Olivia Dunham - Anna Torv
Peter Bishop - Joshua Jackson
Walter Bishop - John Noble
Phillip Broyles - Lance Reddick
Charlie Francis - Kirk Acevedo
Astrid Farnsworth - Jasika Nicole
Nina Sharp - Blair Brown
OTHER FRINGE SEASONS
OTHER JJ ABRAMS SHOWS
OTHER PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS
Strange things are happening in the world and they are all part of some 'pattern' that is being weaved around the cutting edge science corporation known as Massive Dynamic. Agent Olivia Dunham is recruited to help stop these occurrences, but in turn needs to recruit brilliant, but unstable, scientist Walter Bishop. The only way to do that is through his street smart son Peter. This unlikely trio set about making the world a safer place from mad scientists all over the place.
FRINGE would like to be THE X-FILES. It would certainly like to be as successful. That, though is unlikely. Whilst the structure is similar (outsider FBI agent with personal connections to the unknown investigates the unknown with some odd partners) it takes the coldness of its approach to the extreme, right down to the individual characters. The streets may be grey and colourless and covered in snow, but so are the people. That's not to say that the actors are bad, but the characters are cold, impenetrable. Walter is likeably scatty it's true, but everyone else is like a block of ice, something that is a bit of a hurdle with gaining audience empathy.
There's a series mythology that is there from the very start, a plot arc to be followed, a Nemesis that pops up from time to time, a 'virus of the week' format that is relied upon too heavily and a sense of artifice, of being played with, that doesn't exist in other shows.
FRINGE is a cerebral show, rather than a show with heart and that is a bit of a problem when it's not as clever as it thinks it is. The effects are sometimes gruesome and realistic, but the documentary style falls foul of seemingly silly leaps such as werewolf monster things on airplanes.
Producer JJ Abrams' star is in the ascent just at the moment, so this show is going to get a showing, but there are others out there that were better, more rewarding and just more damned likeable.
A commercial flight from Germany to the USA comes in on automatic pilot because there is no-one left alive aboard. There is,in fact, nobody left that is more than bones. As the investigation swings into action, Agent Olivia Dunham and her lover come across the culprit, but an explosion sees her partner hospital and slowly turning translucent. Her only hope of saving his life lies with a brilliant, but institutionalised scientist. To get to him, she is going to have to go through his son, a man who wants nothing to do with it at all.
From the team that brought you LOST comes FRINGE, a new show that is based around the cutting edges of the scientific frontier and possibly a bit beyond. It's basically the X-FILES with a bit more of the science and less of the police work.
This opening episode is, in fact, a whole mishmash of influences (for which read 'steals') from other places. The opening (airliner in trouble) is very similar to LOST; there are shades of OUTBREAK in the animal testing and the disease (actually an artificial compound rather than a virus) and the whole mind-linking immersion tank is a direct nod to ALTERED STATES (not to mention the presence of Blair Brown on the cast list). The hints of a bigger 'pattern' to all of this is also all very MILLENNIUM.
The special effects of people basically melting or simply fading are well done and gory enough to suggest that those of a more squeamish nature might want to give it a miss.
That said, it is all put together very slickly and the speed with which the story races along helps to keep the mind from some of the more gaping plot contrivances (yes the compound does kill everyone on the plane in minutes, but the agent takes days and days to merely turn translucent, the mad professor can get a lab that has been disused for 17 years up and running in a matter of hours and all of his mind transfer equipment appears to have just been left lying around etc). As this is the opening episode it has to contend with getting the characters and backstories in place, so there's all that as well as the actual investigation plot. Future episodes might settle down.
The performances are all pretty good with John Noble getting the flashy 'look at me, I'm only one pace away from madness' role.
The pilot was solidly entertaining, with hints of a bigger picture to be strung out, but only time will tell if this can challenge its obvious progenitor.Written by JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Alex Graves
A woman gets picked up in a bar and four hours afterwards she has become pregnant and died in childbirth to a child that ages and dies at an impossible rate. Olivia and the Bishops start to investigate, but she recognises the work of a serial killer that she chased unsuccessfully with her dead lover. In order to track him down this time they are going to have to read the images printed on the retina of the latest dead woman.
This starts off with a shockingly good opening as the woman is instantly pregnant, and then in labour and then dead all in the space of a couple of minutes. It's not the kind of thing that heavily pregnant women might want to be watching.
