Tagfringe

Madder Men

Rose Madder? Nah, probably not. But spoilers, definitely.

Mad Men is back. As the Anglophile in me decrees, everything’s better with Brits. The office politics are going to be sharper and, probably, meaner. And funnier, since we’ve now got a world of misapprehensions and bad cultural assumptions to play with. Since this is Mad Men, we even get that point thrust home with a Don Draper metatextual commentary.

Not his only one this episode, either. Consider the implications of his London Fog tag line given that he’s just seen Sal with a half-dressed bellboy. “Limit your exposure.” He’s quick, that Don. Whereas Mad Men is pleasantly slow. It took three seasons for Sal to get even a taste of the sexual release most of the cast has already seen; but it worked. A slow build is good. Good for AMC, as well, for not shying away.

Ah, metatext. The new British CFO is named Pryce? Cute; but I’ll forgive it since he’s played by Jared Harris. I didn’t realize until afterwards, but that’s no doubt while I had the little frisson of alarm when I first saw him. Some part of me was expecting him to try and break through into an alternate world, no doubt.

Awesome show remains awesome.

Fringe Season Finale

If you aren’t watching it, you might want to catch up. The characterization has improved remarkably, and as of the end of the season the plot is equally enjoyable. We’ve taken a heavy turn into the SF. Also, Brad Anderson is producing and directing a bunch of episodes, and he is one creepy director.

Spoilers follow in the form of transcribed newspaper headlines, cause we couldn’t resist freeze framing.
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Fringe Not Redux

Looking back, I never did talk about Fringe outside of some RPG wanking. That was because I wasn’t that enchanted with the show. John Noble is a superior being, and his Walter Bishop is a great TV character, but I found Anna Torv to be fairly dull and uninteresting. Her FBI agent was bland and played the victim a bit too much for my tastes.

As of the 11th episode, “Bound,” things changed. Agent Dunham… let’s say she revealed her inner badass rather than claiming her characterization changed, because I haven’t gone back and watched the early episodes to see if I missed something. She is now really interesting, because we’re seeing this vast well of anger inside her, which she mostly has to keep repressed. But man, it comes out sometimes. She is ruthless without being apologetic and without making a big deal of it.

This means I want to see what she does next. It also heightens the importance of the problems she’s facing. Boring characters can’t support epic threats, in the same way that bland villains can’t support epic heroes. So this is all very good.

Meanwhile, John Noble is still awesome, and the plot has taken a giant hiccup forward with “Ability,” the most recent episode. Odd as this may seem for a J. J. Abrams show, we have been provided with a basket of answers. And more questions, because it’s still Abrams, but the outline of the season makes sense.

Oh yeah. And there was a Jonathan Carroll reference in the last episode.

So: if you had been dissing Fringe, it might be worth another look. I’m not saying great, because not great, but way better than it started.

Quick Notes on Fringe: the RPG

(Not Fringeworthy, that’s different.)

Use Nemesis, which is fairly simple and free. A couple of nomenclature changes — Madness Meters are Stability Meters, and most difficulties are fairly low. Things are weird but not alien weird. The Unnatural track is the Fringe track. Trump dice are likewise Fringe dice.

There is no supernatural, but there is fringe science, obviously. Those versed in fringe science might go above 5d in a given stat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nina turned out to have 6d in Body, and Dr. Bishop has 6d Mind. Perhaps more.

Regular combat still exists. Right now the show looks more procedural than actiony, which means firearms should be deadly, which I think they are in Nemesis. However, the interesting combat scenes are scientific. This works more or less like regular combat.

1. Declare your character’s action. The show’s set up with one main scientist, which works fine — everyone else does supporting actions, which feed back into the scientist’s work, giving him bonus dice.

2. Roll the appropriate dice pool. Narrate accordingly. Sometimes it’s going to be science skill vs. science skill (can we figure out how to undo this dimensional transposition before it explodes in downtown Boston?), and sometimes it’d be science skill vs. something else. I think the whole tank scene in the pilot was vs. tactics, for example.

3. Damage is to be contemplated. Could be physical. Could be time ebbing away. Possibly losing a fight results in Stability Meter checks. Mostly I think I like time passing; a lot of this stuff is going to be mad science on the clock, since it’s a procedural show. So it’s… when you run out of wound boxes, you’re out of time or the experiment failed.

You don’t have weapons. You have centrifuges, which get statted up the same way.

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