TV Review: Fringe

Title: Fringe

Created by J.J. Abrams, Directed by Alex Graves, Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, and Lance Reddick

Yesterday evening, this eagerly anticipated new J.J. show had its ninety-five minute debut on FOX. Billed as “paranormal science meets The X-Files (from the creator of Alias and LOST!)”, the expectations for Fringe were pretty high–and, for the most part, Fringe delivers. This pilot, while nowhere near as awesome or classic as those of The X-Files or LOST, is still pretty solid fare and so far is my pick for best Fall TV pilot (to be fair, that really ain’t sayin’ much).

On the Plot:

The first scene opens on a flight transversing the Atlantic on a route from Hamburg to Boston, and there is some rough turbulence (are we on Oceanic Air flight 815? Did I wander into the wrong show?! Kidding). One particular passenger is sweating profusely, clearly freaking out. He pulls out a needle and gives himself a shot–presumably of insulin. Turns out, the shot was full of a different chemical cocktail–and sweaty nervous guy’s skin starts to blister and disintegrate, along with everyone else on the plane. By this point, I am thinking to myself “Siiiiiiick!”. Cut to opening credits, which are kinda ho-hum, but I’m stoked to see that the very talented Mr. Michael Giacchino is the series composer.

The pilot gets liquified.

And then we get to the meat and potatoes of the episode. Agent Olivia Dunham is a pretty blonde but also a serious FBI agent, summoned out of a motel bed (where she and fellow Agent John Scott have been getting freakydeaky in a hush-hush romance) to Logan International on the case. Olivia becomes the Bureau’s formal Liason to the big dogs: the Department of Homeland Security. Reporting to Agent Phillip Broyles, who doesn’t seem to care much for Agent Dunham, she is sent on an errand mission to check out a lead at a local storage facility.

Olivia and Agent Scott (her lover) go to investigate together, only to find a secret lab in one of the storage units, and a suspect who is identical to sweaty-insulin-face melting dude on the plane. With Agent Scott in pursuit, the suspect takes off running and detonates the storage facilities. Olivia is thrown clear and knocked out, but Scott isn’t so lucky–he’s been showered with whatever chemical compounds the suspect has been brewing, and Agent Scott is slowly turning into a transparent blob, ala the poor souls on the airplane.

Olivia, not ready to lose the man she loves, goes on a hellbent mission to find anyone that can help. Using the nifty Bureau database and using search phrases like “skin + disintegration” (really, who thinks of these retarded search phrases on tv shows and movies???) she immediately finds the one man who can help her, a Doctor Walter Bishop (who, according to the FOX character press release, is “our generation’s Einstein”). Dr. Bishop performed extensive experiments in “Fringe Science” back in the late 1970s and was incarcerated for his use of humans as guinea pigs–only he was found mentally unfit to stand trial, and thus thrown into a psychiatric ward. In order to get his help on the case, Olivia flies to Baghdad to find his next of kin–his SUPER!GENIUS (we’re talking 190 I.Q.) son, Peter Bishop to get her a session with his father. After some serious bluffing, Peter comes back to Boston and they get crazy Dr. Bishop out of the slammer and back into his old Harvard basement lab to figure out how to help Agent Scott. Doctor Bishop says he cannot synthesize an antidote until he knows exactly which chemicals Scott was exposed to, and their precise amounts–and unfortunately the only guy who knows what was in the storage units is their intrepid suspect, and only Scott saw his face. Enter Dr. Bishop’s groovy ’70s research–he tells Olivia she can converse with John in his “dreamstate”, but it will involve inserting a metal rod into her head while she’s hopped up on LSD and floating naked in a rusty tank (exactly why she must be in her bra and undies, floating in a tank is a mystery to me. Hey, we got Kate in her undies in the LOST pilot, and Scully stripping down in The X-Files pilot, so I won’t complain!).

Of course, the wide-eyed Olivia agrees, and the dream-meeting is a success. Very shortly thereafter, she identifies the suspect, leaps from building to building in his pursuit and throws him into custody with some help from Peter. After some tough interrogation, he gives up the information, and Dr. Bishop is successfully able to synthesize a cure for Agent Scott–who at this point looks like Kevin Bacon in mid-Hollow Man metamorphosis.

