Monday night, and the sluggish, almost gelid, rain and threat of snow meant British Summer Time was officially here. I wasn’t dismayed, or even particularly mayed, since I had a stack of recorded programmes to watch with Mrs McS: a night of televisual über-geekery courtesy of new episodes of Lost, Fringe (also known as “this year’s Lost”, 2008) and Flashforward (also know as “this year’s Lost”, 2009). None of them seemed all that satisfactory.
The Lost episode was #6.09, “Ab Aeterno”, for those of you wishing to remain spoiler-free. I’ve loved Lost, in all its infuriating deferral, tantalising intricacy and arch self-awareness. I fell for its insinuation that the reader could, with sufficient wit and ingenuity, figure out what the hell was going on, while making a Jesuitical mental reservation that of course the writers would never give us enough detail to solve the riddle. In fact, it was the programme’s un-guess-ability I liked best; which is why, as we rattle towards The End, it seems disappointing that the quantum flux of possibilities is beginning to collapse into an observable phenomenon. All the portentous statements – “we are in hell” &c – were just fan-tweaks (I remember the on-line enthusiasm for the Purgatory Theory, heck, I even remember yung28’s massive theory about Apollo that ended up being mocked with confectionary by the show’s writers). Since it’s now established that Lost is Good vs Evil, more or less, and that Good and Evil are looking for human replacements to continue their work, I’ll hazard a guess at the closure: whoever wants to replace Jacob, the Island’s Guardian, believer in free will, will prove themselves unworthy to replace Jacob.
Fringe has gone from intriguing, to confusing, to conservative, to banal predictability. You can’t miss an episode of Lost, but with some Fringe episodes you might as well just watch an old X-Files in Virgin +1. Wary that an over elaborate mythology might deter potential viewers, the “stand alone” episodes are both pointless (arc wise) and derivative (plot wise). “The Bishop Revival” started with a premise so hackneyed (a group of Jewish wedding guests all suffocate; non-Jewish guests are fine) that before you could say “gene bomb” a character with blond hair, blue eyes, a cruel smile and wireless glasses – i.e. TV shorthand for Nazi – was seen slinking off. The show’s real draw has always been the amoral, kindly, child-like ex-mental patient genius Dr Walter Bishop – but even here the “back story” made my ribs ache with all the nudging. And any show that can include the priceless line “Walter, what are you telling me? That my grandfather was a Nazi?” ought to be ashamed of itself. And – just for the pedants – the idea of a genetic weapon theorised before the discovery of DNA was dumb.
Flashforward has been the most successful Lost clone, and “Blowback” the thirteenth episode was more Lost-like than most (it even had flashbacks, goddammit). I’ve found it the most emotionally engaging of the shows in some ways, as the characters struggle to change or bring about the future, a neat device that allows pathos, hope, paranoia and the ever present fear that they’ve misinterpreted their glimpse of the future. The new CIA character is a smart addition, and I just hope the plots they’ve begun here actually tie-in; otherwise it’s just an episode of B-sides and soap opera. Having had a three-and-a-half month hiatus, the writers feel the need to remind us all of what went on, and expediently are now angling for Season 2 (how my heart sank when one character said something like “in the future you were talking about ANOTHER FLASHFORWARD hint hint we’ve not exhausted our premise). Central character Mark Benford getting a drug that lets him see more of his flashforward since he was all rummed up in the future was nothing except a chance to do lots more flashing images for fanboys to pore over (what’s the Hydra?) – the kind of thing they’ll splice back in to Episode #1.01 for the DVD release.
In summary: Lost knows where it’s going and I don’t like it. Fringe has no idea where it’s going and I like it less. Flashforward is spending more time telling ABC that it could go for more than a year than it is telling a cool story about weird science. (By the way, it’s introduced Ally McBeal’s dead ex as a preacher, who’s actually quite a good character).
A link for the day: if I were Secretary for Education, this would be in every Primary School.