February 10th, 2009
If there was ever any question about which J.J. Abrams show Fringe was trying to be, “Ability” sealed the deal.
For those who didn’t have the pleasure of seeing Abrams’ second major foray into television, Alias, this episode played out much like that series. At a certain point, Sydney Bristow walked into a residence during a mission (serving as a spy) and saw a puzzle lying scattered on a table. Within a few seconds, she was suddenly (and subconsciously) completing the puzzle before her, instinctively creating the tower that the pieces created. While I won’t spoil the actual reason why Sydney was able to complete the task, let’s just say that it was some sort of test project, and that there was a reason why she became a spy.
Ultimately, “Ability” is trying to do the same for Olivia Dunham, giving her a reason to be so intricately linked to this mysterious scientific conspiracy that is currently unfolding. Catapulting the mysterious and creepy Mr. Jones back into our main narrative, we learn some very important things in this episode, things that will go a very long way to allowing the series (upon its return in April) to expand into ideas that have laid dormant since the pilot or have yet to even be uncovered. The result is, if not the cleanest episode since the show first entered into this type of territory with “The Arrival,” then certainly the one that has felt the most expansive.
December 2nd, 2008
I wrote a piece a few weeks ago wherein I talked about the gradual serialization that was causing some viewers of one of the season’s successful demo hits; Fringe may be from J.J. Abrams, but it was taking a lot longer to feel like it was capable of rising to the scale of the shows we most often associate with Abrams (Alias, Lost). I argued at the time that this was part of the appeal, that it was designed (as will be Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse) to appeal to two different sectors of viewers.
Well, I’d tend to argue that between last week’s solid “The Dreamscape” and the quite eventful and entertaining “The Safe,” Fringe has officially entered into the next phase of its serialization. Picking up, really, where “The Equation” left off, this episode felt like vintage Alias. It put together pieces that we didn’t know were pieces, brought various recurring characters into one central location, and revealed that our charisma-less heroine is more central to the series’ biggest questions than we realized.
What we got, finally, is an episode that felt meaningful: where the science was being used not to terrorize but to disrupt, and where both our characters and the conspiracy took on new roles that will lead to a better series once the show returns in January.
“In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”
November 11th, 2008
I don’t think that anyone could actually be addicted to Fringe at this point, to be honest: while Abrams’ last show, Lost, became this massive sensation, there is nothing sensational about Fringe, as evidenced by this week’s episode, the first new one in three weeks. This is not to say that this episode is bad – on the contrary, it was actually one of the more memorable episodes for a few characters – but rather that it feels as if it is operating at a near glacial pace.
The episode is one of the most expansive: when Fringe science pops up on the FBI’s doorstep, solving this individual mystery unlocks the secret to something much bigger, opening up this world to new scientific terror cells organized as “ZFT.” Really, this is nothing new for a procedural: you take what you’ve been doing all along, solving crazy scientific mysteries like this week’s pirahna plant organism eating away the FBI agent’s insides, and suddenly make solving them about more than an individual life and more about driving our heroes to search out new questions, new answers.
But the show has, honestly, been extremely slow with answers: we might only be 7 episodes in, but things like character dynamics and organizational terror-like cells are the types of things that might have been useful earlier. There were questions early about whether or not the show could last very long, but they insisted they had a plan: is there plan, however, just to move really slowly in opening up this world? This wasn’t a bad episode in execution or in design, but there was a point where Broyles was ranting about Olivia being stubborn in wanting to control what can’t be controlled, contained what can’t be contained that stuck with me. It felt like Abrams was telling me not to ask questions, not to want more out of this show.
And while I’m willing to be patient, I do think that the eponymous Mr. Jones has some potential, and forgive me for hoping that we’ll see it sooner rather than later.