After this, though, it goes a bit flat. The case originates in some of Walter's early work and we're already wondering if he is actually responsible for all the ills of the world. Surely there's someone bad out there that he didn't do dodgy science with. Add to this the wholly unnecessary connection with Olivia through an old case and there's a sense of the writers trying too hard to make it personal. It doesn't need that and would be better without it.
The gore quotient is noticeably high with a bloody caesarian section, some home surgery through the gums into the brain and something that will have anyone with a sensitivity to anyone getting near to the eyes running screaming from the room. It's not overdone, but not shied away from either.Written by JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner and Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Paul A Edwards
A bus full of passengers are discovered frozen in an artificial crystalline structure, frozen in the moment of their death. This attack was seen in the mind of young man who was once experimented on by Walter who hypothesises that the man is picking up on a ghost network, a telecommunications system using telepathic wavelengths to carry ultra-secret information. By tapping into the man's brain, they might be able to find out what is being discussed over the ghost network and why the bus was attacked.
The initial attack on the bus is surprising and a whole lot less gory than the two that have gone before it, but the pattern for the show is beginning to emerge. There is an attack, the investigation reveals links to both Massive Dynamics and some early work by Dr Bishop. He comes up with some old theory and some old piece of equipment and manages to avert disaster just in time. The consistent linking back to both Massive Dynamic and to Walter's early experiments stretches disbelief unecessarily where a few unrelated cases might serve to break that up a bit.
As for the rest, it's still slick, fast-paced and with occasional nods to a bigger picture that is being deliberately hinted at, but never shown.Written by JR Orci and David H Goodman
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
A strange cylinder appears from under the ground at the cost of a crane and two lives. This is the second time such a cylinder has arrived on the surface, the last one exploding. Olivia identifies a man with no hair and no eyebrows who has been seen at many of the icidents that the FBI have investigated. They know him as the Observer. He never gets involved, merely watches. There is someone else, however, who is trying to get hold of the cylinder and Walter takes drastic measures to prevent that, putting the life of his son in danger.
The presence of JJ Abrams' name on the script explains this episode completely. Like his previous show LOST, this introduces a whole host of questions and hints of an overarching structure, but refuses to give any answers whatsoever. What is the cylinder? Someone calls it a beacon, but we learn nothing more. Who is the Observer? We learn nothing about him other than his eating habits are alien and he doesn't mind the cold. Who does the man work for who tortures his way to finding the cylinder? His name is given, but no other clue.
Mystery can be fascinating (as LOST has proven), but can also be confusing, annoying and alienate whole audiences (LOST again) when used too much and with no answers given at all. The plot is muddled and messy and, apart from setting up all the questions, more irritating than anything else.Written by Jeff Pinkner and JJ Abrams
Directed by Paul A. Edwards
A mail man who answered an ad for people who wanted to tap their inner abilities finds that electrical items go haywire around him when he gets upset. This results in a broken lift full of electrocuted people, a mother with a dead pacemaker and a boss without a hand. The team are called in to find him before the man who made him does and Walter determines that the best way to do that is to with pigeons.
Not so much a 'whodunnit' (since we saw 'whodunnit') as a 'will they catch him'. It could have been a police procedural then, except that Olivia's shady boss comes up with all the answers from old case files and a two minute bit of exposition. Olivia's too busy as it is with visions of her dead boyfriend that might be telling her things that hallucinations couldn't possibly know.
After an excellent set up leading to an impressive lift crash, this episode goes off the rails and doesn't come up with anything new or exciting.Written by Julia Cho and Jason Cahill
Directed by Christopher Misiano
A woman walks into a diner and minutes later the entire clientele are dead and her head has exploded. It seems that she was recently cured of a supposedly incurable disease, but someone has found a way to turn the cure into a devastating weapon. Agent Dunham follows the trail to the head of a huge pharamceutical research company who is deemed to be almost untouchable without direct proof. Peter strikes a deal with the devil to get her that proof.
Once again there's an impressive (in this case literally mind-blowing) opening that descends into a by the numbers detective case involving home cures, dodgy doctors and demonic drug companies. It's nothing new and not even very exciting, even with a woman's life hanging in the balance (the last minute attempt to save her with a syringe as the radiation levels spike is effective though).
