who was looking for the beacon, the empath child in "Inner Child", and who John Scott was really working for were never explained, and there has been no further mention of them; rumor has it that some aspects of season 1 will eventually be explained, but the long delay between introducing a plot line and then explaining it is a while to wait while you introduce new plot lines. Then there are some aspects of the plot that don't make sense at all, such as the recent episode "The Firefly", which seemed like a complete waste of an episode. Some of the inconsistencies are like how Olivia crossed over in season 1 finale and ended up inside her car in the season 2 premiere or how Walter talks about the car crash where he and Peter were nearly killed and how he changes the story depending on which season it is.

I used to love "Fringe", but I'm feeling underwhelmed by recent episodes. I hope it gets better or gets cancelled before it turns off too many fans.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

John McGlynn- Songs for a Fallen Angel

I first discovered indie Irish singer and guitarist John McGlynn through his involvement with my favorite choral group Anuna, where he played the guitar and often arranged certain pieces like "Siuil a Run" and sings, though admittedly half of the time I cannot tell if it's him or his twin brother Michael singing. Anyway, I further discovered his album when one of his songs was done for Anuna's "Celtic Origins" and when I learned that his song "Swimming in the Barrow" was covered by former Celtic Woman member Lynn Hilary. The album likewise made an appearance on my pandora station, and I ended up buying it from lala before it was shut down. The theme of the album deals with love and the fallout after a broken relationship.

"If All She Has Is You"

This sad song was featured on the CD and DVD for "Celtic Origins" though it was different. This version features some strings in the background, but it is not distracting. The lyrics are heart-tugging, and you can feel the pain in them.

"She Took My Hand"

This song is a more up-beat but still has a melancholy feel to it.

"I Know You Hear Me"

The beginning reminds me of Anuna's 2002 version of "Siuil a Run", but it quickly proves to be different. I like the lyrics for this one.

"What If.."

This reminds me a bit of "She Took My Hand". The lyrics are about the contemplating of the impending breakup.

"Fallen Angel"

This song is darker than the others. The lyrics deny the "magic" of love, but otherwise I'm not sure of the interpretation.

"Face the Wall"

This song is one of the more upbeat ones, but it has sad content. It is about a young couple who don't know how to react to their love, and so they end up drifting apart.

"In Your Eyes"

This is one of my favorites from the album. The lyrics are about being haunted by the departed lover who betrayed the other.

"If I Looked Any Better"

John offers his listeners a bit of a reprieve into his humor in this piece. According to an interview he did, this one is about the whole celebrity "life in the fast lane" during the few years when Anuna was involved with Riverdance. It's an upbeat song and quite memorable.

"Swimming in the Barrow"

Celtic Woman fans know that this song was covered by former member Lynn Hilary, but this one is the original. It is a lively song about John's childhood memories of the Barrow River in Ireland during the summer. This is also one of my favorites from the album.


After the happiness of the last two songs, the listener returns into the brokenness of the relationship. This one is very powerful in saying that the lover is justified to be away from the singer though he still loves her. Another one of my favorites.

"The Fisher King"

This song was featured on Anuna's album "Deep Dead Blue", but this is a different version. It's a gentle love song, and I like how it's just John's voice and the guitar without the addition of the background choral singers.

"Now and Forever"

The album ends with on an upbeat note about the end of the relationship despite the other having said she will love the singer "now and forever".

Despite the album largely being focused on one topic, it's very well-done. The songs all fit on the album. While they may sound similar, the pieces make up for it with their powerful emotion. I thoroughly enjoy listening to it, and I'm looking forward to John McGlynn's next album, which is rumored to be soon.

I give it four and a half out of five stars.