With Peter finally completely back on the show, Fringe took a turn towards some interesting territory. I’ll offer some confusing thoughts about “Novation” after the jump.

In blogging about television, I switch between wearing three different (figurative) hats. The first is my fan hat, which I usually reserve for squeeing about Cougar Town or NTSF:SD:SUV::. The second is my analytical hat, which I use to examine stories on a deeper level, like I do when I write my rewatch posts. The third is my “serious television discussion” hat, which I use when I write episode reviews or other pieces related to my feelings on TV shows. It’s also the hat that is the trickiest to define. When I’m wearing it, I want to discuss what I like or what I don’t like about a certain series, but I also want to discuss how that series works as a TV show.

Thus, when I wear my STD hat – God, that’s a terrible acronym – I ask myself a couple of questions: 1) Is this show doing what I think it should be doing? 2) How well is this show doing what it is doing? In the case of Fringe, right now the answer to the former is an unequivocal “no.” I am definitely not a supporter of the direction that the show chose to take at the end of the season 3 finale. As for the second question, after the first three episodes, the answer was “pretty poorly,” but now I’m not so sure.

Look, the show still hasn’t answered any questions about where the hell Peter disappeared to, what’s going on in the alternate universe, or what Michelle Krusiec’s shapeshifter character is up to (though the typewriter at the end of the episode seems to indicate that she’s working with people from the Other Side). The show is still stopping for exposition-y scenes every ten minutes or so to explain what’s going on in this timeline and how it differs from the other timeline. I still don’t care about these new versions of Lincoln and Olivia. I still don’t see what the show gained by writing Peter out and then writing him back in. These are all bad things.

But maybe I’ve become accustomed to those things, or maybe I missed the show a lot when it was on hiatus for the World Series, because I really enjoyed “Novation.” And that’s coming from someone who was anticipating the worst and was preparing to trash the episode in this very blog post. However, I’m having trouble justifying that enjoyment. I can’t pinpoint what this show is specifically doing better now than it was doing pre-hiatus.

The thing is, I’m also a Fringe fan, and I’m in the process of writing a series of pieces that analyze the first 3 seasons on a deeper level. (I promise I’ll be done with it soon!) So, I’m just going to throw my STD hat out the window (along with that awful acronym) and instead put on my other two hats. (At the same time. I’m making a fashion statement, folks.)

As a fan, I was happy to see Peter back on the show (and I’m not even someone who particularly likes Joshua Jackson’s acting). I got a kick out of how casually he was helping the FBI crack the shapeshifter’s data disk. I also liked seeing Arye Gross on my TV screen, probably because he’s the erstwhile Perlmutter from Castle. As for the case this week, it wasn’t very substantial, but the more the body count grew, the more exciting it became, and anything as weird as those instant transformations gets a case a free pass in my book.

As an analyst, I really appreciated the scenes where Walter and Peter talked face-to-face. The relationship between father and son has always been one of the strongest parts of the show, and Walter seeing his very real, grown-up son as temptation was heartbreaking. John Noble was at his best here, showing Walter’s struggle to reconcile his scientific beliefs with his spiritual ones masterfully.

But as someone who wants to discuss television seriously, “Novation” was plagued with all the same problems as the rest of this season’s episodes, though perhaps to a lesser degree. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it a lot. I’m beginning to think that Fringe might no longer be worth writing about on a weekly basis. As someone who wants to discuss television seriously, I’ll probably make the same complaints about every one of this season’s episodes. But as a fan, I don’t feel the need to justify how I feel about this show. The last thing I want to happen is for my enjoyment of the show to be adversely affected by my writing about it. So, we’ll see how the next couple of episodes go, and after that, I’ll make a decision about whether or not to keep writing about Fringe.