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On the “Fringe” of Prime-Time Television

Posted in action/adventure, reviews, sci-fi, suspense/thriller, television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by worldofmatmos

FRINGE (FOX, Tuesdays 9/8C, TV-14)

Headlining Fox’s 2008 Fall schedule is Fringe, a sci-fi/thriller from masterminds J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, that is an intense thrill-ride full of suspense, intrigue, and action that is reminiscent of the original season of The X-Files.

The pilot introduces FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), who is recruited into a top-secret sector of the Department of Homeland Security that investigates rather unusual cases. When her partner (and lover) becomes a casualty of the case they are working, she seeks the help of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a brilliant scientist whose past achievements have landed him in an asylum for 17 years. With a little blackmail, she enlists the help of Dr. Bishop’s estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson) to get access to him. Peter is also a genius like his father, but has instead chose to lead quite a different life.

Now employed with the FBI, Walter and Peter help Agent Dunham and her team, which includes Security Director Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), Olivia’s good friend Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) and Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) unravel these mysterious happenings. Also introduced is the huge mega-conglomerate called Massive Dynamics that remains shrouded in mystery, and is run by CEO Nina Sharpe (Blair Brown), who prompts some intrigue into these investigations with bits of information regarding “The Pattern”.

The series itself is currently up to Episode 6, and much like Abram’s last epic television outing Lost, each episode is a compelling stand-alone piece that also slowly unravels the secrets of a larger, more insidious tale. What exactly is Massive Dynamics, and what is its ultimate goal? What is “The Pattern”? What is in store for us next week?

The show is impressive on several levels. First, the writing is top-notch, and coming from Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman, this is to be expected. The high production values (especially the visual effects) rival anything else being currently produced, and although each episode has an almost formulaic cat-and-mouse hunt in the team solving their bizarre cases, each episode is loaded with enough plot twists to keep us engaged to find out the overall story and character arcs.

The characers are also well-developed and are some of the more interesting in recent years. John Noble is particularly excellent as Walter, who is easily my favorite. He is full of quirks, and his lapses between moments of genius and madness are fantastic. He also offers the comic relief in this otherwise tense series. Joshua Jackson is also great as Peter, who never comes off as too cocky or brash for his own good; he is likeable in this role and seems as though his character would be someone you’d want to hang out with. Anna Torv is also good in her role as Olivia; she is a tough yet fragile woman whose emotions help to point her in the right direction when trying to solve a case. Lance Reddick is definitely the hard-ass boss as Broyles, with his no-nonsense, follow-the-orders, need-to-know-basis attitude, but┬ámanages to┬ácome across as the most trustworthy of characters. Kirk Acevedo is limited in his role as Charlie, he is relegated to the background, but is still a worthy screen presence, and Agent Farnsworth spends most of her time in Walter’s renovated lab in the basement at Harvard.

The series covers a range of interesting and cool ideas such as nanotechology, telekinesis, cryogenics, viral warfare, re-animation, time travel…you get the point. The science is believable fiction and its entertaining suspension-of-disbelief has not disappointed yet. Abrams and crew have another hit on their hands, one that I hope will continue strong over several future seasons.

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