Fox’s “Fringe:” It’s No “LOST,” But I’m In For Now

Look, I’m a busy woman.  I know a silly blog like this might not support such a bold statement, but really, I am.  So, I do my best not to attach myself to series television.  My DVR is full of “Colbet Report” and “Dog Whisperer,” episodes that I get to watch at the rate of about 1 to every 7 recorded.  Then, I delete a bunch of them when the thing gets full to make room for more stuff I probably won’t get to see.  But, one thing I have been utterly and completely faithful to from Day 1 is “LOST.”  I watch live, in Hi-Def, and record it anyway…usually to watch again just before the new episode airs.  My friends and family spend a lot of time shaking their heads (and, occasionally plugging their ears) when I float my theories, straighten them out on details they missed, or fill them in on back-stories they probably don’t care about.  My sister comes over for the watching parties sometimes, but confesses, “I have no idea what’s going on, but Sawyer is hot!”  All of this is by way of explaining why I chose to tune in for “Fringe,” last night (it actually aired the night before last, but I had to DVR it…I do choose actual life over virtual most of the time).  J. J. Abrams was involved, it was touted as “the most anticipated series of the year,” and that was all I needed.  Somehow, I knew I would be disappointed, but I had to see for myself.  I ran out and got my “Cloverfield,” ticket opening weekend like a good fan, too.  But, that’s another story.

For those of you who have not yet seen the pilot episode (which re-airs on FOX Sunday at 9:00 p.m.), let me just say this:

SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT

Fringe Symbols - What Can They Mean?

Fringe Symbols - What Can They Mean?

Let me start out with the positive, because I’m going to get cranky in a few minutes.  While Entertainment Weekly’s Gary Sussman disagrees, I really, really, really liked the cool, 3-D titles that sit right inside the establishing shots.  It hasn’t been done in television before, and I always appreciate innovation.  It also establishes the personality of the show…something that worked extremely well for “LOST” fans like me was connecting with the audio cues that left no question that we were “on the island” for the next hour.  This visual cue worked for me, too.  But, hey, whenever I hear The Who anymore, I think I’m in a CSI episode, so do with this what you will. 😉

Having a series back on the air that deals with the paranormal in a slick and – at least pseudo – scientific way is also a good thing in my impression.  I miss “The X-Files.”  A lot.  There are clear tips of the hat here, though I don’t think any show will ever top that one except “LOST.” If I see one more vampire series get on the air, I might have to move to Mongolia.  And, all of these shows where dead people keep hanging around to chat or “real” ghost hunters freak themselves out with night-vision cameras have bored me to a state far worse than tears.  So, even if the execution falls short for me, the attempt at engaging our minds was appreciated.

Having a complicated mythology for those who are looking for something to sink their teeth into is a big part of what makes television worth watching for me.  So, Abrams lets us know right off the bat that there is a lot of that in store for us.  There are the symbols pictured above (plus a frog, a seahorse, and a daisy, I think) that beckoned to us just before the commercial breaks, the hint at “The Pattern,” (which is clearly the concept the whole series orbits around) and the discussion in the final scene about how law enforcement has been rendered “obsolete,” by “corporations who have higher clearance than us.”  Seems juicy enough to hang around for…at least in the short term.

So, why the hesitance, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

I can feel myself being manipulated here much more than I ever did with either “The X-Files,” or “LOST.” There’s the opening scene on the plane…a plane?  Really?  Did you have to start out with something so very obvious?  I mean, a bus would have worked just as well here.  Or a train.  Don’t you think?  I’m very much hoping a (very near) future episode offers some justification for why it had to be a plane.  Otherwise, I’m ticked off right at the outset.  A pair of FBI agents that clearly have an attraction to each other (though they didn’t wait 9 seasons to do anything about it this time)?  And, when’s the last time you saw one of those trippy isolation tanks used in combination with large doses consciousness-altering drugs?  Heck, when’s the last time you saw one at all?  That’s right, it was the movie, “Altered States.”  So, how did I feel when I saw that film’s star, Blair Brown, make her appearance as someone that is clearly going to be a regular character?  Well, kinda nauseous, actually.  And, finally, giving the kingpin role to a “LOST” character (Lance Reddick, who plays Matthew Abaddon on “LOST,” and Homeland Security Agent Phillip Broyles here) just confused me.  Won’t he be coming back to my favorite show for Season 5?  Can fans of both handle him playing two major roles at the same time?  I’m seriously scratching my head over that one.

