Season One, Episode Eight
Airdate: November 18th, 2008
In some ways, I think that Lost is not going to do J.J. Abrams any favours.
Sure, having his name attached to the show got him a great deal of critical acclaim, and his new status as a household name has allowed him to reap considerable career advancement considering this summer’s upcoming release of his Star Trek reboot. But Lost has long ceased being Abrams’ show, and his calling card has never quite been the highly mythological science fiction that that show has become.
I’ve written a lot about Fringe, primarily because there was a lot of misconceptions going in and a lot of misconceptions as it aired. This show isn’t Lost, having more in common with Abrams’ work on Alias than anything on his more recent series. The show has been dangerously procedural, largely devoid of a deep bench of interesting characters, and oftentimes feeling as if its mythology is more contrivance than intrigue. So for those who were expecting a highly serialized, character driven, mythologically interesting drama series ala Lost…well, you’re somewhat out of luck.
But for those who had their expectations in line, I believe that Fringe has delivered a very solid start to the season: towards the end of the ten episodes which aired this Fall, the show picked up both its episodic and long-term content to an honestly quite thrilling conclusion. The pieces began to fit together, and what once felt like part of a broad and shadowy conspiracy now felt like a real honest to goodness plan.
And for me, that starts with “The Equation,” a taut thriller of an episode that was extremely atmospheric: a series of disappearances, all very sudden and all with victims who were some type of genius in their chosen field, are linked together to an equation, the solution to which remains unknown. Placing a young musical genius at the heart of the story, we discover two things.
First, we discover that Michael Giacchino, who had been phoning it in for the preceding episodes in the series, is still capable of writing haunting and moving music, as the central composition of the equation is the perfect melody for the episode.
Second, we realize that what Abrams has achieved with Fringe is his attempt at taking what he learned from Alias, in particular the attempt to add procedural elements to the show to appeal to new viewers, and put it to good use. Knowing now that vagueness is not something which can stand on its own as dramatic development, the season uses it instead to allow us to discover the truth as our characters do.
Yes, the show’s characters need work, and yes they need to diversify their solutions more, but I don’t think the time capsule needs to hear about all of that junk: “The Equation” is serialized procedural at its finest, and reminds us of how much potential this show really has as it heads into the rest of its first season.
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