About a year ago my wife decided to give Fringe a shot. At the time I had declined her invitation to join in, and was subsequently exposed to so many of her chuckles with her headphones on that I began wondering if the show was more comedy than science fiction. The answer? Emphatically both.
Anna Torv stars as Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent tasked with the unexplained phenomena that lies on the fringe of science (oh, hello title!). Most of us would think that’d be a pretty awesome job if we were put in her shoes, until she realizes she has to work with Peter Bishop – a “civilian consultant” who’s essentially a con man – and his father, Dr. Walter Bishop; a brilliant scientist who’s crazier than a bag of cats. Throw all that in together and let it simmer, for after 20 episodes you’ll have a good start.
Sadly, there’s only one reason that this first season wasn’t a home run for me, and that’s due to Dunham. Let me be clear: Anna Torv (at least in the inauguration) is not the problem; her character is. Whenever you deal with a show like this there’s plenty of suspension of belief to make it work. Obviously, I won’t sit there screaming at the television because a non-existent virus didn’t work properly; but Dunham is written as the most terrible FBI agent the agency has ever produced. Practically every decision she makes is mind-numbing; so much in fact that I can’t believe she’d ever be an agent of any kind regardless of how many alternative worlds there are.
Right from the very first episode her incompetence tore me out of the story, and if it wasn’t for Peter (Joshua Jackson at his wise-ass best) and Walter (John Noble in a role that should’ve garnered numerous awards) I’d have given up on this show before I ever gave it a chance. I persevered, and by the end of the season there was enough mystery and unsolved “grander picture” plot points that I have no choice but to continue on.
One nice thing about this show that you don’t see in others is the lack of filler episodes. Everything is connected; nothing is a throw away. And keep your eye out for Creepy Bald Dude; I get excited when he pops up.
Word of advice if you plan to check it out: do not digest any food or drink when watching the episodes, unless you want to make a mess. If the scares or disgusting don’t get you, Walter Bishop’s unique perspective on the world around him definitely will; trust me on this. There’s the makings of a really good story here, and I hope to see it to its conclusion.