Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fringe, "The Arrival": I won't have what he's having

Spoilers for last night's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I go out for a root beer float...

Hmmm... we love J.J. Abrams shows when they aren't giving us answers, and complain about them when they do. Does that say more about him or about us?

"The Arrival" was easily the most interesting post-pilot episode of "Fringe" to date, and possibly my favorite altogether. There's still a lot of clumsiness on the margins -- lines like "We don't know who he is. He just stands there and watches, observes. We call him The Observer." -- but this one created a sense of dread and surprise and excitement that's been sorely lacking in the earlier, more self-contained episodes. Whether it's simply because nothing was resolved (leaving our imaginations to conjure up explanations more satisfying than what would be in the script) or because Abrams and Jeff Pinkner's script was simply better than the previous three, I can't say. But after being more than prepared to give "Fringe" That's It For Me! status going into the episode, I enjoyed the strangeness of it -- The Observer's hairlessness and diet, Capt. Patterson from "Generation Kill" toting around a futuristic-looking ray gun and a retro-looking mind-reading machine, Walter casually injecting whatsername with a sedative -- that I think I'll be sticking around for a bit.

In the end, the answers may not be any more satisfying than what we got at the end of the more procedural episodes, or that we got at the end of "Alias." But if I can brace myself for the probability that this will all lead to nonsense, I can groove on all the atmospherics along the way. And, if nothing else, Abrams is great at atmosphere.

What did everybody else think?

25 comments:

ardenswv said...

At least the "genius" son seems to have turned a point past "I don't believe any of this". Hopefully that's an indication that--as writers--Abrams and Pinkerton recognized that the character needed a course correction. Not sure if I was willing to hang in there and watch him be a shrill Doubting Thomas week after week...

Sara Ann said...

The weirdness quotient was up, and I enjoyed it, but I thought it didn't quite make up for the fact that they whiffed their main plot, giving Josh Jackson a reason to stay on this team. In the end he gets kidnapped and experiences two kinds of mind reading, which is not appreciably harder to swallow than some of the other shenanigans he's seen, but suddenly he's a believer. It was a plot they needed to hit, but I thought they crapped out with the resolution. Come on, let him discover something about his own apparently weird past! Give him a real reason to stay! This show keeps getting me excited and then letting me down.

Meanwhile, the mad scientist gets rid of his son and asks the anonymous assistant to hand him a syringe - what did she think he was going to do with it, stick it in the metal lingus? As far as I'm concerned she deserved to get stuck.

Bobman said...

Yeah, this was definitely the best episode, including the pilot, simply because they didn't follow the ridiculous formula they had been sticking with for the past three episodes. Walter didn't magically solve everything with some bizarre device - though he did of course have prior knowledge of the problem in question.

Tom C. said...

I liked the way this episode basically said, "OK, let's just be creepy this week." Basically, nothing was explained at all.

And to me, Michael Kelly (the ray-gun killer) will always be the serial killer who attempted -- unsucessfully -- to outsmart Dutch in the first season of The Shield.

velvetcannibal said...

The show really turned the corner for me this week as well. The Observer was strange and creepy, but benevolent for his own reasons. The mystery remained completely unsolved, and Peter finally got a grip. We had reached the point where I was sick of his sarcasm at every turn, and it felt appropriate for the doctor to chew him out. And we needed Peter to have a revelation of some sort in order for it to make sense that he'd stick around. He had to become part of the fight for his participation to be plausible beyond this episode.

Good work all around.

John said...

I thought I had written this show off last week, but just happened to tune in last night for the opening scene. Those five minutes alone intrigued me so much more than the first three episodes combined.

Of course, some of the same issues are there, namely my continued disinterest in the lead characters. Pacey is okay, but Anna Torv is just so blah. They really need to lighten her up because right now there's just zero chemistry between the two of them. I'm more interested in The Observer than anyone else on the show right now.

Though I'm now somewhat hooked on the mythology, I'll see if the show can hold my interest once it presumably returns to a more self-contained episode next time. But they've definitely stepped up and shown that it might just get better after all.

Anonymous said...

Funny, this was my least favorite episode to date. Yes, it was creepier and more suspenseful than some of the other episodes, but how hard is it to come up with creepy and off the wall ideas when there's no explanation or resolution? It's a cop-out equivalent to the "it was all a dream" device except people are too busy trying to figure out what the hell happened to notice that the emperor has no clothes.

Mo Ryan said...

What Alan and everyone else said. I liked it for all the reasons everyone stated, though there are still a few problem areas here and there. But the episode was intriguing and gave me a reason to tune in again next week.

Walter didn't magically solve everything with some bizarre device - though he did of course have prior knowledge of the problem in question.

That was big -- that he didn't just whip out some piece of ye olde Whatever Technology and solve the problem that way.

All in all, a solidly enjoyable hour of TV. I was ready to dump the show too, now I won't.

Can they give Lance Reddick and Captain Patterson more to do though?

Anonymous said...

Alan - I toltally called what you were going to say in your opening line - it had to eb either the root beer float or the jalapeno-pepper-tabasco sandwich - and I called root beer!!!

Good to know I'm an avid enough reader - or maybe you need more variety?

velvetcannibal said...

