TV Recap: Fringe - Pilot

Holy Awesome. That's what I thought during the entire first half hour of Fringe, the new show from J.J. Abrams and company from which all sorts of conspiracy theories can arise. Notice how I didn't mention the whole show yet...

It all starts easily enough with a plane in which every passenger is burned to death, or maybe I should say dissolved to death? Either way, a team with personnel from the FBI, CDC, CIA, Homeland Security and a slew of other miscellaneous government agencies descend upon Logan Airport in Boston in large screen fashion to figure out what happened on this ill-fated plane.

Among these agents is Olivia Dunham, an FBI liaison who is happier than she’s ever been because her boyfriend, a fellow FBI agent, told her he loves her. But she’s serious about her work and is ready to take on the way too serious lead agent, Broyles. Throughout the beginning stages of the investigation, she and Broyles have a tension that is explained by the fact that Dunham put one of Broyles’ best friends in jail after he assaulted some female marines. As if the way Broyles annunciates so clearly it’s like he’s trying to eat his words isn’t bad enough. Anyways, there’s a tip that comes in saying a briefcase was exchanged between some middle eastern men and a white man at a storage facility. Sounds pretty dull and not too promising so, of course, Broyles put Dunham on it. And of course, her boyfriend, Agent Scott goes with her. And, of course, it’s exactly where all the bad stuff is happening.

Scott and Dunham find some empty tanks of ammonia and begin breaking into each storage unit. Then, after an extremely interesting montage of locks being picked, Scott finds the jackpot. A unit full of lab rats in cages that look eerily white and strange with computer screens flashing DNA looking information is clearly what they were hoping to find. Dunham tries to call for backup but can’t get a signal so she goes walking around the compound trying to call out. Just then, a man comes out of the unit and Scott starts chasing him. And while Dunham can’t call out, she can apparently receive calls because Scott tells her where the chase is and she joins in just time to get blown back when the bad guy pushes a button on his phone. Dunham was lucky but Scott not so much. At least that’s what it looks like when he’s engulfed in flames.

But wait, it wasn’t the blast. Apparently he survived the multiple blasts less than 10 feet away from him but the deadly chemicals he was in contact with in the storage unit are eating away at him just as they did the people on the flight. After some creepy see-through skin effects, Dunham finally gets on it and tries to find out what’s affecting Scott. This is where the movie magic ends. Really slow and slightly confusing story coming up. Hey, at least I’m warning you and that’s more than I got.

She tracks down Dr. Bishop after about a second of searching for various keywords like flesh and dissolving. Dr. Bishop is a crazy doctor who used to do experiments back in the seventies for the government. He’s been in an insane asylum for about 30 years without any real contact. The only reason given is that there was a death in his lab. That’s it. And here’s the big kicker, he has been refused contact with anyone other than immediate family. Luckily he has a son, Peter, who is a genius with an IQ of 190 and a high school drop-out. Funny combination but whatever, he also says “sweetheart” unconvincingly every minute or two. He’s currently in Iraq for reasons you don’t really know and Dunham is easily able to bluff this so called people reader by mentioning a folder the FBI has on him. So he’s on board to go see his Dad to help find out what’s happening to Scott. The next few minutes of the show are dedicated to getting Daddy Bishop his old lab and using big words to describe the only way for Dunham to see the suspect since in reality, Scott is the only person who saw him. This involves some LSD, Dunham stripping to her underwear and being submerged in water all the while having a probe stuck into the base of her skull. So basically, she’s telepathically linked to Scott.

And surprise, surprise, it works. Dunham sees the guy and finds him within 2 hours of drying off. Turns out he was the twin brother of one of the passengers on the plane. So he killed his own brother. Okay. I can live with that. I can’t live with the way that they get the information they need from him. Baby Bishop goes into the interrogation room and breaks his hand. This guy killed an entire plane full of people in this horribly disgusting way but he can’t handle a little break in his hand. Whatever. Anyways, both Bishops work together with the antidote they now have to save Scott’s life. Of course, he’s saved just in time to kill the guy. Yup, just as Dunham finds a tape that the killer hid of him and an Agent (Scott it turns out) speaking about how the agent knew all about the plane and even paid the killer, Scott goes into the killer’s hospital room and smothers him with a pillow.

But now Dunham is chasing Scott down the highway in a car and chaos ensues. It ends with Scott dying in Dunham’s arms telling her to ask why she was chosen to go to the storage unit. And it all comes back together. Did I forget to mention that Boyles offers Dunham a job tracking cases like these in a top secret section of the government and she turned him down to stay with Scott. Guess that’ll change now. And she’ll keep both Bishops around to help her, I’m sure. I mean, there were some want-to-be meaningful glances between Baby Bishop and Dunham. And I can’t forget to tell you all that the person who used to share a lab with Daddy Bishop is now a billionaire who owns a Microsoft type company named Massive Dynamic. Oh, he’s gonna be bad, you can be sure.

Fringe could be one of the best shows on TV, if it just stops trying so hard. The idea is great to people who love sci-fi type shows (like me, I heart them). But the acting is stiff and forced and Abrams and co are pushing the conspiracies too hard. I know there’s a mystery and I’m excited about figuring it out but don’t shove the idea down my throat. Just let me enjoy the movie-like quality of the effects, camera work and even script. Yup, it’s just the acting which can totally smooth itself over once the cast gels a little more.