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.
“The Same Old Story”
September 16th, 2008
“Would you just talk like a person?”
Peter Bishop asks his father this question at the halfway point of Fringe’s second episode, and I couldn’t agree more: except that I’d apply this to Peter, and Olivia and just about every other character on the show. Because at this point, it seems like nothing that happens in Fringe is something that would happen to people, and that nothing they say seems to make any sense to anyone but the crazy person who created it all, in theory, seventeen years previous.
In the show’s pilot, this felt like an introduction into a new world, a world where things would be different and where mysteries would take on new contexts. However, what “The Same Old Story” offers is…the same old serial killer story, just with some fairly gimmicky applications of the fringe science the show is hinging its success on. Now, you could say that this is nothing new: The X-Files was essentially the same process, and Alias was your normal spy-type show but with Rambaldi’s artifacts as the reason behind the missions.
But Fringe buys into its own hype: too often the music bombasts to the point of self-indulgence, the characters talk about their own intelligence in a way that feels entirely unnatural, and the episode’s attempt at creating an emotional connection between Olivia and this week’s case is ultimately undermined by our lack of time spent with these characters in such a context.
More importantly, though, there was absolutely nothing fun about Fringe – the charm of the characters were either forced or so overpowered by the impending dread that the show never had a chance to breathe. The result is an episode that felt overlong, overtired, and an example of a show that still has me wondering just how this will turn into a series…or, even if the parts are present, wondering whether Orci and Kurtzman have the smarts to put it all together.