Finally, after too long a wait, Fringe has made its way back to Fox. It has a better night and time (for ratings) than it did last season. Even though Fox cut episode length by a few minutes this season by putting in standard commercial breaks instead of the abbreviated ones I loved last season, I don’t think very much will be lost.
I had intended to have write-ups about each new episode individually, but time has gotten away from me once again, and I was unable to watch the season premier until a couple of night’s ago. With the second episode airing last night, I figured I would just consolidate the posts.
“A New Day in the Old Town” – 2×01
Maybe I went in expecting too much. I don’t know. But after having so many people tell me how wonderful the first episode of Season 2 was, I went in with incredibly high hopes. And I was let down. But only a little. It was one of those “I expected better out of you” moments. I feel like a parent, and I want to sit down little Fringe and have the “I love you, but I’m disappointed in you because you knew better” speech.
First, the whole premise of “A New Day in the Old Town” is a cliché that I really wish shows like this would move past. Not only that, it’s a cliché that I thought shows like this had moved past. It worked once upon a time to make viewers think that the protagonist was dead, only to have him/her spring to life after a brief but decidedly tense hospital stay. However,in the day and age where promotions run months before series start, social media helps actors stay in touch with fans, and we see promo clips of the season prior to the premier with the protagonist alive, please don’t act like Olivia died in that car crash. We know better. It’s insulting. The only reason to ever do this is if the creators have the gumption to actually kill the protagonist. Then it means something.
Also, the tried, true, and boring-as-hell “the government is closing down your division because of lack of results” storyline is equally blasé. Here’s the problem with this plot device: if it works, the show is cancelled. So if the plot carries on for any period of time at all, it is wasted time. Fringe division cannot be shut down because without it, there is no Fringe. It’s the same reason that Mulder and Scully were never reassigned for more than half a season on The X-Files. The show must have a premise, so the mechanic through which tension is built is undermined before it ever has a chance to take hold and resonate with the audience. We can see right through it. It means nothing.
The one thing I do like about Broyles having to go to a hearing about Fringe division being shut down is that it gives the presiding official a chance to mention “X designation” as being something the past that has gone through similar circumstances. I love when shows which pay homage to an earlier work integrate themselves into the same (or seemingly the same) universe. Also, yay for The X-Files references.
I’m not sure how I feel about the new female FBI agent. She has an air about her I haven’t been able to figure out yet. She could be a good addition to the cast, especially given that Charlie (Kirk Acevedo) is leaving, but I’m afraid that it’s one more step to have Fringe be more about the hot girls than the narrative (remember Seven of Nine or T’Pal?). I can see it, though, as the ensemble was a little male-heavy, what with Peter and Walter and Charlie and Broyles. The only female characters were Olivia’s sister, niece, and Astrid—and they were hardly leads like they seem to be making Ms. New FBI Agent. She has a little charisma, and she’s not too attractive to be unbelievable in her role. I’ll give her time. And her finding Bible verses to caption Fringe division cases? Is that a series theme (science interconnected with religion) or character development?
I knew Charlie was going to die. Kirk Acevedo mentioned on his Facebook page at the end of the previous season that he wasn’t going to be returning for his recurring role, so when the narrative took him to a place where danger was prevalent and there was something ambiguous going on, I was 100% sure he bit it before it was actually revealed. The situation was predictable anyway, but with the 4th wall being broken so easily and often, it’s hard to be surprised by that kind of revelation.
And I called it. In my review of the Fringe Season 1 finale, I said:
Fringe is one of those shows that never gives any information that will not be needed elsewhere, nor do they have filler scenes that hold no weight. In “There’s More Than One of Everything,” there is a scene near the end that very likely flew under many people’s radar. Olivia is driving toward meeting Nina to have her introduce William Bell. As she drives, a car nearly pulls out in front of Olivia, nearly causing an accident. Olivia swerves, the car brakes, and Olivia continues to her meeting with Nina no worse for the wear, just flustered. I think this particular scene happened in an alternate reality as well, except that in the alternate reality, Olivia was either severely injured or killed, thus throwing that reality out of whack. I can think of no other explanation for it because the scene has no bearing on anything else in the episode or in the greater scheme of the narrative. The creative team is too deliberate with Fringe to have a scene that means nothing. I expect Olivia’s near crash to play a part next season.
