I'm worried about Fringe.
Wait. Let me start off with the positives first.
I could not wait for the return of Fringe. While I had issues with how season four ultimately played out, the show is seldom boring, and generally better than the vast majority of what's on television.
And I'm a big fan of these characters. Walter (John Noble) is wonderful, and rightfully gets a lot of the attention, but I've bought into the Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv) romance hook, line, and sinker. And the show wouldn't be the same without Astrid (Jasika Nicole). It's these characters that kept me relatively invested in the premiere, particularly the reunions between husband and wife, mother and daughter.
But, at this moment, this isn't the Fringe that I know and love.
The beauty of Fringe is that it's always been a lot of things at one time. It's never been simple. Even when the writers tried to unify everything (remember "The Pattern?"), you got the sense that it wasn't their choice. Each episode was filled with inventive stories, interesting characters, and a general sense of mystery; even if Fringe told you what was going on, you never really felt like they were telling you the whole truth.
That was part of the beauty of the show: the mystery. You honestly felt like each episode revealed something new, while still managing to complicate things (but in a much more sustainable way than, say, Lost).
Now, however, the show is about one thing: the fight against the Observers.
Before I get into more, let me start off by saying this: I liked the Observers when they were a part of the aforementioned complexity of the show. The Observers were a condiment that made the meal all the tastier. But as much as I like ketchup, I wouldn't eat a bowl full of it as a meal. That's what we're getting.
Perhaps I could look past that if the storyline seemed more original. We're seeing a pretty standard science fiction trope: characters wake up in a dystopian future, have to fight for freedom. It's a simple story, made even more depressing by the fact that it seems to be the focus of this entire final season.
That's not say that Fringe hasn't dabbled in the cliché before. It's regularly taken standard science fiction ideas head on, but they were always woven into a larger, more creative tapestry. Fringe has never been trite, yet I'm afraid that this final season will – particularly since that's what the season four finale was.
So why give this premiere three bullets if I have so many issues with it? Well, like I said, Fringe is generally better than most shows on television. I also mentioned that Fringe has a history of at least taking glancing shots at cliché stories, and perhaps that's what this is. Maybe they're setting us up for some serious twists and turns. Maybe this is a more complicated story than it appears to be at first glance, and we'll see the return of all the things we've come to know and love about Fringe.
It's a short final season; I hope they don't wait too long to get there.
Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At, available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comic Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at KyleGarret.com and on Twitter as @kylegarret.