The main problem with the show here is, as before, the need to play up 'the pattern', the underlying mystery of the series, adding in the fact that Olivia's father is a mad stalker and Peter is now indebted to the mysterious head of Global Dynamics. It's distracting and going nowhere, so it should be allowed to rest from time to time.Written by Brad Caleb Kane and Felicia D. Henderson
Directed by Bill Eagles
An FBI agent collapses with heart problems, but when his chest is opened up a strange parasite is found wrapped around his heart. Clues lead back to a mysterious Mr Jones, being held in prison in Germany. Fortunately, Olivia has an old flame living there with the influence to get her in to see him. Mr Jones, however, will only speak to her after getting the answer to a question from a certain Mr Smith - the same Mr Smith who has been shot in the head by the FBI.
The good and the bad things about FRINGE all wrapped up in a single episode. There is good playing by the actors and the pace is breakneck throughout, starting with an opening that will have anyone who isn't keen on operation footage squirming in their seats. This is countered, however, by the rather silly science stuff (having a conversation with a dead man's brain is pushing the envelope, but doing it after said brain has been drilled by a bullet tears the envelope into shreds and then burns it). There is also a resurgence in the mystery element that has plagued the series since the start with the very title suggesting that Mr Jones will be returning and will be far more important in future, not to mention other developments towards the end.
FRINGE should have been allowed the time to establish its central premise and characters before the 'pattern' and conspiracy stuff came into play.Written by Jeff Pinkner and JJ Abrams
Directed by Brad Anderson
A young musical prodigy is kidnapped by a woman using a strange hypnotic device. The MO fits a series of other kidnappings, all involving geniuses. One of those turns out to be a friend of Walter's from his time in the asylum. Walter volunteers to go back to find out what information he can and comes under the heavy-handed 'care' of the asylum director once more.
Very much a police procedural with very little in terms of the fantastic, this has very little to recommend it over the many other police dramas that cram the airwaves. Walter's return to the asylum is excellently played by John Noble and for the first time we start to see real bonds of affection coming from his son, but it's all just a search for a kidnapped child. We've seen it before and we've seen it better.Written by David H. Goodman and JR Orci
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
A rising executive at Massive Dynamic dies after believing himself to be torn apart by butterflies with sharp-edge wings. This is due to a hallucinogenic that actually makes the body create what the mind believes it is seeing. The only clue lies in Olivia's vision of her dead lover, so she decides to go back into the sensory deprivation tank to try and rid herself of the memories she shared.
The pattern for the show seems to be set with an intriguing opening that settles down into a straightforward police procedural with just a few hints of dodgy science thrown in to justify its science fiction tag. In this episode the police procedural takes more of a back seat as Olivia tries to root out the memories in her head to crack the case. This means that the plot meanders around a lot getting nowhere and with no real threat or urgency.
The characters remain resolutely unlikeable and as a result the show is failing to capture our sympathies.Written by Zack Whedon and Julia Cho
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
A series of robberies comes to an end when a thief is found embedded into a solid wall. Fortunately, Agent Dunham recognises the man and is able to track down his wife. Unfortunately, the memories turn out not to be her own. The locked boxes that are being stolen turn out to be Walter's and contain parts to a machine that can take anyone from anywhere, which proves to be of use to an old adversary.
FRINGE goes into its mid-season break on a cliffhanger with Agent Dunham kidnapped and a prisoner escaped, but we're finding it too hard to care. Whether it's the frosty characters, the cold plotting or the chilly direction is hard to say, but we just can't warm to the show. Even this episode, which brings together some of the disparate elements that have gone before, fails to raise any excitement. Perhaps the break will do the show good and it will come back with something that we can connect to more.Written by David H. Goodman and Jason Cahill
Directed by Michael Zinberg
Olivia manages to escape from her abductors only to find herself under investigation by a man deciding whether her whole operation should be shut down, a man she once got convicted on sexual assault charges. That's on the back burner, however, as the deaths of two virologists from what appear to be giant viruses point towards double agents in the organisation.
OK, even if the idea of viruses the size cats able to race around outside of their hosts and incubating from eggs too small to see to the aforementioned cat size in seconds wasn't beyond the realms of any sort of belief it really wouldn't matter as this has nothing to do with the main thrust of the plot, which is the discovery of yet another double agent in the organisation. This is mainly managed through normal policing techniques (and one illegal wire tap) whilst the giant virus thing provides no information to move the plot forward at all.
The character of Peter is beginning to warm up a little, but even the introduction of Olivia's sister and niece (sure to be put in danger sometime real soon) fails to defrost her character.Written by Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman and J.J. Abrams
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
A young man's brain is completely liquefied by a transmission that he receives over the internet. Olivia and the team swing into action to trace the source as more bodies start to come to light.
