Spoilers for episode two of "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I get some cocaine...
Pardon me while I pull on my water wings to avoid drowning in the sea of exposition -- much of it designed for the benefit of people who missed the pilot -- that was the first 10 or so minutes of "The Same Old Story."
There's a school of thought in the TV business that says you more or less repeat your pilot with the next five or six episodes. That way, if someone puts on a new show for the first time a month into the season, they won't be lost and get to see the things that in theory made the pilot so strong. But "The Same Old Story" took that concept to the extreme. Between the mediocre Comic-Con reception and critical buzz, plus Fox's curious decision to premiere the show without an established lead-in, someone at the network obviously realized that this episode (airing after "House") would have a much bigger audience than the pilot, and that they had better be ready to hold the new audience's hands for a while.
But good lord was all the re-exposition clunky. First we got the scene with Broyles recapping the events of the pilot for the benefit of Blair Brown and company, which was so awkward that it couldn't even be saved by the revelation that Olivia's team isn't the first one that's tried to investigate The Pattern. Then came Walter reminding us all that he spent 17 years in a mental hospital -- and the writers using Walter's faulty memory to explain again about the Harvard basement lab -- and finally the low point, when Peter offered to go to the crime scene because, "My limited stint at MIT did teach me something."
Once we got past the Television Without Pity portion of the hour, the episode was... well, roughly on par in quality with the pilot. Which is to say, it was occasionally creepy, but not creepy enough, and featured some amusing banter and non-sequiturs between Walter and Peter ("Do you have any cocaine?") that won't be enough by itself to keep me around longer. JJ Abrams has said that the way he wants to distinguish "Fringe" from "Alias" is by giving the audience a complete experience with each episode, such that if you don't watch every week or don't care about The Pattern, you're still getting an entertaining stand-alone story. And so far, the stand-alones haven't been that entertaining.
Maybe the secret of Peter's medical history (is he a clone?) or Broyles' reason for sending Olivia to the storage facility or Blair Brown's true motives will be interesting down the road, but if the weekly procedural stories don't get better in a hurry, I won't be watching long enough to find out.
What did everybody else think?