Agent Dunham’s investigation also leads her to multi billionaire and corporate tycoon William Bell–Dr. Bishop’s old partner. His company, Millettos Bioscience–oops, I mean Massive Dynamics, is a pioneer in some crazy cutting edge science stuff. When Olivia pays headquarters a visit, she talks to Nina Sharp and sees first-hand the crazy cutting edge science stuff as she reveals her robot arm. Nina asks Olivia if this is all part of “The Pattern”–later, Agent Broyles explains that seemingly at random, paranormal, fantastic phenomenon has been appearing across the globe. Missing children reappearing years later without having aged a day, high pitched buzzing signaling an oncoming tsunami, etc. Following a nice twist to the end of the episode, Agent Dunham is asked to lend her talents to Agent Broyles’ cause, setting the premise for the rest of the season’s investigations…

On the Characters:

From L to R: Joshua Jackson as Peter, Anna Torv as Olivia, and John Noble as Dr. Bishop

So…what did I think? First and foremost, there’s the main cast. Agent Olivia Dunham, played by Anna Torv, is the lynch pin for the series as the lead character. I liked that The Powers That Be (“TPTB”) went with an unknown actress, and I like that she isn’t super glamorous. The character of Olivia, however, is just a tad bit ridiculous. She’s the ultimate Uber-Agent, the Bureau Liason, jet setting from Massachusetts to Iraq, operating on zero hours of sleep for something like eight days, she apparently has incredible pull at the agency as she is able to get labs reconstituted, cows brought in, mentally insane dudes released, raids called, etc with a snap of her fingers. She has incredible computer skills with her magical Bureau Google Search for wonky skin condition specialists, and then later with her computer generated picture of the suspect from her dream-meeting with Agent Scott. She bounds from building tops and catches perps without hurting herself, OR messing up her hair and makeup. It’s all just a teensy tiny bit over the top.

Olivia’s counterpart, Peter Bishop, is played by fan favorite Joshua Jackson, and his performance has been generally met with praise. Personally, I’d prefer someone else in the role–another lesser known face to match Ms. Anna Torv–and I found his “hey sweetheart” lines and the attempts at comic relief to be incredibly clumsy. He just didn’t work for me. The screaming “hey we have CHEMISTRY!” flashing lights around Olivia and Peter is annoying as well. Not to mention the whole character backstory for Peter: [Olivia Narrates] “Peter Bishop is a GENIUS. His IQ is 50 points north of GENIUS levels. He graduated with a doctorate from MIT at the age of 16 and was a professor of Chemistry. He founded his own oil company at the age of 22. He POOPS RAINBOWS!” Why can’t main characters ever just be good-at-their-jobs-normal-dudes? Why the compulsion to create the SUPERFREAKINGGENIUS! all the time? Yeesh.

Then, there’s Dr. Walter Bishop, played by the great John Noble (aka crazed Denethor from The Return of the King). His performance was wonderful, even if the writing was weaksauce. I much preferred crazy Dr. Bishop’s comic relief to the forced, un-funny wisecracks from his son Peter. Agent Broyles, played by the eerie Lance Reddick is another welcome addition. I loved his role last season on LOST as the shady Abbadon, and he fills out the “Agent X” type of character nicely here. Finally, Nina Sharp, played by the excellently (and so very appropriately) casted Blair Brown of Altered States, was also a delight.

Final Thoughts & Impressions:

Overall, I thought the plotting was solid if somewhat predictable, and this was a good pilot episode to kick off the new series. Sure it had its kinks and the writing could use a lot of work, but it’s enough to keep me eager to see next week’s episode. I have to admit I was a little disappointed with “The Pattern” as the overarching storyline of this season–it’s seems a pretty thin excuse to keep Dunham and company investigating the paranormal. I guess they couldn’t exactly just create a new sub department of the F.B.I. to investigate the paranormal in Harvard University’s basement…wait a minute, that sounds familiar…*whistles Mark Snow theme*

The big bad guys are being set up as Massive Dynamics, which again feels like borrowing–this time from LOST’s Millettos Bioscence/Hanso/Widmore/or Paik Industries. I’d like to see where this goes, but frankly I am hoping for some creativity in the upcoming episodes. Blending old shows is great and all, but I haven’t seen any new spark from Fringe that allows it to stand on its own as opposed to being an X-Files/LOST/Alias hybrid.

