Fringe Episode 103: Ghost Network – My Cranky Review

I reviewed the Fringe Pilot a few posts back.  I was on the fence then, but anticipated sticking with Fox’s “New Hit Series,” for the first season.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Somehow, I managed to completely miss the second episode, but watched about half of it last night on Fringe Television – a pretty impressive website where full episodes are available for viewing without having to dowload a player.  I only watched half because I had just finished watching the third episode, “Ghost Network,” and had really had enough for one night.

This episode opens exactly…and I mean exactly…like an “X-Files” episode.  Same dark lighting, same something-really-spooky-is-about-to-go-down music, same ominous dialogue, same focus on a desperate character haunted by something supernatural, culminating in a big “What just happened?!” moment and then the first commercial break.  That’s not officially a complaint, since it inspired a wonderfully nostalgic feeling and really sucked me in to the episode.  On the other hand, the thought, “This feels just like an ‘X-Files’ episode opening ” repeated in my brain throughout the entire segment.  So, maybe it is a complaint.  In any case, I’ll get to the real complaints in a moment.

See, here’s the thing:  If I’m going to invest myself in a new epic mythology television series (like “LOST” or “X-Files,” both of which I am enormously devoted to), there has to be a…well…a natural process.  It’s like dating.  If the guy shows up in his best suit, bearing a dozen long-stemmed roses and a Cartier watch, it’s not generally a good idea to presume this is what the entire relationship is going to be like.  I mean, you wouldn’t marry that guy based on that first impression, would you?  I hope you wouldn’t.  Your mama raised you better than that, didn’t she?  No, you’d spend time with that guy and get to know him and, if you’re both fortunate, love would grow.  Granted, I fell head over heels for “LOST,” at episode 1 (It had me at “hello”), but that’s just what kept me coming back for more.  And, it never once disappointed.  I mean, not once.  Some might disagree, but I have never experienced a let-down with any episode.

But, if that guy showed up for the first date in his best suit, but still had bits of tissue stuck to shaving nicks on his face and his socks were two different colors, maybe you’d try to overlook that to give the actual person behind the faux pas a chance…but you’d be leery.  And, “Fringe” had me leery from the start.  I’m often turned off when I can see stagecraft.  It is easy to see “Fringe” trying very hard to show us how much it is “just like” its predecessors…trying to convince us that we should put it in the same pantheon and not evaluate it for ourselves.   Did those other two series’ do that?  They didn’t have to.  See where I’m going with this? And, the careful plotting of a mythology in a television series is really starting to get old for me.  As a device to gain a faithful audience from the outset, I think it also has the potential do alienate those who are not blown away by the first few episodes.  You can claim the episodes stand alone for casual viewers until the cows come home, but I’m not sure you can really have it both ways here.  A show like “Fringe” is after the superfan demographic.  And, well, I just don’t think I have enough room in my heart for another series.

Sure, the production values are extremely slick, the characters are all well-cast and engaging, and those symbols (or glyphs) are intriguing. (To see hi-resolution images of each glyph and a brief description, visit the Fringepedia.)  But, when I started to see the tiny little Easter Eggs being logged at Fringe Television here, my brain just short-circuited.  Not again!  It was a great ride with “LOST,” and eagerly anticipate Season 5 and the new nuggets it will bring to my over-active, analytical brain, but how much of this can one really tolerate in one’s diet?  I’m talking about tiny things…like a brief shot of a dusty old car in a dark garage with the logo modified from “MG” to “MD,” referring to “Massive Dynamics,” the big, mysterious corporation.  Come on!  And, I’m still not complaining yet!

Let’s get to the actual episode, because I see I’m ranting just a bit.  Focus, woman!  Focus!  Here are the glyphs that appeared during the breaks in “Ghost Network:”

Episode 103 Glyphs

Episode 103 Glyphs

This episode centered on Roy McCohn, a guy with metal in his blood (put there 20 years previously by Dr. Bishop, who is now receiving transmitted thought over a “spectrum” supposedly unknown to anyone except Dr. Bishop and his old lab buddy “Belly.”  Roy sees things that are about to happen…terrible things…because he’s picking up the intentions of others who have, apparently, discovered this spectrum of thought waves…this ghost network.  I just know the writers wanted to call it a “Psychic Network,” but I think they would have either had to get permission fro Dionne Warwick or given her a guest spot or something.  The opening segment was awesome and the scene that greeted us on the other side of the commercial break was equally so:  a bus full of dead people frozen in place by a silicon-based substance like – as Dr. Bishop put it, “mosquitos in amber.”  Nice.  If they could have kept up that level of eloquence and intrigue for the entire hour, they might have had me.

