A New Day in the Old Town (Fringe – S2:E1)
Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 18, 2009
“What were we even doing anyway? We’d sit around and wait for somebody to die a grisly, macabre death. Or for the entire fabric of the universe to come shredding apart . We were the clean-up crew.” – Peter
A solid start to one of the few returning shows from last Fall. From the early moments of mourning to the exchange between Peter and Olivia, the writers once again delivered on its trademark subtlety. The dialogue is reserved, the filming dark, and music eerie. It won’t be a hit with everyone. There’s far too much science fiction for general appeal. I thought it was much too predictable for there to be a government challenge to the Fringe Division. It actually reminded me exactly of Quantum Leap‘s season two premiere, when senators wanted to shut down the program due to lack of tangible results. It seems a little too early for Fringe to actually be disbanded…a solid plot move down the road, but not until more currently running mysteries are solved. You can’t overload viewers with a variety of different storylines. Too difficult to keep invested in them all.
The episode title is perfect. After last season’s cliffhangers, everything seemed to just go back to normal today. All the elements that made Fringe so enjoyable in its debut season: wacky behavior and dialogue from Walter, old puzzles moving slowly forward, and new puzzles being introduced (sound familiar for a JJ Abrams show?) were there. Unlike LOST, though, it’s easier for me to accept the science fiction. The whole show is about experimental science and theories. Things on the fringe. Parallel universes? Teleportation? Shapeshifting? Sure, why not. That’s what I expected. It fits here, unlike a show that started about a group of plane crash survivors on a remote island.
But Fringe does lack a major element that keyed LOST‘s success. With the exception of Walter and Peter, the characters are bland and undeveloped. They introduced Amy Jessup (Meghan Markle) in this episode, as the newest FBI agent in the fold. She could be interesting, especially since she clearly has some past or future connection to what they’re looking into. Reveal more little-by-little and viewers will be drawn in. They started to do that with Olivia toward the end of the season, which gives me hope that her character will get better. But I’ve not been impressed by Anna Torv’s rigid acting.
Lastly, it’s unfortunate that FOX’s experiment with limited commercial breaks has been scrapped. Last year, every break but the first would only be 60-90 seconds long, and they would tell you that. It added 8 minutes of content that will be sorely missed. It felt like the old school dramas I enjoyed so much. Longer-form storytelling. But, once again, content fell victim to revenue.
Now, one SPOILER…..
I love what they did with Agent Francis. Take a main character from the first season, give him one last nice speech, kill him off, but then keep him around as an evil duplicate– unbeknownst to the others. It takes what would otherwise be a sad scene and makes you care more about what did and what will happen. We never actually saw the shapeshifter defeat Francis…but you know that it did. I’ll miss Francis, but he wasn’t a vital character…just an accessory. And anytime a character gets a quality send off like this, I’m happy.