The opening of this episode combines both RINGU and VIDEODROME with no attempt to hide those influences (or direct steals). That aside, this is a straightforward police procedural with very little to mark it out from any other. It's slick and professional, but with a hollow emotional centre.
The actors are completely at home with their characters now, but those remain chilly and aloof.Written by David H. Goodman
Directed by Brad Caleb Kane
A passenger aboard an airliner turns into a raging beast and causes the plane to crash. Olivia realises that she knows the man through one of her dead lover's memories and tracks down the monster's partner. He, too, is going to change, so he directs the agents to an arranged buy of the virus responsible, but not before Olivia has to face her lover one last time to get at the truth.
Although it is dealing with rather bizarre and often unbelievable subjects, the near documentary style of FRINGE has been carefully cultivated. That is shattered by the sight of a man turning into a poorly CGI'd werewolf-cum-hedgehog monster. Disbelief can only be suspended so high.
Beyond that, the story is sharp and takes a number of left turns to get back to the beginning, finally giving Olivia the truth about her dead lover and some closure following his death.Written by Zack Whedon and JR Orci
Directed by Brad Caleb Kane
A man dies a horrible death, suffocating when his body generates scar tissue over all his orifices, cutting off his breathing. This is a gift from Mr Jones, who wants to test Olivia Dunham for some kind of ability. The ability may be connected to an old book that predicts the end of the world through technological means.
This episode sees the return of Mr Jones (In Which We Meet Mr Jones and Safe), an unbearably smug bad guy who has a thing for agent Dunham and appears to be dying of the aftereffects of being 'beamed' out of german prison. His aim, apparently, is to persuade Olivia to join with an organisation of 'warriors' who fight against the prophecy contained in a rare book and his method of doing this is by threatening the city with horrible death unless she can manifest the power he believes is within her.
The book is the real interest in this episode as it appears to be revealing some of the plot arc background to the show's mythology. Beings are moving from dimension to dimension and there will soon be a war between these beings that will lead to the destruction of all but one Earth. This book, it appears, may have been written by Walter Bishop. Olivia has had her mind expanded (or stopped from contracting) by a drug test when she was young. This is all fascinating stuff and makes both the episode and the show all that much more compelling than the 'evil conglomerate plan of the week' format it was falling into.
It also doesn't hurt that Mr Jones is busy being in pain the whole time, making him a loss less smug than previously. What is not so good is the fact that the threat comes once again from a virus. There have been so many viruses that it's starting to get repetitive and is there anything that a virus can't be engineered to do? Can't someone engineer a virus to put the kettle on in a morning? The actual death scenes, though, are fairly gruesome, which is par for the course for the show.Written by Robert Chiappetta, Glen Whitman and David H. Goodman
Directed by Norbeto Barba
A boy is found locked away in a sealed cellar compartment of a building about to be demolished. He has apparently never seen light, lived in an oxygen deprived atmosphere, eaten whatever he could find such as rats and bugs and has never spoken. Despite all that, he appears healthy(ish) and he exhibits the power to give clues as to the whereabouts and activities of a serial killer known only as the artist. The government want to take him away, but Olivia has made a connection with the boy and wants to exploit that to catch the killer.
This is a gently intriguing mystery that throws some light onto the frustrated mother in Olivia Dunham, but the serial killer side of things is pure police procedural of the kind that we've seen thousands of time by now. Anna Torv almost breaks through her glacial reserve to express a connection with the boy, but it's only because he himself is so utterly reserved that any sort of relationship can be inferred.
It is suggested early on that the boy is something special, something that the government want to get their hands on, but it is only at the end that his potential real identity (see The Arrival for spoiler) is revealed.Written by Julia Cho and Caleb Kane
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
Animal rights protestors break into a lab in order to free the animals there. In doing so, they free something that they really shouldn't have, something very genetically modified and very deadly. Not only does it kill, but its sting impregnates victims with thousands of larvae which eat their way out of the host and Olivia's best friend has just been stung.
One of the problems with FRINGE is its coldly documentary style, something that it's cribbed from cop shows like THE WIRE. The style itself is fine, but when it comes up against something as outlandish as a lion/snake/bat monster the two don't sit together all that well. At least this episode has the good sense to keep the creature mostly out of sight, but glimpses of the giant tail are enough to make the suspension of disbelief wobble all over the place.
