Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fringe, "Unleashed": Tunnel rats

Quick thoughts on last night's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I enjoy an egg-and-ear omelet...

"Unleashed" was directed by Brad Anderson, and it had elements of two of his previous episodes: like "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones," it had a friendly FBI agent (for real this time) being attacked from within by some monstrous creation of science; and, like "The Transformation", it opened with a scary pre-credits sequence that was effective precisely because of how little we saw the monster, and how abruptly things happened once it emerged.

What differentiated "Unleashed" was the attempt to shine a brighter spotlight on Kirk Acevedo as Charlie, and the return of the tension between Peter and Walter. The former didn't really work; there's too much going on with the show, and Charlie's been an expositional character and little more for so long, that simply showing that he has a wife and mentioning that they want to have kids wasn't enough to make me care about him any more than I did before. And the Peter/Walter tension was interesting largely in how completely out-of-nowhere it felt. I kept waiting for some sort of explanation -- other than the omnipresent, utilitarian "Because Walter's crazy!" -- for why, after weeks of getting on rather well, the two were acting again like it was some great ordeal to have to work together, but it never came. John Noble and Joshua Jackson are both fun to watch, but I'd like a little more consistency with what little characterization "Fringe" has room for each week.

Solid episode. Nothing great, but creepy and engaging enough. Unfortunately, where "X-Files" tended to work equally well on the Monster of the Week episodes and the conspiracy ones early in its run (and where the Monster stories were pretty much the only ones that worked the longer the series hung around), "Fringe" only really feels compelling when it's dealing with the larger mythology. I'd like to get back to that soon.

What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

Karen said...

Main thought I was left with after the episode: Charlie has a wife?? I thought all this time he was silently pining for Olivia. Huh.

I thought the monster was really effective until they started showing it. I realize what you don't see is pretty much almost always going to be scarier than what you do, but I thought they did a good job in the opening sequence of ratcheting up the scariness. (And by the way, it did have a rattle at the end of its tale, yes? I don't remember them mentioning "rattlesnake" as part of its makeup, but then again at that point in the show I was too busy telling my husband "I hope it's not going to be like the end of that Torchwood episode where they've built up a big scary unseen monster and then it turns out to be a D-grade Godzilla knock-off." Man, my husband must hate my running commentaries when we watch TV, but he's very patient.)

Liked Olivia's bemused expression when Peter called her sister. Having Olivia and Peter get together would be too predictable, but I like the idea that she's feeling twinges of something in a very subtle way. (On the other hand, I was left asking my husband "Did Peter actually ever meet the sister?" Which is probably a testament to my lousy memory rather than anything else. I guess when the daughter was getting sucked into the computer screen.)

But why did Walter have to drink the poison if he also had a big frakking gun? And why wouldn't he BRING THE ANTIDOTE WITH HIM?

Enjoyable, but a lot just didn't make much sense.

Karen said...

"tail." Jeez, Karen.

ED said...

Alan,

I actually thought it was really strong. One of the series best episodes. It was nerve-wracking, and had me on the edge of my seat. And they did a great job of subscribing to the theory of "the monster is always scarier when you can't see it". I thought it was a great episode.

Because of the Idol overrun, my recording cut off just as Charlie was cured. Can anyone let me know if I missed anything in the last minute or two? (Yes, I have now programmed my TiVo to record 5 minutes long for all subsequent Fringe episodes!)

Ryan said...

I do like the picture. "Little Green Bag" is playing in my head.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can anyone let me know if I missed anything in the last minute or two? It's just Olivia going to bed and listening to the sound of the wind outside her bedroom. (Or was there some deeper meaning to it I missed? I was distracted at the end.)

Karen said...

And turning out the light, then turning it back on again and leaving it on. I'd rather not be in the dark after an episode like that either!

rosseau said...

I still maintain that the weekly cutesy time with Olivia's sister and niece is to set them up for death at the hands of the main Pattern baddies. Then, Agent Dunham will become more committed to the mythology a la one Fox Mulder, or Dana Scully.(This is probably blaringly obvious to everyone and doesn't need to be said).

Alan, I am glad that you have stopped harping on Anna Torv's supposed "blandness." The character is the regular girl after Mr. Sarcastic and the Mad Scientist. The actress brings, I think, a deceptive cheeriness that hides a tough, smart mind. She is not showy. Also, playing flawed or quirky is given more attention and more praise, unjustly, than playing normal or optimistic, which can be just as hard or harder.

