Episode Review: A New Day in the Old Town ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Episode Review: A New Day in the Old Town

      Email Post       9/18/2009 10:06:00 PM      

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.

Stray Thoughts
  • 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.

23 Comments:

TV Obsessed said...

I agree about the Olivia being "dead" thing. There's no way she would die or even go on hiatus for a few episodes, so the whole time, I was wondering when she would wake up. Full review of the episode on my blog.

http://th3tvobsessed.blogspot.com/2009/09/review-fringe-season-2-episode-1-s02e01.html

daydreamingnet said...

I thought the episode was fantastic! But I concur that there no suspense in Olivia's impending death. Obviously she was going to be fine.

I also found the Charlie twist utterly predictable. But I can attribute that to the fact that we were aware that there was going to be a twist with his character come the end of the episode. Still, when a shape shifting device was revealed, I just knew Charlie would fall victim to it.

I don't mind the new member to the team, however, why add someone knew if there is already someone being ignored. Astrid, anyone? We know nothing about her.

fringeobsessed said...

The typewriter scene was intriguing, but I though the best scene was Peter and Rachel at the hospital. In their darkest minutes Rachel tells Peter that Olivia liked him-that he must know that.

And Peter Bishop, the genius with the 190IQ and con man extraordinaire, is speechless with emotion. So bittersweet.

The Wizard said...

I thought that Nina Sharp had been shot 1st season? Was that not the case??

Lux Lea said...

I'm with you on Markle. I'm like WTF? Don't get the trade from interesting, quirky character to a generic PYT. Has to be something the demographic-marketing heads said they must do. Plot-by-numbers. Blech.

IAA on the Olivia "death." It absolutely made the show drag first half.

tallone said...

Yeah the Nina/Philip I find suspicious....

Jack Storey said...

I have to say, I love J.J. and crew, and this episode is exactly why. The references to X-Files (Season 2 of the X-Files starts with the X-Files being shut down for lack of evidence); the massive character development of nearly everyone on the show; and the mind-bending special effects that they manage to pull off on network television. The writing was on point, the plot twists were strong, and the serial nature of this season opener makes me ecstatic for the rest of this series! Maybe we knew Olivia wouldn't die, but knowing Abrams, it all has its relevance in the mythology of the story (we just don't know about it yet).

Jen said...

Regarding Olivia as I was watching it I was wondering if it would turn out that was an alt-version of her or we'd end up with an alt-version of her afterward.

As for the Charlie situation I'm actually hoping that gets resolved quickly... it's one of those plots that bugs the hell out of me. Probably more than it should but I get annoyed rather quickly that no one can figure out that something is going on when a character is replaced. Don't know that I could buy a whole season of no one figuring it out especially if the shape-shifter doesn't have Charlie's memories. Of course there's nothing yet to suggest that he doesn't.

I did a review on my blog after the episode aired:

http://multigenrefan.com/2009/09/fringe-2x01-a-new-day-in-the-old-town-spoilers/

kingoftelevision said...

I definitely agree that the premiere was too sluggish, but at the end of the night it didn't matter. A New Day in the Old Town did exactly what a season premiere should do. It reminded us why we loved the show last year and got us excited about the new episodes ahead. Oh and watching Olivia explode through that windshield was bad ass.

JD said...

Aside from the things mentioned above, I thought the Charlie twist was not believeable either. So they figure out how the shapeshifter operates (the three pronged thing), and they aren't going to at least question that Charlie fell prey to the same thing? All it would have taken would have been one look in the mouth of the dead body of the nurse, and bam, there are your three prongs. I don't believe that given how sharp Olivia and the others normally are, they wouldn't notice this.

Overall, I still thought it was great!

crimsoncat05 said...

I agree about the "Olivia is dying" thing... also, if she was brain-dead (the Dr. said no brain activity, didn't he??), then she would have needed to be on life support (breathing tubes, ventilator, etc). BUT, that would have interfered with her Greek revelation... THAT totally bothered me.

crimsoncat05 said...

...oh, yeah, that too: Charlie was alone with a shape-shifting soldier (for a very short period of time, which is also annoying), and no one even THOGUHT to ask if they could look inside his mouth, just to check if he was really Charlie???

Debbie said...

Foe me the Nina/Phillip thing was so strange... Phillip seemed very uncomfortable...it didn't strike me as familiar between them. Almost creepy in a way..

