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TV Review | Fringe

I’ve waited for the fall television season to start for many months
now — I understand why the writers’ strike had to happen last season,
but I was going out of my mind with re-runs.

Fringe

The day of September 9, 2008, I started feeling impatient. My anxiety
was caused by a brief ad I saw a few months ago on Fox. It was a
doppelganger for X-Files. Was this a joke? Had I accidentally switched from my 400th viewing ofWhen Harry Met Sally toSaturday Night Live?Then I saw J.J. Abrams’ name… my curiosity was piqued. Would this new show send my brain into a tailspin likeLost?Would there be a sense of fragile innocence that wrapped around the main characters like in Felicity? Would action sequences be present and be as taut as they were in Alias?

I rushed through my work that day, feverishly typing away. I banished
the children to the living room — “Please let me Mommy work quietly,
okay?” They looked at me and laughed suspiciously as they ran from my
office. I slept with one eye open that night.

7.59 PM. I pushed my office chair away from the desk and tripped
across school uniforms, railroad tracks, and a lonely stuffed squid. I
ran down our small hallway and plopped myself onto the sofa, clearing
away toys and pillows. I yelled over to the husband, “It’s about to
start!” I quieted the kids as they walked glumly into their room. I sat
back, gripping the throw blanket in my fists. Was
I going to regret wasting the next hour and a half of my life or was I
going to joyfully succumb to another J.J. Abrams masterpiece?

Fringe was explosive from the beginning. A stormy night, an
international flight out of Hamburg — you’re bound to elicit screams —
deteriorating skin and vomitous (is this a word or did I just imagine
it?) projectile. Nice.

Anna Torv, the Australian actress portraying protagonist and FBI
agent Olivia Dunham, looks eerily like Cate Blanchett. I didn’t want to
like her, but there was something, for lack of a better word, intriguing
about her. There’s a desperation and imbalance that wraps around her
and it’s… seductive.

I was surprised to see Pacey from Dawson’s Creek. I didn’t
want to like Joshua Jackson and his Peter Bishop character either, and I
thought my wish was coming true. He was abrupt, brash, and was given
these one-liner’s that perhaps were meant to break-up the pace or
tension in a scene, but it was getting downright annoying. But he
softened a little 3/4 of the way into the show. He’s matured quite a lot
since his Dawson days. Handsome, brooding, gritty, speculative; the
jury is still out on him, but I’m sure I’ll be won over after a few
episodes.

Jack Deveraux from the ever corrupt world ofDays of Our Lives also makes a home onFringe. I was crushing on Mark Valley when he was on Days back in the mid and late 90s. Didn’t I see him in a trailer for Swingtown on CBS? Hmmm… anyway, he was mysterious on the premiere show and I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him.

The return ofThe Days and Nights of Molly Dodd? I was
excited to see the wonderful Blair Brown in the role of Nina Sharp, a
powerful woman who may be on the dark side. I can’t wait to see what
cards she holds in her hands.

The mesmerizing Lance Reddick from HBO’s The Wire portrays
Phillip Broyles, a Homeland Security agent whose determination to figure
out “The Pattern” causes him to choose Agent Dunham for his team.
There’s something more to Agent Broyles than what I’ve seen in the first
few episodes. What’s his relationship with Nina Sharp? Does he know
more than he’s letting on?

The first episode was brimming with science, action, romance, deception. I was fighting the appeal, but just barely.

Since that first episode, the husband and I have eagerly awaited each new Fringe show. It’s definitely unique, although I can’t help run correlations to House at times with Fringe’s
slew of medical mysteries. Of course, these mysteries are compounded by
underlying perplexities that the audience catches a glimpse of in every
episode. It’s difficult to ignore the intrigue. Who is the man with no
eyebrows? What is the mysterious missile-looking object that burrows
itself into the ground? What is “the Pattern” that shows up in every
episode?

I found John Noble’s pivotal character of Dr. Walter Bishop a bit
unwieldy at first. There was too much to focus on — Dr. Bishop is a
brilliant scientist, but his mind has fogged because of a 17-year stay
in a mental institution following the death of an assistant. Yet,
throughout the first episode, we see an inkling of Dr. Bishop’s gifted
mind. Each episode has been linked directly to Dr. Bishop’s past
scientific experiments and it is this past that engages us.After a few
episodes, Noble’s character is more concrete and I feel more comfortable
watching him.

The show’s title is based on fringe science, science that is outside
the mainstream and is highly speculative such as research and studies
about ESP, mind-manipulation, and the power of prayer over sickness.
Just like this definition, Fringe is outside the mainstream of any show that is currently on television right now.

I’ve been reeled in by the show’s intricate characters. I want to
know everything about them — why are they the way they are now? What
motivates them to find answers besides the obvious curiosity — is it for
the recognition of an absent father, the agony of knowing that someone
you loved has betrayed you in ways that you did not think possible? The
characters all have an agenda, but to what end? There are conspiracies
at work within the show that weave the characters’ lives together.
Watching Fringe is like laying in your bed at night and staring
at your closet that is slightly ajar — is there actually something in
there to frighten you or is it just a figment of your imagination?

CouldFringe be better than my belovedX-Files?
Could I ever escape trying to find parallels between these shows? As I
sit here contemplating these silly questions, I realize it doesn’t
matter. You can feel Abram’s obvious influences from television shows of
the past, butFringe is tantalizing and unique. It can stand on its own.

Touché, Abrams. Touché.

FRINGE, Tuesdays on FOX at 9PM

GRADE: B+ (this grade would be higher, but with Abrams’ past shows,
the characters became more developed and the writing got even stronger
as the season continued. I know Fringe will take this same path and I’ll probably give it an A+ by the end of the season).

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