One place where it does score is in the depiction of its life cycle and anyone who has a phobia of maggots (or even just doesn't like them) needs to keep a long way away from this episode.Written by Zack Whedon and JR Orci
Directed by Brad Anderson
Agent Dunham is suffering from some very bad dreams. In the latest, she shoves a young mother off a station platform under a train. When the woman she dreamed about turns up dead, suicide in front of an underground train, Olivia starts to freak out. She immediately sets out to learn whether she is killing people or whether someone else is killing them and forcing her to watch.
Only three weeks after Olivia found out that she has special talents as a result of drugs testing in her childhood she is haunted by the actions of someone who also undertook those drug trials, trials that were carried out by Walter Bishop, something that it is taking his son Peter an awful long time to figure out. The shape of the conspiracy is becoming clear. Walter Bishop was involved in the formation of the ZFT in order to create warriors who could fight back against an invasion that would happen once the parallel worlds started to collapse into only one. Olivia Dunham was to be one of those children.
Quite aside from the emerging arc plot, this episode is one of the better ones thanks to the fact that it manages to break through the ice cold exterior and reveal the inner workings of Agent Dunham. We get to see her tired, rattled, fearful and angry. In short, she actually turns into a human being for an episode, well almost anyway. FRINGE remains a work of the intellect rather than of the heart, ironic considering that this story is all about someone whose emotions are contagious.Written by Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Someone is killng people, biting open their necks and ripping their spines out. Walter discovers that they are also removing the spinal fluid of the victims. Olivia tracks down a scientist who knows the identity of the killer and also a lot about the terrorist organisation responsible for everything that's been going on. He, however, is as much a victim as they are and offers to tell what he knows in exchange for their help.
A killer with enormous strength, suddenly sharp but all too human teeth and a taste for human spinal fluid? How could this happen? Yes, you've guessed it - another virus. This episode takes its lead from the film SPECIES with an alienesque killer roaming the nightclubs in search of a human to feed on, using her sexuality to get what she craves. It's hardly original in anything other than the information that they get regarding the ZFT, information that moves the plot arc on by one step.
Otherwise, it is quite ordinary. Gory effects on the shattered spines though.Written by JH Wyman and Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by Bobby Roth
A woman in New York spontaneously combusts, but Olivia Dunham sees two bodies at the scene. She has a conversation with her boss that never took place. Walter theorises that she is getting visions of an alternate reality. Using what she can see there, she manages to solve the case, but what wider meaning do the visions have for her?
The story, person bursting into flames notwithstanding, is police procedural with a political angle. The unlikeable boss proves to be even more sinister and involved than previously intimated, something that comes as nothing of a surprise. He meets his deserved end, but it doesn't serve as a climax to the episode which sort of just winds down from there.
The highlight is the encounter with a website owner who turns out to believe that STAR TREK is real and spills the beans on the premise of the new STAR TREK movie. This was possibly transmitted in the US prior to the release of the film and is therefore a big in joke, or after the show in wich case it is blatant product placement.Written by Akiva Goldsman and JR Orci and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
Nina Sharp of Massive Dynamic is attacked and a powerful power source is removed from within her artificial arm. This is now in the hands of Mr Jones who plans to use it to open a portal to another world in search of William Bell, head of Massive Dynamic. Walter Bishop has the key to stopping him, but can't remember where it is and is now in the company of the mysterious Observer.
The series finale and it is something of a let down. The plot is just the same as many of the others, a police procedural show with a sci-fi mcguffin, in this case a machine that opens a portal to another world. The pursuit of Mr Jones isn't exactly edge of the seat stuff and the climax is somewhat subdued. That Mr Jones' motivations come down to a bad case of 'Daddy look at me' is very poor.
It's the subplots that save it. The secret that Walter Bishop is keeping from his son is a big one, but is slightly pre-empted before the big reveal. It could be the key to what tipped him over the edge into mental instability in the first place, the guilt.
And then there's Mr Bell, a cameo from Mr Leonard Nimoy himself (presaged by the conversation in The Road Not Taken when the website owner referred to himself as the son of Sarek, or Mr Spock). It's a neat twist if you don't read the opening credits, but it is a brave closing shot to show that he is stood in one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in a world where 9/11 never happened.Written by Akiva Goldsman, Brian Burk, JH Wyman and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Brad Anderson
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