Notable Parts: LOST dork that I am, I loved the music of Michael Giacchino in this episode. AND at 1:16, when Broyles is explaining “The Pattern” to Olivia, you may have caught his little story that could possibly be a LOST shoutout! Broyles relates the story of a man in an institution in Madrid, who starts writing down a sequence of numbers, which look like nothing, but in actuality are the coordinates to a top secret government project in the Pacific Ocean. Now, who’s to say those numbers might not have been 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42? Hmm?

Rating: 7 Very Good


  • kmont
    September 10, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Grrr, I missed this last night, but now don’t feel like I missed out on much – due to your great review and the less than attention-grabbing feel I get from deets of the show.

    I was always entranced by promo commercials for this, but couldn’t help wondering if they’re just trying to replace X-Files/be the next big X-Files thing.

    Heh, will try to catch it next week, but adding one more thing to do nightly is kinda silly at this point lol! Maybe I’ll just read/write. Yes, I should definitely just write.

  • Ana
    September 10, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Thea: agreed! I liked it but it wasn’t the bestest ever. I remain undecided on this one, will watch it hoping it will get much much better. The potential is there and man, how I love Pacey!

    “He POOPS RAINBOWS”????????????


  • Thea
    September 10, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Kmont–I know I came across as harsh in this review/recap, but of the new shows out there, Fringe is still likable enough 🙂 I’m sure FOX will re-air the pilot–give it a shot if you can…

    Or, there is that big pile of books to take care of…see this is what DVRs were made for. Set up a recording, and then watch at your leisure 😉

    Ana–it certainly wasn’t LOST or BSG…but still I agree has a lot of potential. As for Joshua Jackson…meeeeh, he doesn’t do anything for me.

    And yes, LOL! Pooping rainbows with his modern-day Einstein father and his MIT degrees with his huge genius brain!

  • Artstudio Sri Lanka
    September 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

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    September 10, 2008 at 1:36 pm

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  • meljean brook
    September 10, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I just watched it — I agree with your review in pretty much every aspect. The twists really were predictable, there was some lame dialogue, and I was wondering half the time how Dunham accomplished even a 1/3 of what she did in the supposed timeline.

    Slight spoilers:

    Then there were other issues — like, I’m supposed to believe that Bishop (the younger) can just walk into a room where a suspect — who they think brought down a plane with a biological WMD — is being held and threaten him? Or even that Dunham would be the one questioning him, that HMS wouldn’t bring is some big guns? That Scott wouldn’t be surrounded by doctors/scientist 24-7, instead of being practically alone when Bishop comes in to examine him?

    Scenes like that really, really stretched my belief (even more than the fringe elements — because I’m willing to let them have the fringe aspect.) But the real-world aspect? At least try for a tiny bit of authenticity on that.

    I’m hoping that when they move out of the FBI/HMS law-enforcement construct, things like that won’t be such an issue. But in the pilot at least, they almost asked the audience to swallow too much and to suspend too much belief (and I’m still not talking about the naked-tank.)

    So, hoping for better next week when they settle into the world they’ve got.

  • Anonymous
    September 11, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Man if Teri finds out you are bad mouthing her boy toy Pacey you are in for some pain sister!:)

    Do I really have to download it?Really?I mean I am rewatching The X-Files (after the lame film I had to watch some old school TXF..)and I have Dexter to keep me company, I am not sure how I will cope a mediocre show at the moment. If it gets any better then I am expecting a copy of the first few episodes on my doorstep…you know?Like when I sent you Dexter?After you had twisted my arm? And then you didn’t watch it?lol

    And forced chemistry is a big no no….you either have it or you don’t!I mean JJ got lucky with Jate once, not all his shows can have that one in a million ship!*insert rolling eyes smilie here*

    The Greek That Shall Not Be Named

    ps. nice little nick you got for me here but it’s a bitch to write…I want a new one!lol

  • MaryKate
    September 11, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Thea, great analysis. I liked the chemistry between Livvy and Peter, but then, I’m one of those who watches every show (particularly JJ’s shows) thinking, “I wonder who she’s going to hook up with.”

