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TV: Fringe (S02E01)

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Wikipedia Fact: "Abrams's inspiration for Fringe came from a range of sources, including the writings of Michael Crichton, the Ken Russell film Altered States, and the television series The X-Files and The Twilight Zone. Additionally, Orci stated that it is a combination of a procedural and an "extremely serialized and very culty" series, quoting as examples of each, Law & Order and Lost."

Year of Broadcast: 2009

Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole and Kirk Acevedo.

*Spoilers Follow*

Summary: Olivia returns from the other dimension but has trouble remembering what she saw; Broyles fights to keep the Fringe division alive; The team investigate a possible shape-shifter.

Thoughts: Fringe has always done a good job with the opening of each episode, keeping them dramatic and surprising.  The returning episode of the second season was no different, opening with a man regaining consciousness after a car accident (a scene that could almost have come straight from FlashForward‘s opener), fleeing the scene, finding a victim and shape-shifting into his form with a device that connects through their throats (which seemed much more ‘fringe’ than ‘science’).  Still in the opening minutes, Walter and Peter find Olivia’s car but no sign of Olivia herself, but Walter naturally figures out what happened within seconds and finds her.

It’s not the only demonstration of Walter’s near-omniscience this episode, as once he discovers the three marks in the back of the victim’s throat he immediately realises that he has heard of such things before, able to locate an old video tape of his that features a test subject in a heightened mental state, who describes exactly the same markings and its role in shape-shifting.  I don’t recall if the team has ever had a case yet that Walter either wasn’t personally involved in researching/pioneering and/or able to quickly figure out what it is and come up with a solution.  While I like the Walter character it does sometimes make him a little annoying, especially as he never knows that he knows these things until after he sees them employed and people have been killed.

It was also a little irritating that once Olivia inevitably regained consciousness she was unable to remember where she’d been or any answers that William Bell had given her, presumably so that the memories can only be revealed at suitably dramatic moments.  It immediately put the Fringe Division back in the dark again, when there was no need for it.  I’m also not clear yet on just what role the multiple universes will play in the series, as in this episode it just seemed to be a way for them to introduce the seemingly impossible technology of the shape-shifting device and explain it away as tech from a different world.

This episode introduced somebody who seems to be a new main cast member, Agent Amy Jessup.  It initially seemed like a strange decision to add somebody new when they already have two underutilised characters, Charlie and Astrid, but by the end of the episode it’s clear what her role should be, in an event that I think will improve the series.  Peter also made some encouraging noises about the team no longer being so ‘reactive’ and actually doing more to try and prevent the strange events instead of always just cleaning them up, which would be a welcome change of pace.

Despite a predictable conclusion and a bit of sloppy work from the team (suggesting they’ve never seen a shape-shifter story before), all in all I thought it was a solid return for Fringe, retaining what worked in the previous season and hinting that they might be preparing to change what didn’t.

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