But, in the very next scene, we’ve got Dr. Bishop and his son Peter sitting in a diner.  When Peter gets up from the table and his cell phone, left on the table, vibrates, the good doctor is mystified by it.  He later says to Peter, “It was moving.  I stopped it.”  Okay, for a guy who’s been locked up in a mental institution for 17 years, I can actually accept that.  But, remember how I complained about how familiar he was with the computers he used in the pilot?  In this episode, he confidently asks to “view axial images,” during an MRI of poor old Roy, even though he lets us know he’s never seen an MRI machine before, and he later makes a reference to satellite television.  These inconsistencies in his knowledge base just say “sloppy” to me.  Don’t try to tell me this is because he’s crazy or anything like that.  If you’re trying to be “LOST,” or “X-Files,” then you need to put that same kind of devotion in to the internal consistency and maybe stop spending so much time changing car logos.  You know what I’m sayin’?

And, apparently the writers felt there wasn’t enough quirkiness in the house.  It suddenly became necessary to have a piano brought to the lab because piano music helps Dr. Bishop focus.  We learn that he and Peter both play very well…setting up yet another contrivance we will surely see more of…much, much more of.  I also know I can count on every episode to have these elements:

  • A confrontation between Agent Dunham and Special Agent Broyles
  • A flirtation between Agent Dunham and Peter Bishop
  • A big lab experiment
  • A weird Dr. Bishop moment
  • A Massive Dynamics scene with creepy Nina Sharp
  • A chase and a takedown featuring Agent Dunham

The formula is already smelling a bit musty to me.

But, because I want to give credit where it is due, there are a couple of humorous moments that are genuinely engaging and smart.  At the start of an experiment on poor Roy involving drilling right into his brain and monitoring his responses to pictures shown to him, the door to the Harvard basement lab is knocked upon, making the characters…and me, in this case, jump.  Agent Olivia Dunham answers and we see two students who ask, “Is this Poli-Sci 101?”  Her response?  A straight-faced, “Not remotely.”  Good one.

I may become a “casual viewer,” but I’m sure not changing any plans to be sure I see every episode.  I’ve given my heart twice to series’ before.  That’s enough for this old girl.  You follow your own heart, but guard it well!

Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith– 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

Advertisements

The Best 4:24 of My Day

…and it’s not even 10:00 a.m. yet!

I didn’t watch the Emmys last night.  I never do.  So, how was I to know that Josh Groban opened the program with a medley of television show theme songs?  I couldn’t know.  And maybe some of you don’t yet know that Josh Groban occupies a place in my heart that is reserved for angels and artist’s artists.  So, perhaps you can imagine my delight when I found this video while searching for Emmy video on Stephen Colbert ( in order to be informed when I watch his program tonight):

Even if you’re not a Josh Groban fan (Why not?  The guy can sing!), I’m betting you’ve hung around with your friends singing tv show theme songs on more than one occasion in your life.  Am I right?  You know I’m right.  So, to hear that grand tradition executed with such utter awesomeness has got to bring a smile to your face!  Me?  I just sat there with the biggest, dopiest grin on my face and soaked up every note, every image, and every moment.

As for Stephen Colbert, he won for Best Writing, but lost 2 other categories for which he was nominated.  I’m betting there will be some good comedy on The Colbert Report tonight.

Psalms 33:1 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. 2 Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4 For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Penny! We’re Here!

Here is some fan footage of the filming of a “LOST” Season 5 episode, just posted today by YouTube user “thelostvault.” If you have trouble viewing today (September 17), it may be because YouTube is going to conduct some maintenance at 6:00 p.m. EST.  Try again!

The video is just over 8 and a half  minutes long and features Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) at a marina with some Asian characters we have not seen before. I must confess, I am so desperately starved for new “LOST” images that I was willing to sit through the inane and obnoxious (and incessant) chattering of the people with the video camera in order to soak in the view.  You, however, would be well advised to simply turn your volume down and spare yourself.

If you’re a Desmond fan, you’ll get to see him stand around, sweat, jump rope, smile, and actually film several takes of a brief shot in which he yells variations of, “Hey, Penny! We’re here!”  Ah, but where, exactly is here? (Cue spooky “LOST” note).  Oh, and if you sit through the whole thing, you’re rewarded with a cool shot of what I believe is a baracuda that also crashed the set.

I just wanted to be among the first to blog it.  I love “LOST.”

Ezekiel 34:2 Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

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!