There are some extraordinarily unlikely events in the pilot.  Before you can tell me this is a show about the paranormal, let me say that’s not what I’m talking about.  I mean, there are some things you just expect more from Abrams on.  For instance, lead character Olivia Dunham (who tells us her name about 150 times in the first 10 minutes, and is played by Anna Torv) ping pongs between girlish smiles and a not-quite-believable tough chick who barks orders at everyone from her assistant to her boss, and has apparently mastered the expression one makes when something in the room smells really bad.  See for yourself.

What's rotting in here?

What's rotting in here?

The first unlikely thing she does is fly to Iraq and threaten her co-star’s character (Peter Bishop played by Joshua Jackson) with an FBI file about him that does not exist.  She hints at things that sound dark and ominous…things that convince him to go with her against his will.  I can understand the audience being duped by this since we haven’t got a clue who this guy is yet, but heck…he knows who he is!  When he later finds out there was no file (which would logically mean there was nothing to hold over his head, which would logically mean her threats shouldn’t have scared him), he’s not even a little miffed.  In fact, they seem to bond over that little revelation.  Go figure.

Next, she somehow manages to make a laboratory in the basement of a Harvard building that has been shut down for 17 years fully functional in about an hour.  That kind of deviciveness insults me.  The man she loves and is obviously willing to do anything for is laying on a table with his translucent skin for most of the episode while she clearly cultivates a mutual attraction with this guy she is supposed to despise, but desperately needs.  The locked eyes, the knowing smiles…what the heck?  And, here’s the topper for me.  While I might be able to suspend my disbelief for the sake of a show of this nature when she actually submits to the experiment in the isolation tank (which involves having a large amount of psychotropic drugs injected into her, a probe attached to the back of her neck with barbs that clearly hurt, and the isolation tank), I cannot go along for the ride when she leaps out of there, receives the antidote and then – moments later – is chasing the guy with the answers she needs across roof tops, leaping off of fire escapes, landing on dumpsters, and not showing even the slightest sign of a dizzy spell.  I couldn’t do that stuff on my best day!  She just got out of an isolation tank, for the love of Pete!

The other major unlikelihood I couldn’t get comfortable with was Dr. Bishop’s prowess with computer equipment that didn’t exist when he left the scientific arena.  He’s been locked in a mental institution for 17 years and doesn’t know that his former lab partner has gone on to become the head of a major corporation, but those wide screen flat monitors and keyboards don’t even give him pause.  He’s watching “Spongebob Squarepants” with fascination on an old tv, but makes the transition to cutting edge technology with inexplicable ease.

I’ll probably end up watching the pilot again since my husband and son haven’t seen it yet and I did set the series up to record.  Will I stick with it?  By the promos, I’m guessing I’ll give up by the end of the first season unless something really outstanding happens.  I’m half hoping that doesn’t happen.  I don’t need another series in my life and “LOST” has my heart!

What do ya think of the new signature banner?

Luke 24:2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen!

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4 Responses

  1. Hey, thanks for the comment on my blog. Glad you like it. =) I too am a big fan of LOST. I also loved the 3D graphics through out the pilot. (i hope they continue it! very creative) I also found it ironic that the show began with a plane. (of all things!) Great post. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    Will be visiting again soon to catch your latest.

  2. Great review! Very in depth.

  3. I don’t turn on my television for works of art. I just want a show to be intelligent enough to keep my interest for 60 minutes before I go back to sports. Fringe certainly did that. I hope fox allows this one to go long enough to find out what the symbols mean. The series has promise and there is nothing else on Tuesdays.

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