Finally...Let's Talk FRINGE - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Finally…Let’s Talk FRINGE

September 10, 2008 by  


It’s taken me all day but I have finally found the time to share my thoughts on last night’s premiere of FRINGE.  Hope you aren’t all talked out, because I’m dying to know what YOU thought about it!

J.J. Abrams is nothing if not ambitious.  Last night’s season premiere of FRINGE might not have been on the grandiose level of LOST and perhaps not as instantly engaging as ALIAS, but being as the aforementioned shows rank up there with the best pilots of all time, I thought FRINGE was pretty damn good. Last night marked the 5th time I’ve watched the FRINGE pilot and with each subsequent viewing I have discovered something different that delighted my senses.

FRINGE - Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, & John NobleFRINGE doesn’t fit neatly into a specific category or genre.  It’s a touch of sci fi, with elements of a thriller pulled together by an almost procedural format.  Some have naturally compared it to Abrams’ other big hits – “Alias” and “Lost” – but it’s less those than it is “The X-Files” meets “The Twilight Zone” with a touch of “Felicity” (ok maybe not “Felicity” but wouldn’t that be awesome?!).  Of course it’s easy to talk about FRINGE in terms of great shows that came before it, but I think FRINGE has a shot to break out and be a series that future shows compare themselves to – that is if Abrams and co-creators Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci can fulfill on the promise of last night’s episode.  And it was a lofty promise.

On board a flight headed for Boston’s Logan Airport, a man releases a deadly toxin that kills not only himself but all the passengers and crew on board the plane.  When Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is called in to investigate she doesn’t find just dead bodies, she finds skeletons left as a result of the skin having melted away from their very core. An inter-agency task force is assigned to the case and Agent Dunham is named as agency liaison, much to the dismay of Department of Homeland Security Agent Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick).

Dunham’s investigation leads her and her partner, Agent John Scott (Mark Valley), to a storage facility in Boston. But when Agent Scott is nearly killed by a chemical explosion at the storage facility, Olivia has a new mission – find a way to save her her partner who happens to double as the man she loves.

Olivia’s quest to find a cure for John leads her to Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a scientist who has been institutionalized for nearly 20 years . The terms of Bishop’s commitment includes restricted visitation.  Only his immediate family can have access to the doctor.  Dunham’s only hope of getting to Bishop and finding a cure for John is to seek out the help of Dr. Bishop’s only son whom he hasn’t seen since before the time of his institutionalization.  Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), a genius in his own right, is a man who uses his unique abilities to swindle and con among other duplicitous ways of making money.  When Dunham tracks Peter down in Iraq, she uses her FBI clearance to “persuade” a reluctant Peter to help her gain access to his estranged father.

Fringe series premiereBefore his confinement, Dr. Bishop worked in the area of fringe science – an actual field of scientific study that explores science fiction’esque theories such as mind control, invisibility, genetic mutation, teleportation and reanimation (bringing the dead back to life) among other bizarre things. Walter believes some of the experimentations he was doing 20 years along with partner, Massive Dynamic founder William Bell (think Bill Gates but way shadier), can help Olivia get the information she needs to find the man responsible for John’s condition and they key to his cure.  Too bad Walter’s “experimentations” involve Oliva being drugged up on LSD with a metal probe stuck in the back of her head while floating in water all for the sake of entering a shared dream state with her comatosed boyfriend allowing them to exchange thoughts and ideas in an unconscious state.  (If I got that all wrong then tell me…if I got it right then please send your virtual pats on the back my way.)

In what is a surprise to everyone (including Walter Bishop) the experiment works and Olivia gets the information she needs to track down the bad guy which leads to John being cured.  But Olivia’s relief is short lived when she learns that John had been secretly working with Richard Steig, the man who launched the chemical explosion that nearly killed him.  Steig, as it turns out,  was also integral to the biological terrorism aboard the plane. Fearing his outing, Agent Scott kills Richard Steig and goes on the run, only to be tracked down by a confused and betrayed Olivia.  The pursuit leads to a car crash which once again leaves Agent Scott fighting for his life.  This time around he doesn’t make it, but manages to leave Olivia with this final thought – “Why?  Broyles sent you to the storage facility.  Why you?”

Exactly, why her?  Why?…and while we’re asking I’ll also add “Huh?, and perhaps a little “WTF?” for good measure. The end of the episode left me completely befuddled in the best possible way.

FRINGE is classic JJ Abrams – it’s what he does best  – the smart, compelling yet emotional thriller with one foot in a fantastical world and the other firmly planted on solid ground. Some of Abrams trademarks even present in FRINGE including the focus on a strong central female character, the dangers of corporate corruption, and of course the idea that planes are just bad.  There’s been rumors that other Abramisms might pop up over the course of the series (perhaps Rimbaldi) but the only inside joke I picked up on last night was the use of the number “47”. (Alias diehards will know what I’m talking about). I’m still waiting  for the ultimate Abrams signature move – the appearance of Greg Grunberg.

