We’re two episodes into Fox’s new sci-fi show Fringe, going on #3. The show, from the creator of Lost and with the fans of The X-Files in mind, is an interesting one, about genetic testing, mutations and some kind of conspiracy or invasion that is yet to be revealed. The season starts off with a bang, with a plane full of passengers getting subjected to some biological agent that causes the flesh to melt off their bones. From there, a crazy scientist is introduced, as well as an attractive federal agent and Joshua Jackson. I’m not a fan of Jackson and I don’t think I ever will be.
In the world of Fringe, brains can be hacked into using the electricity of brain waves, death does not mean that people are completely dead (can we really believe that the woman’s boyfriend, who was revealed to be a bad guy in the first episode, won’t return from the dead?) and women can give birth to a full-grown man who dies of old age an hour after being born. Behind it all: a company of great respect, or a government, or something else entirely. We know that Fox wants several seasons of this show, and clearly what we’re seeing here is only the beginning. It’s intriguing stuff.
Still, I’m on the fringe about Fringe. It’s entertaining and works, but it isn’t a great show. It’s no X-Files, that’s for sure, no matter how hard it wants to be. For starters, the characters aren’t particularly interesting or likable, save for John Noble, who plays the senile scientist who holds many of the answers the other protagonists are seeking. Anna Torv, who plays Agent Dunham, is attractive but a bit too mannish for her own good; in this day and age, they want to make her beautiful, sensitive and tough all at the same time, but she can only switch from one mode to the next, rather than embrace all of her character’s attributes and take true advantage of them. I expect this to be fleshed out in time, but Scully she is not. And if she’s not Scully, Joshua Jackson is surely not Mulder, as he seems to be around to add a “name” to the cast, throw in some pretty bad sarcastic one-liners and prove he can have a sustainable career beyond “Dawson’s Creek.” The dynamic between the two is stale and hardly captivating.
The show has a nice, glossy feel to it, but it’s almost too glossy at times. The direction and editing is also a little sloppy, as if the crew got 95% complete and then let their kids do the rest. It’s hard to be specific, but so far the show has failed to build tension or mystery despite the story arc that makes such a thing so easily attainable. Compared to Lost, for example, it fails to keep you curious commercial break to commercial break, and that’s a bit of a disappointment.
All in all, Fringe is decent enough that I’m going to continue watching for a while, but right now I don’t know if I’ll make it a season. I have high hopes that as I write this Fox is conducting focus groups to see what they need to do to improve over future episodes, but let’s just hope their tinkering isn’t too late.
At least it’s already better than this year’s X-Files movie.