Far too many of our favorite TV programs are on hiatus at the moment, with no new episodes airing until 2012. That's the bad news.
The good news, however? Now is an ideal time to gauge where these shows stand, Midseason Report Card style! We've already graded the first half of The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. Up now: Fringe.
What has worked this season: Taken in pieces, how they have established a timeline void of Peter Bishop has been extraordinary. Much like the Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life, we (and Peter) have an opportunity to see the lives of our favorite characters if he had never existed as an adult. It isn't pretty. This is most true for Walter, who never got over the loss of his son, and despite his best attempt he wasn't able to save alternate Peter. It's true, Peter's presence made a different in their lives and his absence means these aren't the characters we have come to love.
What hasn't worked: First, the pacing. While I understand these types of plots take time to develop, viewers don't have the staying power that the writers do. While it's entertaining, especially the time jumps, learning about Olivia's completely different life and how the Fringe division has become an elite division of the American government, it's just not moving fast enough. It shouldn't have taken Olivia seven episodes to realize she meant something to Peter in "his" timeline.
Second, the missing alternate universe. Peter gave his life so the two worlds could work together to fix all of the wrongs that were tearing them apart. After a strong start and a brilliant partnership in "One Night In October" they've barely been mentioned. Some of the strongest moments of season two occurred over there. It's sorely missing in season four.
Best episode: "Subject 9." At that moment it seemed we had opened up the giant gift box from which our greatest wishes would come tumbling out. Peter was back, Olivia and Walter both recognized him from their dreams and visions; it seemed they would be willing to discover what the appearance of this man meant to them.
Worst episode: "Wallflower." After the promise of the best episode, we made little headway toward understanding how Peter came out of the ether, where he was or how he was communicating with Olivia and Walter. Granted, baseball had some play in why we were left at this point for midseason, but we only have this. Peter is absolutely certain he isn't meant to be where he is, while the rest of us have no idea what to believe. To top it off, the idea of Olivia and Nina sharing a lovely life together was torn asunder by an unscrupulous deed.
Hopes for 2012: More answers. More alternate universe. Tell us if Peter is meant to be here and put his life back together or if there is someplace else to get back to. What are The Observers thinking as all of this unfolds? We've never even learned for certain whether or not Fauxlivia has Henry. I'm ready for the blanket to be ripped off the bed. Even if what I find leaves me cold and shivering, I'm ready to face the music. Are you?