Cast of FRINGE

Abrams keeps up his tradition of casting special leading ladies with Anna Torv.  Torv plays so very well the complexity of Olivia Dunham.  She shines as the brilliant, accomplished and tough as nails FBI agent, but equally so when playing to Dunham’s vulnerabilities. Torv’s portrayal is so compelling that you can’t help but be drawn in and encapsulated by her every word and action.

John Noble is equally fascinating as the eccentric mad scientist. A lesser actor could have made Dr. Walter Bishop an annoying distraction, but Noble has found the balance between quirky and reserved.

Lance Reddick might not be the most enigmatic man in the world, but he plays them on TV.  Much like Matthew Abbadon – his character on LOST – Reddick once again finds himself playing a man who knows how to play the game but isn’t ready to show his card right yet.  Will Phillip Broyles be a friend or foe to Olivia Dunham?  I’m thinking a little bit of both.

And I didn’t want you to think I had forgotten about Joshua “Mr. Jackson is you’re nasty”. He’s back!  I’ve been waiting over 5 years for Joshua Jackson to be back on my TV and I’m so glad that he found this pilot – or this pilot found him.  Jackson’s own wit and charm have often been present in the character’s he played.  And with the obvious exception of his aptitude for science, Peter Bishop has shades of grown up Pacey Witter.  Peter serves as the sarcastic yet realistic voice of reason in this otherwise intense and complicated world. Despite my obvious crush, I really do think Josh Jackson is a fantastic actor and I’m glad to see him attached to such a high profile project.  His chemistry with Anna Torv is palpable and I can’t wait to see where these two actors take these characters.

What Abrams did with this pilot is set up a deeply layered world which will reveal itself slowly and when ready over time.  The characters have already shown to have depth and the acting is superb.  As I said before, the pilot not have been perfect but the promise of things to come has me already hooked.

Despite my brevity (/sarcasm) there’s still a lot more to talk about before next week’s second episode of FRINGE including a look at some of the specific mysteries that seem to make up “the pattern”, but for the sake of your eyesight and mine, I think it’s best to end it here.

So now I turn it over to YOU – I can’t wait to hear what you thought about all aspects of one of the most high profile series of the new season.

Filed under Fringe, Fringe Recap


13 Responses to “Finally…Let’s Talk FRINGE”

  1. John on September 10th, 2008 10:52 pm

    I too enjoyed the pilot. As you said, it wasn’t as instantly compelling as some other Abrams pilots, but it was much better than most pilots; it was interesting in its own right while launching a complex story universe.

    My only complaint so far is Joshua Jackson’s role. J.J. did a good job with what he had, but it didn’t have much to do through most of the episode. He was blackmailed into getting his father out and about and he translated some of his father’s techno-babble, but little else. He did have one scene threatening a prisoner, but it wasn’t much. His best scene was in Iraq talking his way into a pipeline deal. He was interesting and alive there. The rest of the pilot he was more of an after thought.

    I am a big fan of Pacey’s (I mean J.J.) but they better increase his role’s importance if they are going to justify his being in the show. Translating his father’s ramblings and being his caretaker are nearly enough.

  2. Carly F on September 10th, 2008 11:24 pm

    I agree that this wasn’t as good as the Lost pilot (because really, could anything ever top that? Doubtful…) However, I really enjoyed Fring…the 90 minutes just flew by, and I can’t wait for next week. I, too, hope for more J.J. in future episodes, but it looks like it’ll be that way, right? Can’t wait to see where this one goes 🙂

  3. Holli on September 11th, 2008 7:59 am

    It kept me watching, but I didn’t love it. My favorite part was Blair Brown. I felt her brief scene stole the show, not only because of that bitchin’ arm she’s sporting, but her acting ability shown over and above the rest of the cast. I want to love Lance Reddick, but I thought he over-acted most of the time.

    I absolutely despised the scene identifiers. They were so distracting. It was cool how they showed the backside of the letter in Baghdad, but then again, they were saying, hey, look at us making a TV show.

    I’m even willing to overlook the leaps in logic it took like how people became skeletons in 3-4 hours, but Scott lived for days after a much higher exposure to whatever that was, and the fact that Olivia and the bad guy was so close to it and didn’t suffer at all, but all those people on the plane were immediately infected. Don’t even get me started on the mix of 17-year-old tanks with the new computer screens much less the level of access the Bishop’s were instantly given. It starts to make a polar bear on a tropical Island downright pedestrian.

    I’ll definitely give it a few more weeks because Tuesday nights are a dead zone, so it’s got that going for it. But I’m going to need to see a little more in one viewing to keep me going. My life belongs to LOST, so I don’t have time to rewatch new shows.

  4. Becky on September 11th, 2008 9:25 am

    I liked the show. I’m pretty sure you got that part right about the LSD and what not so here’s a virtual pat on the back. 🙂

    The first part was a little gory for me (I like Bones, and can handle that but it’s dead people – this was a live person melting). A lot of it seemed way off the charts fantastical, but it was a good story. I’m definitely interested and have set my DVR for next week.

    Thanks for the recap.

  5. theEvilAngel on September 11th, 2008 12:06 pm

    I watched the whole episode. It was ok. I wasn’t totally impressed. Alittle too predictable for my taste.