I did think Olivia had an uncharacteristically lavish bedspread.

Hatfield said...

Since Alan didn't harp, I shall: She's bland. I'm sorry, but she just doesn't do anything very interesting, no matter how passionate she's supposed to sound at any given time. Not terrible, just blah.

I do disagree about Charlie though, in that I did care about his well-being more because of the obvious (and lazy) character traits they gave him. I liked the scene where he calls his wife and she tells a bad joke while he's in mortal pain, possibly winding down his life. I know, I'm a sucker.

The creature was a cool idea, but why can't TV shows afford better CGI? I know it would look fake no matter what, but that was weak.

pgillan said...

This is the fourth show in as many weeks to feature environmental terrorism, and the third to specifically involve freeing animals from a lab (the other three shows being Dollhouse, Numbers and House). It makes you wonder if television writers as a whole really need to get our of their collective rut.

dez said...

I don't mind if they stall on the mythology episodes, which aren't that interesting to me, if the monster eps are as good as last night's. Despite the bad CGI, that thing was Cree. Pee.

I do wonder why a monster that large had such (comparatively) tiny little larvae. Yuck. And did we find out what happened to the bodies of the son and the other doctor at the facility? Because they must have been chock full of the wormy spawn, blech.

Best line of the night: "You crap them out!" (or thereabouts--what Walter said to Charlie when Charlie asked what happens after the larvae died). Also, I think there was tension between Peter and Walter because Walter was lost in Guiltville and Peter was impatient for him to get to curing Charlie and/or figuring out what was up with the creepy-crawly critter.

Edd said...

Alan Sepinwall said...
Can anyone let me know if I missed anything in the last minute or two? It's just Olivia going to bed and listening to the sound of the wind outside her bedroom.
I think it's the old horror movie trope: the child is afraid of monsters, so the adult assures her there are no monsters. Then the episode/movie is about nothing but monsters. At the end, the adult is now afraid of monsters and afraid to go to sleep in the dark.

As you said in your comments, this episode wasn't anything great. Nothing original. I've seen the animal right folks foolishly releasing animals and evil animal hybrids too many other places.

I too felt Peter's arguing with his father came out of nowhere. Also, even though Peter may have met Anna's sister in one episode, when did they develop a relationship? Seems like a clumsy effort at character development. I hope the new Star Trek movie Abrams and Orci are working on is better than this.

mattmono3 said...

I loved Walter's "Two buckets" line.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dez, Walter and Peter were snapping at each other even before they found out about the monster.

Anonymous said...

Seeing Joey Ice Cream (Keith Nobbs) and Nicky Cottero (Kirk Acevedo) "together" again was awesome for me and my girlfriend. If they only could have shared a scene together...

I knew my girlfriend was the one for me when we first started dating and I convinced her to watch the complete Black Donnellys in one weekend, and she loved it.

Dang Idol, throwing everything off. Luckily, the last line we heard was "You crap them out!". Awesome.

Jasonsargo

dez said...

Dez, Walter and Peter were snapping at each other even before they found out about the monster.I'm so used to it that I don't really notice it any more, to be honest :-)

grand-sophy said...

My subconscious does a pretty good job of evaluating an episode for me once I realize how much I'm talking back to the tv, and I've done rather a lot of that throughout the last two Fringe episodes (which drives my son crazy, who is not patient). I'm also quite tired of their endless attempts to convince me of the otherworldly nobility of Olivia. The woman is creepy.

Christy said...

I'm so done with animal activists releasing critters on TV that I cheered when the kids were wrecked and slaughtered.

I also feel relief when Olivia's family continue to be the anti-Jinx and Brandy.

Bob in SA said...

Other amusing comment from Walter, after giving a rather weird explanation for something, in response to question about whether he had taken halucinogens, "Not since Thursday."

Anonymous said...

maybe peter and walter were snapping at each other because they were just both in bad moods, i mean the live together. my roommate and i snap at each other all the time. and clearly peter and olivia's sister met after their first introductions because of what she said on the phone. just because we didnt see it doesnt mean it didnt happen in their world. imagination, people.

Searching said...

How happy I'd have been if, after the "You crap them out" line, Charlie had said "Quick Henry, the Fleet!"