Bishop was rescued from an asylum by FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Torv) in the first episode, when evidence in her first assignment for the FBI's "Fringe Squad" led to experiments Bishop had performed in the 70's. Torv is an unlikely star. Attractive, but not beautiful in the classic sense, she plays Olivia with a combination of quiet strength and emotional vulnerability that few other actresses her age could pull off. And as her character has progressed, so has my liking of her. I'm looking forward to seeing where the character goes.
Dunham's polar opposite, Peter Bishop (equally brilliant, though criminally bent son of Walter) is played by Joshua Jackson, best known as Pacey from the teen soap, "Dawson's Creek." Jackson plays Peter as a wise-cracking sceptic, constantly annoyed and amazed by his father, and probably falling in love with Olivia. It's good to see him stretch his acting chops here, and his character's shady back story has only just been hinted at. I can't wait to learn more about Peter's unsavory past and see where his relationship with Olivia is headed.
Then there is the ghost of Olivia's fiance, John, played by the ruggedly handsome Mark Valley ("Boston Legal"). Killed in the first episode, John's memories were accidentally implanted in Olivia's brain (a long story) during one of Bishop's mad experiments. John shows up, enigmatically supplying clues and information when Olivia needs it most, though no one can see him but her. And apparently, John was part of the "The Pattern" (I'll get to that in a minute). What she doesn't know is that John is being kept alive artificially, by the possibly evil corporation Massive Dynamics ("What do we do? What don't we do?"), which was founded by Walter's old partner, an as yet unseen scientific genius. MD is represented by Nina Sharp (the incomparable Blair Brown), who is apparently bionic and possibly even more evil than MD itself. Nina has secrets galore and info on just about anyone she wants to have info on. Massive Dynamics wants to retrieve John's memories for themselves, though to what end, we don't know.
You should know that everything that happens on the show is connected to a vast conspiracy known as "The Pattern," though no one is sure who (or what) is at the center of it all, or what it all may lead to.
Confused? You wouldn't be, if you watched. Well... maybe a little. But then, that's half the fun of a conspiracy show. And all the fun of a JJ Abrams show (any "Lost" fans out there?). Unlike "The X-Files," which often delved into the supernatural, "Fringe" is pure sci-fi, through and through. And like "The X-Files," it has a grand conspiracy plot at its center (albeit one slightly less confusing). And like every great sci-fi show, "Fringe" is just plain fun. And my favorite new show of the '08-'09 season. "Fringe" airs on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00 PM. **** (Four out four stars)