Paul said...

The twist at the end was utterly impossible. The shapeshifter leaves the victim at the scene. we saw how he stashed Charlie, but where did the nurse come from?

Are we to believe in the time it took the others to arrive at the furnace after the gunshots, 30 seconds at most, that the shifter killed charlie, took his identity with the machine, stashed his body AND pulled out the nurses body from a hiding place? Weak.

And what about the clothes? The machine can shift the body but it isn't going to fabricate duplicate clothing. The shifter would have had to strip the nurse for her clothes and strip Charlie - obviously a naked Charlie being dumped. He couldn't changed clothes and redressed the nurse in 30 seconds.

Brooke said...

OK, loved the ep. THIS is why I love Fringe.
Wondering why:
1. Walter called her "Olive" - how much does he remember of her as a child?
2. Who gave the new agent the database password
3.When and how Peter is going to find out that he is actually from the alternate universe and how that all affected the way he ended up living his life
4. WHO taught Olivia that Greek saying? Why?
5.Nina seems SO contradictory- she seems to be working against Fringe finding out about M.D. but then wants to help them...? Will we ever know that whole story??
6. Was Olivia's sister ever experimented on? If not, WHY not? If so... !!?? :o)
7. Why no more mention of what Olivia can do with her mind? (ref. that ep when she turned the lights off mentally) That's GOT to change your world a bit, hmm??! LOL

Anyone have any insights or opinions about these things??

reese said...

why was there a grave stone with peter bishops name on it? wht does the pops really know?

Dennis said...

Reese,

The implication is that the real Peter died when he was a young boy, and that Walter crossed over to the alternate reality and took the Peter from there.

reese said...

ohh ok i guess thts y Peter doesnt remember some of the things tht his dad does when he was young like the custard n the coin etc

Travis said...

the one thing I didn't like was that there were so many commercials, if there was some way to get back to the "Fringe will return 60" or "30 seconds." thing, that would be great

ZanBee said...

We have got to be in an alt-universe in the season 2 preimier.

Some clues being:
1. Nina and Philip having a relationship.
2. Olivia supposedly always having a thing for Peter -- but Olivia had a thing for her dead partner.
3. The season 2 Peter remembered his mother's Greek saying fondly, but season 1 Peter did not even bother to brush the dust off the photo of his mom.

I believe viewers are going to be subject to a multi-verse this season. This means our main characters can die, but also can be replaced with a different version of themselves. Hope the writers don't use this device too often because it would become predictable.

On another note, I'm excited to see what version of the multi-verse exists on the other side if the selectric 251/mirror. Is it the original universe from season 1, or yet another alternative multi-verse?

I'm always intriged when biblical references are introduced into the mythology of the show. I can't wait to see where this goes...

Dennis said...

1. Just because we didn't know about Nina and Philip doesn't mean they didn't have a relationship. It would explain why he trusts Nina so much he would give her the chip from "The Ghost Network".

2. Who said Olivia "always" had a thing for Peter? At the hospital, Rachel only said "You know she liked you, Peter. Did you know that?".

3. I don't read it that way at all. When Peter was at the beach house, he was looking for Walter, he was not there to reminisce. I think the only reason he didn't wipe the dust from the face of his mom, is that they haven't cast an actor for that role yet.

I've mentioned this in other posts, but Jeff Pinkner has stated many times that we will only deal with two alternate realities on Fringe. Any more would be too confusing.

Personally, I don't see the multiple versions of our characters happening, at least not in the way you describe it. Maybe we'll see Walter-nate, or Alt-livia, but not as replacements. This isn't Heroes :)

ZanBee said...

Hi Dennis.

Thank you for commenting on my points. Love this site (just found it). Yup, this isn't Heroes!!! LOL.

About point 2. Didn't Olivia's sister have a thing for Peter in the season 1 universe? If so, then the sister's comment about Olivia liking Peter just seems odd. My gut tells me that this has got to be another universe - hope I'm not experiencing a Belly ache ;)

Thanks for letting me know that the writers are limiting season 2 to only 2 universes. However, "there's more than one of everything"...

DocH said...

The only thing I can thing of to make this episode better would be when the shape changer looks at the typewriter in the mirror the second time... the Verizon Wireless guy leans forward and looks back at him thru the mirror and says - "Can you hear me now?"

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