Spoilers for tonight's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I ask for a drink of water...
"Bound" is the first episode of "Fringe" to air after "American Idol," and therefore has to operate on the assumption that it'll be the first episode of the series for a whole lot of people. So it has to re-introduce the premise and the characters to the newbies at the same time it's telling a story that won't bore the folks who've been watching since September.
For the most part, it accomplishes those tasks, and more elegantly than the series' second episode (which was the first to air after "House") did. We got reminders of certain character quirks, like Walters' fondness for playing with LSD, and we got exposition about who everybody is, but it wasn't as clumsy this time around. I think the idea of bringing in a guy whom Olivia tried to put away for sexual assault as Homeland Security's overseer of the team is pretty stupid and just there to create false tension, but at least we had an outsider doing most of the exposition this time.
What really struck me about "Bound," though, was the way it chose to introduce Olivia to this potentially much bigger audience: as a big-league ass-kicker.
The Olivia of the earlier episodes was definitely the weakest link of "Fringe": she was too experienced to work as the point-of-view character, too willing to believe in Walter's research to work as a 21st century Scully, and too blandly-played by Anna Torv(*) to be interesting in any other role.
(*) I continue to believe this is another case, ala "Bionic Woman," of the strain of doing the American accent sucking all the personality out of the actress. At press tour, we saw clips of Torv in a BBC series called "Mistresses," and she seemed far, far livelier than she's ever been on "Fringe." Now, that wasn't her native accent, either, but it's much closer than ours is.
Torv isn't suddenly a bundle of charisma in "Bound," but stuck in the middle of a couple of nifty fight sequences -- escaping her spinal-tapping kidnappers, then throwing down with Trini Alvarado -- she didn't exactly need to be. Even when I took issue with Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow (as opposed to Garner-as-Sydney-as-an-undercover-alias), she was always so convincing at the action that any other objections got left by the wayside. I'm not saying Torv is at or remotely near that level yet, but if JJ Abrams and company have decided that she's the muscle, John Noble is the brains and Pacey is there to crack wise, we might have a workable combination.
As for the ongoing hints of the conspiracy? Meh. I'll care about Mitch's rant about the two sides, and whether he was trying to kill Olivia or save her, when they actually give us a scrap of tangible information about any of it.
But overall, not a bad episode, with the super-sized cold virus an appropriately gross touch.
What did everybody else think?