In no other reviews or postings I’ve read since the first season ended have I seen anyone make mention of Olivia’s near collision as anything but superfluous. I was really glad to see that Fringe’s creators live up to my assumption that—like LOST—there is never a meaningless detail.
Aside from those minor (?) quibbles, I really enjoyed 2×01. It was a pretty strong premier for a series that is still in the process of indoctrinating new viewers. But for some reason, the entire time I was watching “A New Day in the Old Town,” all I could think of were Jake’s words to Roland in The Gunslinger: “Go then. There are other worlds than these.” Apt, yes, but I’m not sure why they’re so prevalent.
“Night of Desirable Objects” 2×02
And then there’s the second episode of Season 2. I don’t have nearly as much to say about “Night of Desirable Objects” as I did about the premier because, frankly, it wasn’t as interesting or as good.
Unfortunately, while “A New Day in the Old Town” could be considered a Pattern episode, its followup is a Monster of the Week story. Very little of the mythos is explored in “Night of Desirable Objects,” and to me, I think it’s a bad way to start out the season. I figure that it’s Fox exerting control over the series in much the same way they exerted control over Firefly and Dollhouse. When will they learn that forced stand-alone episodes in a series based around serialized narrative hurts ratings rather than helps them? Let the series be what it is. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice, three times, and maybe a fourth, and I’m probable producing a show for Fox.
As soon as the episode started, I got a feeling in this episode of The X-Files episode “Home.” I know that the creators epitomize The X-Files as the best show ever, but that can only go so far before Fringe loses some of its original charm and identity. For a Monster of the Week episode, I found it—like last week—rather predictable, what with the rural setting, disgruntled older man with lab equipment, and all. I suppose I expect more out of a J.J. Abrams show after last season of Fringe and all of LOST. I even expect more out of Kurtzman and Orci after Star Trek.
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about TV and movie producers that make “sweaty” equate with “evil.” Once Charlie was killed in the premier, every scene with his imposter has him sweaty and unkempt when he was very clean-cut before. I figure it’s secret (read: obvious) TV language for “Hey, this is the bad guy. See how he’s unclean!” but it just insults the viewer because it works off the assumption we cannot figure out what happened on our own, nor can we remember from one episode to another that faux Charlie is a bad guy. Doppelgangers work best when they’re actually doppelgangers, not skeezy and unwashed.
The best part of the episode: we got to see more of the magic mirror/typewriter combo that allows the shifter to communicate between worlds. I get almost a Warehouse 13 vibe from these scenes, and I am really intrigued. Aside the obvious question of “who’s he writing to?” I wonder more about why we can’t see with whom he’s communicating. They keys move in the mirror without hands, and I wonder if it’s not something to do with the shifter communicating with himself using a weakened spot between universes where he exists as a single entity but in two dimensions experiencing two different realities simultaneously. I think my brain just exploded a little.
And lastly, one thing I really appreciated about 2×02 was how Peter and Walter have such visible chemistry as father and son. Joshua Jackson legitimately looked hurt tonight when talking about the fishing trip he never got to go on. And when John Noble asked if he could come along with Peter and his friend, there was real longing there. After the paternal revelations of “There’s More Than One of Everything,” my heart broke just a little because of seeing the two unite, finally, over something that may or may not have happened to those particular instances of Peter and Walter.
I look eagerly toward the rest of Fringe’s sophomore season. Often, an incredible first season can lead to a mediocre second season simply based on viewers’ expectations, but I don’t see that happening with Fringe. Sure, I have my reservations about the first two episodes, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and watching them. I’m interesting in finding out how William Bell and Olivia’s meeting played out, where Nina Sharp fits in all this, and just why Peter gave Broyles the technology for shifting that he did (mark my words: something’s up there). While I don’t think that Season 2 started out being nearly as strong as it could have been, I think it was a solid comeback for a much-awaited series.
What do you all think?