Ever since the now-infamous tag scene at the end of Fringe's first season, I've been eager to see where the writers would take us. To make an analogy with Abrams' other epic series--Lost--the creators "opened the hatch" when they introduced an alternate universe. And while the Season 2 premiere featured plenty of new meat to chew on, it wasn't as mythologically beefy as many fans may have expected. Was it good? Absolutely. But it was a transition episode for the show's characters and their fictionalized world, and that's not always a great way to start a season (see Lost's fourth season premiere). Luckily, except for one glaring narrative misstep (see below), Fringe is still a blast, transition or not!
For starters, what a great teaser. Not only do we get a new shape-shifting villain, but Olivia's trans-reality trip is revealed to be more complicated than we thought. Given the car accident she was in (and the momentum preserved when she came back), I'd say the moment she crossed over last season wasn't in the elevator (perhaps that was a different trick altogether), but when she nearly crashed on her way to New York. It looks like she did crash in our reality, but not in William Bell's.
Now, for the one thing that almost ruined the episode. How many of you actually believed Olivia was dead? I know the writers want to establish high stakes, but the stakes have to be believable. In this day and age, if Anna Torv was leaving the show after this episode, we'd have known about it months ago. The result? A ponderously slow first half-hour with almost no suspense. We all know Olivia's going to make it (Peter and Broyle's toast "to Agent Dunham" made me cringe), so let's just get on with the crazy science, the plot twists, and the Walterisms, shall we? (The threat of Congress shutting down Fringe Division was just as bad, but fortunately not as pace-killing).
That being said, Olivia's Greek proverb upon waking was almost worth the trouble. Its connection to Peter and his mother was intriguing, but I've got a feeling it had more to do with Olivia's own father...a figure completely missing from the show, but someone I expect to become relevant in good time.
So what do we think about this new addition to the cast? Other than the network's financial concerns and Markle's sex appeal, I see no reason to replace Kirk Acevedo (both Charlie and Amy are "Audience POV" characters...they vocalize questions and concerns that the writers anticipate we'll be thinking to ourselves). Not that the actress is untalented, she just isn't given much to do in this ep, though I'm very intrigued by her biblical research. It reminded me of a scene in The Dreamscape when Walter mysteriously asks for a bible, and is later seen with it in his hotel room. Does the book of Revelation predict the Pattern?
And one more thing. Who's giving the shapeshifter his orders? Who wants Olivia dead in the Alternate Reality?
Early pacing problems aside, the last twenty minutes of A New Day in the Old Town--the invulnerable super-soldier, Dunham loading her gun, the last-minute Charlie reveal--really revved me up for Fringe this season. You could feel the show evolving into something deeper, richer, and more exciting than ever before. I think we're in for a treat.
- Best Line of the Night: "They said I could ride with the body. Can I?"
- Best Scene: the trans-universal typewriter!
- Loved seeing Peter get physical with the FBI security guard. Can we get some more of that, please? And a few less one-liners?
- Michael Giacchino's score rocked. Especially that leitmotif in the final act, beginning just after Peter and Broyles' conversation on the Capitol steps.
- I wonder how Rachel will figure into this season?
- Never saw the Nina/Phillip thing coming. But I'm looking forward to those two becoming more developed characters. Same goes for Astrid.
- I hope Shape-shifter Charlie (Sharlie?) sticks around for a while!
Adam Morgan is a writer for the page and screen in Chicago who blogs at Mount Helicon.