Fringe S1E1: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! If you didn’t see the premiere, it will air again on Sunday. According to EW it averaged 9 million viewers, which is not great, but not terrible.
First off, let’s get the obvious Alias comparisons out of the way:
1. Smart, accomplished, feisty, rule-breaking federal agent: check
2. Dying/dead lover: check
3. Sexy partner with a shady past: check
4. Mad genius who could easily be either good or evil: check
Despite all of this, Fringe brings something new to the table. One, it is very, very funny. A nice mix of eerie ambiance and tongue-in-cheek humor. Quite good. Two, it marks the return of Joshua Jackson to my weekly routine, so I will follow it to the ends of the earth. I especially like the “location marks,” which is hard to describe but if you watched it, you know. Like most J.J. Abrams’ shows, it appears to be a fun & mysterious ride, and it is important to hop aboard from the beginning. However, it is also one of those shows that I feel like a raving lunatic recapping.
THE MAJOR PLAYERS
Olivia Dunham, sassy FBI agent.
John Scott, another FBI agent and Olivia’s lover.
Walter Bishop, mad scientist.
Peter Bishop, high school dropout with a genius IQ and father issues.
Phillip Broyles, inscrutable FBI agent and Olivia’s boss.
And William Bell, mysterious billionaire owner of Massive Dynamic.
We open on a plane, where a guy shoots himself with an insulin pen and then everyone on board melts. It’s graphic, and pretty sickening. In the next scene, we see the very same dude hanging out in the background as federal agents swarm the plane. Hmmmm. Olivia has a negative first encounter with Broyles, the agent in change of their team. Broyles sends Olivia and John to check out a lead at a storage facility, and John is exposed to flesh-eating bacteria, which puts him in a coma and turns him into the human equivalent of the Visible Man doll. The special effects are great.
Desperate to save John, Olivia uncovers a connection to Walter Bishop, a mad scientist genius who specialized in “fringe science” for the government but was locked in an insane asylum for experimenting on human test subjects. She tracks down his son Peter, who she blackmails into helping her spring Walter from the asylum. She learns that in the seventies, Walter shared a lab with William Bell, now-billionaire owner of science & tech company Massive Dynamic. This smacks of the Dharma Initiative, and in fact there is a “commercial” for Massive Dynamics later in the program. Not my thing, but whatever.
Walter tells Olivia the fact that they can see through John’s skin is “not good.” For those in the know, Walter reminds me immensely of the character David Cronenberg played in the third season of Alias. We learn that Olivia was bluffing about having info to blackmail Peter with. BUT the bluff worked, so he clearly has some sort of shady past. The two also hit it off hardcore, so I’m thinking John’s got to die in order for the show to work the sexual tension.
Walter “connects” Olivia’s brain to John’s so that he can “tell” her what he saw at the storage facility. He has had luck questioning corpses this way in the past. “He wants to give you a drug overdose, put a metal rod in your head, and put you naked in a rusty tank of water,” Peter says in disbelief. Walter’s reply? “Well no, I don’t want to. I’d rather not. It’s just that I can.” And the delivery is impeccable.
It seems pretty clear at this point that the mystery guy is going to be related to this William Bell character. Turns out he’s twins, and one, named Steig, used to work for Bell. Olivia goes to Massive Dynamics and has a creepy interaction with a woman who pulls the skin off her forearm to expose a bionic arm. In this moment, the show crosses the line between “crazy but I’ll roll with it” to “utterly ridiculous.” The woman says mysterious things about “the pattern.”
Olivia talks to Broyles, who has decided she is worth something after all. He dangles a series of recent unexplained occurrences in front of her, refers to them as “the pattern,” and offers Olivia a spot on his top-secret team, saying she can “bring anyone she wants.” SD-6, anyone? She refuses. Meanwhile, Walter has figured out a way to save John, who comes out of his coma. Olivia questions Steig, who claims his work on the plane was done for the FBI. She finds an evidence tape Steig has hidden and discovers his FBI contact is none other than John! I’m actually surprised; I was expecting it to be Broyles.
John kills Steig and there is a big chase scene that culminates in his death. All that work saving him from flesh-eating bacteria, for naught. Though I knew John had to die, this is a tad anti-climactic. Before he bites it, he says to Olivia, “Ask yourself why Broyles sent you to the storage facility. Why you?”
In the end, Olivia decides to join Broyles’ team and asks Peter and his dad to stay in Boston – Walter’s experiments with Bell were just the beginning. So, I guess next week Peter will suddenly be a field agent or something. The final scene shows Bionic Arm Woman ordering a Massive Dynamics employee to “question” John’s corpse. Duh duh DUM!