Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Fringe" - This Season's Best New Show

I just saw tonight's newest episode of J.J. Abrams' latest television show, "Fringe." Man, what a great show! I know there were nay-sayers at the beginning: "It's too much like 'X-files.'" "It's too confusing." "It's too weird." "I hate Anna Torv." "I hate Joshua Jackson." All of them, of course, were wrong. As the show has progressed and the mystery of "The Pattern" has deepened, I have gotten more and more hooked.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with John Noble's magnificent performance as Walter Bishop, a literally mad scientist who developed all kinds of insane projects for the government in the 60's and 70's. Noble is hilarious, compelling, charismatic and bat-shiat insane, all at the same time. You can tell he's having the time of his life in the role of a lifetime. Probably best known as Denethor in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Noble plays the most likable lunatic on the tube.

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)


Anonymous said...

I wanted to like Fringe but found it to unbelievable that a locked-up mad scientist could know so much all those years later but after reading your review, I might give it a second look. I have to add that I was never able to get into Battle Star - mostly because of the lamps on the tables and the regular clothes. Silly i know.

Prospero said...

I never got into "Battle Star," either. I am an avid "Torchwood" fan, though. Best LGBT Sci-Fi out there.

Anonymous said...

I love Dr Who and the Star Gate shows. I like Torchwood - especially Jon B but I can't love it - each character has betrayed or lost a moral fight and used alien technology. One character I can see but all of them? It diminishes their selection and mission to save the world and that really bothers me.

Prospero said...

Yes, but humans aren't exactly known for their moral integrity, are they? And be honest, if you could use alien technology for your own gain, be it personal, emotional or financial, wouldn't you? I know that I'd be sorely tempted. Besides, Jack and Ianto are so hot together!

Anonymous said...

;)Ok, you got me.