I think I'd disagree with the "cop-out," because all of the resolutions so far have been completely out of the realm of possibility in the first place. Olivia is LSDed out in a bathtub to form a brainwave connection with her near-dead fiancee? Etc.

I think this was the first time they'd given a reason for me to even see how there could be a "Pattern." They gave us a physical representation of the link between all these events with The Observer, and I needed that to see this as anything more than random science experiments gone awry. Plus, it adds the element of "whose side is Olivia really working for" because the Observer was not just a menacing figure. Maybe the "Pattern" has a purpose that doesn't actually involve destroying the world.

Anonymous said...

Oh - and addendum to my comment about calling Alan on his opening line.

You commented on "funny" lines - how could you have missed Lance Reddick's perfectlydeadpan delivery of "I know lots of bald men" tipping his head just so as he says it to Agent Dunham!!!!

Kristin said...

I'm kinda leaning toward Peter as a clone of his father. There is just something strange about the two of them and how his dad just is on the edge of revealing some medical thingie going on with him.

I liked the Observer, too. All so strange.

But I do wish they'd connect more of the episodes together. It's like they almost forget about what happened previously.

Anonymous said...

Astrid is her name.

alison said...

maybe this one had a nice mood (arguable), but i still don't care about anything or anyone at all. i don't care what the pattern is, i don't care how massive dynamic is part of it, i don't care what lt. daniels's role is, i don't care whether john scott is alive or not, and i don't care why pacey and father are mad at each other. i want to care, but i don't.

unless rave reviews start pouring in, i'm reserving my double tuner for privileged and mentalist from now on. granted expectations were lower, but neither of those shows have disappointed me yet.

Sara Ann said...

Jasika Nicole? Is that you?

JR said...

...the spunky assistant is a metaphor for the whole show. She's nice to look at, but there's no compelling content there.

I have trouble investing myself into the show because I've been told "palatable" is the overall objective.

Jennifer said...

I enjoyed The Observer's eerie resemblance to that guy in Men In Black.

I wished Pacey had been around for that scene so he could have made a crack along the lines of "Of COURSE he's 'The Observer,' because all the other sci-fi shows called dibs on 'Watcher' by now."

I dunno. I was with Alan on the "gonna quit after this one", but it was a bit more interesting.

That said, I find it odd that the show is being pulled next week for, according to tv.yahoo.com, "To Be Announced." That doesn't sound good.

Mo Ryan said...

I think Fox is bailing on next Tuesday because there is another presidential debate.

Anonymous said...

This was certainly the best episode yet. For those complaining about the lack of answers, I'd say this show is clearly all about the questions. Questions are intriguing. Answers are boring. When we find out the Observer is an alien, and Peter is a clone, and Broyles is working with the bad guys, and the cow knew it all along, etc... its not going to be very satisfying to me. But the journey to get to those answers could be a blast if the show stays anywhere near as good as it was last night. Also, that gun was totally awesome.

excentric said...

Nobody else was reminded of Roswell by the hot sauce? That was the first thing I thought of.

Bruce Reid said...

Bobman: "...they didn't follow the ridiculous formula they had been sticking with for the past three episodes. Walter didn't magically solve everything with some bizarre device - though he did of course have prior knowledge of the problem in question."

Actually they just shifted it over to the sonic gun assassin; his mind-reading of Peter only worked because, it fortunately turns out, he shares a psychic link with his dad. And has since their lives were saved years ago by (duh-duh-dun!) The Observer.

I agree this was the best episode yet; still nothing special, but with some creepy overtones and a real sense of foundation-layering. But just when I was about to rate it as decent Olivia disbelieves Peter's story in the hospital for no reason I can figure beyond keeping the show's Mulder/Scully ratio 1 to 1.

Anonymous said...

While the "...just as soon as..." might have been easy to predict, the post title is the funniest one I've seen in all my (admittedly short) time reading this blog. To be honest, if it hadn't been for the pepper I would have thought that sandwich looked amazing.

When the episode was over I had a feeling it would be enough to stay its execution by Alan. For my part I'm enjoying it, but it helps that I'm not overwhelmed by the number of shows that he is. Noble is awesome, and the rest are warming up to me. Although that last bit where Olivia doubts what happened to Peter was amazingly dumb. Seriously? You're ok with the ageless bald guy and the laser rifle and the aging baby and so on and so forth, but THAT was too much?

Hatfield

HollyMartins said...

I was going to ditch this show, but after seeing all the positive comments here I checked out the last episode on Hulu. I agree it was a major improvement, though I'm still not hooked -- I think they really need to do some major work defining and fleshing out these characters, especially Olivia.

I still feel like I'm watching "The Adventures of Pacey, Denethor, and FBI Barbie".

Run Yeti Run said...

It actually was a Generation Kill alum heavy week across the dial. Capt. Patterson showed up here, Iceman played the suave vamp in True Blood and his co-team leader Espera was the cop boyfriend in Sarah Connor.

Now if only they could find a way to get Ziggy/Ray onto Heroes so Sylar can scalp him...

Mo Ryan said...

Oh please, doesn't Ziggy/Ray deserve better than that?

Anonymous 6:40 -- so you're saying, the cow is a mole??