  6. John on September 11th, 2008 1:37 pm

    Concerning the difference in the various people’s reactions to the toxins:

    Walter Bishop said that Scottt was not exposed to the same thing that the people on the plane were. He was just exposed to the chemicals and/or drugs (I am not sure exactly what this stiuff was) that can be made into what was on the plane. Because of that he could potentially be saved. As for The FBI agent and the bad guy they didn’t get hit by the chemicals at all. Olivia just got hit by some of the blast.

  7. Holli on September 11th, 2008 2:06 pm

    Thanks John, but I’m still not convinced that what could spread from one shot and vomit would not be equally aerosolized by an explosion. Like I said I can get over it, but the implication at least was that it was the same/similar agent.

  8. SB on September 11th, 2008 6:13 pm

    I TOTALLY felt like I was watching Pacey on the X-Files (which is a totally great and unexpected combo in my mind)!

    It appears that unlike everyone else, I’m not a JJ Abrams watcher (never seen Alias, only maybe an ep or two of Lost), so I didn’t have those expectations going in, and I do try to go a little easy on pilots. I loved Walter a lot, and Gene the cow, and the little random bits of comic relief. And Joshua Jackson is just super good at the “underdog in love” role–it took me straight back to when Pacey and Joey started dating, which was easily the height of my Dawson’s Creek love (I never really had it going on for Dawson, what can I say?).

    It got pretty complicated for me and they sort of started to lose me near the end, when everything with Scott was going down and it was all mysterious. I had to stop the DVR several times to ask Billy what the eff was going on, and he kept saying, “All you’re supposed to know at this point is …” Well, I am not super patient and I know people were like insanely mad about how long the Lost mysteries dragged out, and I REALLY did not want to sign on for that, so they brought me back from the edge by revealing that Scott worked for Massive Dynamics.

    Plus, I was relieved they’d be keeping Walter. I love him. And I’m excited for next week’s. I set up a series recording. So I’d say that all in all, it probably exceeded my expectations.

  9. Kimber on September 11th, 2008 9:02 pm

    Ever since you broke the news (to me anyway!) about Josh Jackson being in a new show last year, I’ve been waiting for this pilot to air. And now that it has, it’s like I can breathe easy again. Josh is back on my TV! Little Charlie Conway, and cute little Pacey Witter has returned! Sure, he’s a bit more “rough around the edges” and definitely grown up, but it’s awesome to watch.

    I never was a fan of the X-Files (just never got into it), but Fringe reminds me of a Canadian sci-fi show called “The Outer Limits”. Very eerie, and creepy, and it has that edge to it that makes you constantly question what you’re seeing, and what it really means behind the front lines. It was really, really good! I can’t wait to see which direction it takes – will it be a “creepy of the week” type show? Will they continue to pursue the obviously evil company? And really – so long as Josh sticks around, I’ll be watching!

  10. jmurae on September 11th, 2008 11:23 pm

    THANK WHATEVER GOD EVERYONE BELIEVES IN THAT JOSHUA JACKSON IS BACK ON MY TELEVISION!!! Did anyone else laugh out loud when Broyles told Dunham if she wanted to go in the plane she’d have to “suit up”?

  11. Sarah on September 12th, 2008 3:18 am

    I have to admit, I wasn’t even going to watch Fringe. I had heard so much about it on various blogs and websites that I had my natural reaction to go against something so hyped and just ignore it. But there I was Tuesday night, with nothing on, and low and behold I found myself watching it. And I. Was. Hooked!!! I loved it. I’m not a Lost watcher so I can’t compare it to that. I thought the pilot showed a lot of potential and the characters, at least to me, are very interesting.

    My one minor complaint is J.J.’s character. LIke others here, I think he did a good job with what he had but it seemed like they were just sticking him with the one liners and not giving him more. I hope that they expand his character to make him more dimensional. Other then that though, I loved it and can’t wait for next week!

  12. Deirdre on September 13th, 2008 7:28 pm

    I wasn’t expecting to like it. I knew it was more gory than I like to watch anymore. I knew it was sci-fi and that doesn’t turn me on either. But I love JJ Abrams. I am a LOST fanatic…LOVED Alias too. So I took a chance. And I am glad I did. I really liked it. My DirectTV DVR lost about 10 minutes of the show, about 15 minutes from the end. I was watching it sorta live…about 25 minutes from the beginning and something is wrong with my DVR, but I figured out enough to figure it all out. I will be watching again.

  13. Kate on September 16th, 2008 12:22 am

    I finally was able to watch it last night. I am a total Lost and Alias fan (although I will admit Alias had me turned off for a bit of its run) oh and of course I lived for Felicity. 🙂 So Fringe. I liked it. I love Joshua Jackson (so far I really like his character) and I need to see more. And I plan to as I have set up a season pass on my TiVo. I thought the ending while crazy was good and intriguing. I also thought the melting skin at the beginning was gross, but I can look away. So I have my hopes up and I look forward to chatting about it.
    Kath, virtual pat on the back to you as well even if I’m not 100%. 🙂