    Although I will say that Josh Jackson seems to me to be a bit like the poor man’s Michael Vaughan (or The Hotness, as we called him in my house). His chin stubble is WAY inferior to Vartan’s.

    But I liked it enough to keep with it.

    I think that LOST is one of those once in a lifetime type of shows. Where the pilot is so stupendous you’re left gasping for air. But there was enough in this show to keep my season pass on the DVR. I’ll keep tuning in.

    Also, did you check out Massive Dynamic’s website? Seriously, I kept thinking, maybe this is a real company and I’m missing the FOX promo site. It’s extremely well done, I think.

  • Thea
    September 11, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Meljean–yep, I wholeheartedly agree with you. When Olivia is questioning Steig, I commented to the bf–“DAMN this agent can do it all!” Yeesh. The extreme low security and how quickly everything was accomplished really bugged me. Something The X-Files did wonderfully was show the ridiculous amount of red tape there was and tensions with bureaucracy (always being called into Skinner’s office, writing all those field reports, etc). Or how the Bureau would flat out deny the intrepid Mulder and Scully, banning them from cases, etc. It was hard to believe Olivia Dunham was sososo good as to accomplish EVERYTHING, especially in that miniscule time frame.

    But in the pilot at least, they almost asked the audience to swallow too much and to suspend too much belief (and I’m still not talking about the naked-tank.)


    The Greek–dude, it’s worth the dl at least…if the remaining epis get better, yes I will send you a present! *whispers* I’ve started Dexter *ninja* Oh and the chemistry, I mean whatever it’s fine, I just think it’s incredibly lame how un-subtle the whole thing is. I was cringing with the “sweetheart” lines and Joshua whispering to Olivia before she gets in the nekkid tank, “I hope your guy is worth it.” *shoots self*

    Really–I’m just glad they didn’t STEAL the JATE MOMENTS! “Hi.” “Hi.” ZOMGJIFJIFJIFJIFJFIJFIF!

    *rolls eyes* I miss those lunatics. I should pay Lost-Forum a visit :p

    Hey Mary Kate–re: the chemistry, that’s fair enough 🙂 LOL, I agree with you on Joshua Jackson’s stubble! I think I’m one of the very few women that didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek so…I don’t share the Pacey love. *shrugs*

    LOST definitely is a one-in-a-million pilot (and well, show. At least the first season–I still love the show and obsess about it all the time, but objectively I have to admit it has fallen off in the past 2 seasons). And I haven’t yet checked out the Massive Dynamics website! This is something I adore about mythology-heavy shows, like LOST and Fringe; I love geeking out over all the easter eggs and the fake websites…the comic book tie-ins…

    I’ll definitely be keeping this on the DVR. I’ve certainly watched far worse shows!

  • Ana
    September 11, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Thea! I am dismayed , shocked that you got the jible wrong. How can you? It’s not “Hi.” “Hi.”


    you ok?
    yeah, you?

    Please dude.

    And then, WTF? You never watched Dawson’s Creek????????

  • Thea
    September 11, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Oh the jabble, the jabble!

    *starts licking spoons and throwing papaya seeds* Forgive me dear Ana! It has been too long!

    And…yeah, no Dawson’s Creek for me *ducks* I never really got into those shows.

  • MaryKate
    September 11, 2008 at 9:57 am


    I never watched Dawson’s Creek either, Thea.

  • Artstudio Sri Lanka
    September 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm

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  • Anonymous
    September 11, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    By Zeus you are the most blasphemous mini me ever!It’s not papaya it’s guava…GUAVA!!!*shakes head disappointed*

    Just noticed the poster with the hand print…hmm I’m sure I have seen that before somewhere!:)

    The Greek Dude

  • outdoor tv cover
    May 7, 2019 at 11:45 am

    I liked this film! I even watched it with the whole family. I recommend to everyone!

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