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Review: FOX’s Fringe is a creepy good time

Review: FOX’s Fringe is a creepy good time

The newest high-profile science fiction TV series debuted this past week. Created by J.J. Abrams (LOST), it follows the live of a government agent who stumbles upon one the biggest secrets in the world – and she finds out there is no going back. Following is a review of the pilot episode of this new series, Fringe.

Airs: Tuesdays, 9 p.m. (ET/PT)
Network: FOX
Rating: TV-14 (Graphic Violence, Language, Adult Situations)

First of all, let’s settle one dispute: Fringe is not a true “science fiction” series. The physics used in the show do not add up. The “science” behind the wonders depicted in this series is just too unbelievable to be taken seriously. So don’t. If you can get past that, you will probably enjoy this series.

If you must label the show with a specific subset of genre fiction, Fringe would fall under “science fantasy” – which is just like any other fantasy story, except the traditional trappings such as magic potions, spells, and crystal balls are replaced by the trappings of science. Potions become drugs; spells become computer code and mathematical algorithms, and crystal balls become the Internet. The list goes on, but you get the point.

According to interviews in the mainstream press, J.J. Abrams wanted to recreate the allegorical qualities of classic science fiction, fantasy and horror TV such as that written by Rod Serling. His goal is to comment on today’s society while using a fantastic world of fiction to depict harsh realities without turning off network censors or the viewing public who just wants to be entertained.

That’s a tall order – but judging from the pilot episode, it just may work.

Fringe is a smart, thrilling, funny and scary series. It holds the potential to be as good as X-Files or Supernatural. That is – if FOX doesn’t cancel the show before audiences find it – as the network has done countless other times.

CAST

  • Olivia Dunham, played by Anna Torv
  • Peter Bishop, played by Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek)
  • Dr. Walter Bishop, played by John Noble (Lord of the Rings)
  • Phillip Broyles, played by Lance Reddick (The Wire)
  • Charlie Francis, played by Kirk Acevedo (Oz)
  • Nina Sharp, played by Blair Brown

ABOUT THE STORY
(SPOILER WARNING)

Fringe follows the lives of a mid-level government security agent named Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and the people around her.

But before we get to her, the pilot episode starts out on an airplane during an international flight – when something horrible goes wrong. (So far, this looks and feels like the first episode of LOST – which is odd since that’s the show that J.J. Abrams is famous for creating).

The something wrong here appeared to be some sort of ultra-fast flesh-eating virus that literally causes the flesh to melt off the bones of the plane’s passengers and crew during mid-flight.

It turns out the plane landed safely because of auto pilot landing available at Boston’s airport. That’s when the Feds arrive: CIA. FBI, the CDC and Homeland Security. It turns out that the hero of the story, Olivia Dunham is some sort of inter-agency liaison set up after 9/11.

As agents from the different agencies gather, a man named Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) from Homeland Security takes charge – giving assignments to everyone except Dunham. As it happens, sometime in the past, she was an investigator that uncovered that some of Broyles friends were crooked – which led to their arrest. Broyels doesn’t like Dunham and mocks her and her job – but eventually relents and allows her to take part in the investigation – doing grunt work.

As it turns out, Dunham is having an affair with a co-worker – a fellow agent – which is forbidden by their employer. That man also is on the same case.

While checking out a warehouse, Dunham and her boyfriend are caught in an explosion. She had minor injuries – he got – “infected” by some mysterious fatal condition or disease … or something … that made his flesh turn translucent. But the fatality was slowed by inducing an artificial coma and putting him on ice – literally.

That’s the set up for this story. Dunham fights against time and a boss that hates her to save the life of her boyfriend. In doing so, she tracks down a man – Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) – who was working on similar technology for the U.S. government in the 1970s. Of course he went nuts and now lives in a loony bin – with no visitors except for immediate family. Her boss will not let her use federal authority to get the guy out of the asylum.

Now we have a woman fighting against time, a boss that hates her and her only hope to save her boyfriend is a man trapped in a loony bin. Getting interesting – if not plausible.

It turns out that all of Dr. Bishop’s immediate family is dead – except for a son – Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) who is running from the mob and trying to scam Iraqi government contractors into getting a job in Baghdad. Naturally, Peter Bishop has an IQ of 190 and is a genius like his father. He’s also running from the mob because of gambling debts incurred while trying to get rich off casinos.

Dunham uses some arm twisting and bluffing (the guy is obviously bad at gambling) to get Peter out of Iraq and on a plane to Boston to visit the elder Dr. Bishop – who Peter hates, naturally.

As it turns out, in saving her boyfriend’s life, Dunham uncovers a “pattern” and some secrets that the world governments are keeping from the general population. In this case, those “governments” also include a huge corporation called Massive Dynamic, which is kind of like a cross between Microsoft and GE. The owner of the company is Dr. Bishop’s former lab partner. We don’t met the big boss of Massive Dynamic, but we to meet Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), his left-hand woman (her right hand is bionic).

By the end of the pilot, Dunham has assembled a Scooby gang of sorts which includes the Bishops and her assistant Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole). Oh, and she also saves the life of her boyfriend, is betrayed and ultimately gains the acceptance and respect of her boss.

He likes her so much, he offers her a new job fighting “the pattern” and unlimited resources to get it done… Hence a series begins.


David Speakman

David Speakman has spent more than two decades as a writer/editor, photographer, graphic designer and manager of creative teams in broadcast, print and the Internet. His education is in journalism, graphic design, organizational communication and law.

2 Comments

  1. “Many familiar faces and some newcomers. All are very talented and none of the performances seemed to be forced. Standouts from the pilot are: Joshua Jackson, John Noble and Blair Brown.”

    No way!? Main characters stood out in the show?! Holy crap! My mind is blown.

  2. To be fair, Blair Brown – although a regular cast member – is by no means the lead of the series. Anna Torv is good as Olivia Dunham, but like happens in most pilots – her character is lost among the more interesting supporting cast.

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