Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Fringe series 1 pilot (2008)

Fringe is the new sassy sci-fi series from TV overlord with a hankering for 'strong ass-kicking FBI girls' J.J. Abrams. Maybe he watched too much X-Files as a teenager and carried a torch for Agent Scully, wanting to recreate her in as many of his projects as possible. And this follows suit. Fringe is his new mysterious series about all manner of paranormal and fringe science events effects every day working-non-believing-stiffs. As with Lost and Alias, this relies highly on the main protagonist and the audience being in the dark from the get-go and slowly uncovering the true intentions of a secret organisation that has been manipulating us all, like the Dharma Collective, and that secret organisation in Alias whose name escapes me.

There are three notable things about this extended pilot.

1) The main female gets in her undies, takes a cocktail including ketamine and LSD and hopes into a sensory deprivation tank for a Vulcan mindmeld with her melting boyfriend.

2) Joshua Jackson, who gave the world illustrious smart-ass characters like Pacey from the frighteningly quilt-like Dawson's Creek, is back on our screens, and reasonably watchable.

3) Lt/Major/Deputy Commissioner/Commissioner/Lawyer Daniels from The Wire is back, and playing to type as the ass-busting-using-non-verbal-communication hardass boss Broyles, and we heart the jazz-playing slaphead.

So, what is Fringe about. The premise is about fringe science. It follows the exploits of FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham, scientist Walter Bishop, and his son Peter as they investigate aspects of fringe science (telepathy, levitation, invisibility, reanimation, etc). All over the world, a series of apparent experiments collectively referred to as "the Pattern" (e.g., a newborn baby who became 80 years old in a few minutes, etc.) are occurring for reasons unknown. Olivia, Peter, and Walter are in charge of investigating these strange events to determine their source. Connected to the Pattern is a company called Massive Dynamic, which is a leading global research company that holds the patents for a number of new and important technologies. So far, quite X Files right?

The plot involves a flight where the passengers all get exposed to a synthetic toxin that melts their skins. After investigating possible leads, Olivia Dunham's main squeeze gets exposed to its raw compounds and nearly melts. So she finds a professor who is an expert in such fringe things, only he's locked up in a loony bin and the only one who can get through to him is wise-cracking cynical Pacey Jackson. So once the scientist and his brainiac chaperone son are roped in, they start investigating the mysterious melting incident, leading them to a company that may prove to be quite significant, called Massive Dynamics, where they meet with a woman who will obviously turn out to be evil because she has a robot arm. I'll leave you there to avoid any more spoilers.

It's very watcheable and has the beginnings of that classic JJ Abrams tic, where instead of actual proper drama and exposition, they dangle mystery carrots that keep you watching. So essentially you're watching for the revelations rather than the excitement and pace of an excellent sci-fi show. Which is where Lost erm lost me.

Apart from that, pilots are always a contrivance to get the dynamic of the cast of characters working together. Rarely do we open on a team that is well-oiled and knows each other inside out. There's always the conflict, the sense of change and newness that instigates all pilots. So we'll see how this one develops. It's on the watch list for the moment. But stray too close to X Files and it may lose me. Also noteable is the scene where they're making a cure, and there's some definite test-tube porn going on. It's like the scene in A Team where the marching music propels the team to work together and build something badness.

Fringe, somehwat offkilter but possibilities abound.

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