Friday, September 18, 2009

Fringe 2.01: "A New Day in the Old Town"

“From now on, we’re calling the shots. We’re done reacting. We’re not going to be too late anymore. After all, somebody’s got to save their asses, right?”


Fringe returned last night with deeper mythology, a new face, a goodbye (sort of) to an old face, and all the creepiness and gore you would expect from the series. Although not as action-packed with shocker moments as the first season finale, I think this episode gets the show off on a good start to the season. There is lots of good new territory to mine following the events of the premiere.

The episode opens with a serious car accident on the streets of New York. A guy stumbles out of the car and into a nearby apartment building. He meets a second guy in the hallway, and next thing you know, first guy is (literally) breaking his own face and using some really painful looking device, complete with nails that get pushed into the palate, to change his appearance to look like second guy. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Fringe is officially back in business! Police investigating the car accident realize that the owner of the car involved in the accident was none other than our own Agent Olivia Dunham. And that’s when things get confusing. The FBI is called in, and a new character, Agent Jessup, is the agent in charge.

I don’t especially like Agent Jessup. It’s not that the actress, Meghan Markle, is bad or anything, the character just feels redundant. We already have four FBI agents- Olivia, Broyles, Charlie, and Astrid. If the writers or network really thought there needed to be an increased female presence, Astrid’s role could have been expanded. Jasika Nicole delivers Astrid’s dry one-liners well, and she’s already a part of the Fringe Division family. I think a lot of people would welcome seeing more of Astrid as opposed to someone new. If she’s meant to replace Charlie, I think that’s redundant as well. Why not just focus more intently on the characters that are already there? I also don’t like the fact that she’s being set up as potential love interest for Peter. Against my better judgment (and the opinions of the actors who portray them, for that matter), I’m a bit of a fan of the Peter/Olivia ship. They are sweet together, and I think one day, when they’ve both been able to heal a bit from their pasts, they could be good together. Whether or not you’re a Peter/Olivia fan, however, you’ve got to admit that Olivia’s sister Rachel is already filling the “potential love interest for Peter other than Olivia” role.

So, Walter and Peter, who had been having a pretty hilarious exchange in a Boston grocery store (where the fact that the two argue over whether or not Peter likes custard is yet another hint that the Peter we know is probably from the alternate universe- remember that grave Walter visited in the first season finale?), rush to the scene of the accident when they find out Olivia might have been involved. Walter’s playing around with the wrecked car, accidentally sets of the alarm, and what do you know, Olivia comes hurtling through the window shield. She’s taken to the hospital, and (gasp…until I realize that this is the season premiere, so she’s going to be just fine) she is declared brain dead. Although it’s pretty obvious that Olivia is going to pull through despite her prognosis, this situation at least provides for some tender Peter and Olivia moments. It’s nice to see those moments of closeness between the members of the Fringe Division family.

As I’ve hinted, okay, maybe as I’ve announced in big neon letters, Olivia does wake up randomly babbling a phrase in Greek. It turns out, in another great Olivia and Peter scene, that the phrase essentially means “Be a better man than your father,” and it was something Peter’s mom said to him each night before he went to sleep. Olivia is, understandably, kinda creeped out. Olivia also can’t remember anything about the accident. She remembers she was supposed to meet someone, she did meet with that person, and he told her to do something. That’s it. This causes Olivia a lot of distress, because she has a feeling that this mission she has been given is very important.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Fringe Division, minus Broyles, who is in DC trying to convince Congress not to cut Fringe Division’s funding and kissing Nina Sharp (say what?!), and plus Agent Jessup, are trying to track down the shapeshifter guy. Walter’s unearthed a video from his old experiments with William Bell, where a woman is describing a soldier from another universe putting three nails in someone’s mouth. This leads the team to conclude that the person who caused Olivia’s car accident is actually a shapeshifting soldier from a parallel universe. They realize, almost too late, that the soldier’s mission is to kill Olivia.

The shapeshifer is one step ahead of our team. He/she has already taken the form of Olivia’s nurse, and she’s now in Olivia’s hospital room interrogating her. Olivia still doesn’t know anything about what happened while she was on the Other Side, so the shapeshifter finally decides to just kill her and be done with it. While the shapeshifter is trying to suffocate Olivia, the team arrives and scares the shapeshifter off. Charlie, Agent Jessup, and Peter all chase the creature down into tunnels below the hospital. Charlie seemingly confronts the shapeshifter and shoots it dead. We find out in a shocking (or maybe not so shocking if you knew about Kirk Acevedo throwing an online fit earlier this summer over losing his job) scene in the last minute of the episode that Charlie is actually dead, and the shapeshifter has taken his form.

At the end of the episode, Peter shows up in DC and presents Broyles with the device the shapeshifter had been using to change forms. He tells Broyles to use the device to convince Congress not to cut Fringe Division’s funding, and he says the quote at the top of this blog post, infusing Fringe Division with new purpose.

Overall, I thought this episode was a fun ride. Charlie’s “transformation” and Olivia’s amnesia should provide us with some interesting storylines for the first third of the season. I look forward to seeing where this crazy, sometimes gross, ride is headed.

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