J.J. Abrams, Akiva Goldsman & Roberto Orci sort of yanked their audiences chain last night on an admittedly good second season opener of Fringe, that was nevertheless a screw job.
When we last left Fringe, Olivia Dunham was transported into an alternate universe where, in the season finale’s most striking image, the Twin Towers were still standing. In last night’s second-season premiere, Olivia came hurtling back into our universe with only vague memories and a feeling of urgency from her missing interaction with William Bell (Leonard Nimoy). Now folks, the Fringe creative team spent half of last season building the fans up to that pivotal moment, only to start off the new year by playing around with our expectations of seeing their interaction and deleting it. I for one don't appreciate it.
I was slow to warm to Fringe, initially writing it off as just another X-Files retread. After I gave it another chance later in the first season, I was quite taken by the chemistry between the leads, particularly Joshua Jackson and John Noble as Peter & Walter Bishop. Don't get me wrong, Anna Torv is fine as Olivia Dunham, but Abrams and company missed a great chance to break from current genre stereotypes; by casting Dunham as an employee of series macguffin Massive Dynamic, and instead wrote her role as just another gun-toting chick-in-a-suit. Given what was established in the first season, Torv could have been of better - far more effective use - in a different capacity within the shows mythological paradigm; but what the hell do I know?
Last night, we were also introduced to another gun-toting chick-in-a-suit with Agent Jessup, and if this characters sudden appearance didn't leave fans wondering what was up, then you really shouldn't be watching this type of series. Needless to say by episodes end, Kirk Acevedo's Charlie pretty much joined former castmate Mark Valley's Agent Scott, in the almost-but-not-quite-gone department; therefore setting up a convenient space for the Jessup character to occupy.
However, that begs the question: What about Astrid?
Jasika Nicole has been a compatriot character of Walter Bishop and friends from the start and she is an FBI agent as well. Why not upgrade her to this status, but again, what the hell do I know?
At least we were always somewhat in the loop about a prior history between Lance Reddick's Agent Broyles character and Blair Brown's Nina Sharp, but last nights brief kiss suggested that this may have also included a romantic connection [yawn], but why Abrams and company arbitrarily tossed in the all-too tired genre cliche of "they're shutting down the division" at this point is beyond me.
J.J. Abrams other network genre series, Lost (sadly, soon to begin it's final season) took a tumble in its second season, by focusing on "The Others" at the expense of the characters audiences had bonded with in its freshman season. I think it highly likely that Fringe may have found a way to shoot itself in the foot in its new season, in a similar manner, but at least this time around I will only allow them so much leash.
I will keep my fingers crossed, but this kind of thing gets old, even when its perpetrated in such grand fashion by creators who should know better.
I like Fringe, but it does have some bad storytelling. The characters and actors and their interaction manage to carry it off over the rough patches.
Such as the opener with all the various cliche choices that were being made. You could pretty much plot out how the whole story was going even though they didn't really make much sense. Take the ending. We are shown earlier that the copying of the body takes some amount of time. We see the "nurse" get shot twice in the back. In the tunnels, "she" jumps agent Francis, we hear two more gun shots. Now, we are to believe that this location has to be near where he had stashed the original nurse's body. Somehow, the doppelganger has time to make the switch with agent Francis AND hide his body before everyone else gets there moments later. Likewise, there's no mention that the nurse's body would not have requisite bullet wounds in her front and back. We buy the scene while groaning at it because it is such a cliche. But, in storytelling, it's also just full of holes. Unlike the nurse's body.
Doesn't mean that I'll bail on it. At least the characters are still sympathetic and interesting. Whereas, my brother taped HEROES but I find myself not really all that interested in whether I watch it or not.
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