Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fringe, "The Ghost Network": My thoughts to your thoughts

Quick spoilers for last night's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I smile...

Not improving yet. If anything, I'm less interested the further in we go. If it wasn't for the John Noble character, I don't know that I'd still be watching at all. Even there, the "crazy old man on drugs" jokes are starting to wear thin, and it's only episode three. This is a much duller show than anything with J.J. Abrams' name attached to it should be. Hell, "Six Degrees" was more engaging than this.

Among my problems:

• This is two out of three cases where the impetus for Olivia being involved hasn't been fringe-y enough. Yes, the trapped-in-amber bus thing was sci-fi-ish, but with both this case and the transparent skin incident from the pilot, the really out-there science came into play with the case's solution. If not for the poor bastard with the incidental ESP, which nobody in the FBI knew about when the case started, this could practically be an episode of "NCIS." (And I like "NCIS," but for the characters rather than the storytelling; and few of the "Fringe" characters are engaging in any way.)

• The big shocking moments really aren't. We need a moratorium on people stepping in front of buses, intentionally or not, on all primetime shows, but especially on JJ Abrams shows. That's at least three, counting the kid on "Felicity," Juliette's ex-husband on "Lost," and now the bad guy here, and it's just funny now. Meanwhile, was I supposed to be surprised by the reveal that Broyles gave the chip to Blair Brown? The Most Expository Scene In The History of Explaining Things from last week's episode already established that the two of them are working together without Olivia's knowledge. And, for that matter, the pilot already established that Massive Dynamics had John Scott's body and was doing stuff to do it, so the dun-dun-DUN! moment at the episode's end fell completely flat.

• The action is lame. "Alias," "Lost" and "24" have all shown that it's possible to do interesting, exciting action sequences on a weekly TV schedule and budget. Whenever "Fringe" goes into action mode, though, it's the same generic stuff we've seen on TV for decades. I could have seen that chase and shootout sequence at the end on dozens of other shows, and often done better.

• Anna Torv can smile, still can't be interesting.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I was home sick last night and watched this after "House." I was not impressed. Any time they did anything involving the FBI, all I could think was, "This is trying too hard to be the X-Files/This isn't as good as the X-Files/Where are Mulder and Scully?" Maybe it's just me, since I spent my formative middle school years counting down the days until the next X-Files episode. But seriously ... FBI investigates paranormal, conspiracy-laden cases? I've seen this show before, done much better.

And Olivia looks *way* too much like Serena from "Gossip Girl" for me to take her seriously as an FBI agent, even a newbie one.

Myles said...

Count me among those who kind of liked the thing. Yes, it has all of the same problems as before, but the episode was just tonally stronger for me: there were more of what I'd call real live jokes this time around, and Walter was let run free just a bit more. It felt like a show that I could actually mildly enjoy watching, something that I wouldn't have said last week.

J said...

I think it would be completely legit to rerun your excellent Heroes judgement - "the dumb show that wants you to think it's smart" - here. Or maybe tweak it as "a simple show that wants you to think it's complicated and mysterious."

This episode was purely background noise, but I had to stop and roar when everyone went OMG PSYCHIC POWERS NO WAY. Next week, no.

Anonymous said...

I don't really have any issue with the actors, the characters or the stories themselves, it's just that none of it really comes together. Yet...I like it. It's weird. It's going to be around for awhile I'm assuming, and I'll keep watching it as long as there's no real competition at 9pm, but as soon as another option presents itself this will probably move on to be a DVR show. I want to watch it, but if I suddenly stopped it would be no great loss.

My greatest gripe is the gripe of many others, I guess, in that it's utterly predictable and the big reveals are of the "really? didn't we all know that already?" variety. I was excited to see Scott just because I was glad they finally got it over with and showed us that Mark Valley is still on the show since we all already *knew* that Mark Valley was still on the show.

I realized last night after the scene in the diner that I'd like to see Walter with Cameron from TSCC. Between his "I'm going to have the pancakes" (assuming I'm correctly remembering the food he was going to have) and her whole "maybe we'll kill the bird later" bit on Monday, I imagine that I would get a lot of joy in seeing them randomly try to carry on a converation.

Anonymous said...

I tried...I really tried. But my hatred of this show only grew, and it felt like a chore to watch it last night like I am supposed to like this & what the heck is wrong with me for not?

So, at approximately 9:31 PM EST, I pressed stop on the DVR, erased it, turned on my DVD player and popped in the season 2 premier of BBC's "Torchwood", which FINALLY arrived at my house after weeks of waiting for it from Netflix.

(and I didn't love the season 2 premier for a few reasons, but it was certainly more interesting, fun and easier to watch than the painfully dull and insipid "Fringe").

Also, I can't stand Anna Torv - still. In watching her and Pacey, Pacey was MIS-CAST, don't get me wrong, but at least Joshua Jackson seems to have a personality. Anna Torv is a dull, boring, emotionless actress and I am sorry, but considering the extreme gorgeousness of previous Abrams' leading ladies like Jennifer Garner and Evangeline Lilly (who are also good actors and know how to smile and pout equally), Torv isn't in their league on ALL levels.

If I ever get word that they decide to kill Torv and Pacey off and get two, completely new lead actors, then I have no reason to watch this mess.

If anything, I can use Tuesday to catch up on my Monday shows. Sayanora, dull Fox series.

Bobman said...

Wow, shocking, another week where the solution to the main problem is some random machine that Noble created thirty years ago, and some ridiculous experiment goes off without a hitch! I was so shocked!

Also, why would some random guy consent to BRAIN SURGERY from a crazy person in the basement of Harvard? I mean, you'd think he'd at least insist upon a sterile operating room before having his skull drilled into.

There's suspension of disbelief, and there's just ridiculous, and this show is WAY too ridiculous. I think three episodes is all the leeway I'm going to give it, JJ Abrams or no.

Anonymous said...

I actually liked this one the best, because the science seemed the least ridiculous to me. But it should be better than it is, no doubt.

And it's Massive Dynamic, not Massive Dynamics.

Mac said...

Just one quibble: I thought that the bus was already funny when it hit Juliet's ex.

Anonymous said...

I assumed that Zak had been living with this issue for so long and it had made him so unstable and miserable that logical thoughts like "shouldn't we be doing this in a hospital" were the last thing on his mind. I liked that character. I assumed he would be dead by the end of the show, so it was good to see him walk out the door happy.

I'm wondering if they're not going so heavy on the predictability of everything lead back to Blair Brown week after week so that, in a couple of episodes, they can finally reveal Bell to us (however they might go about doing that)and we can start branching out into a more XF territory where half the cases are about the MD/pattern mythology and half the cases are more stand alone cases. Otherwise I don't see how this can be a show that runs longer than half a season.

Anonymous said...

"What about your mother?"

"That's a story for another time."

Uh... how hard could it be to track down Peter's mother? If she's not dead, as this scene implies...

...if Blair Brown turns out to be Peter's mom I'm going to personally fly to LA and punch J.J. Abrams in the face.

Though I probably should have done so already after "A Tale of Two Cities".

Pamela Jaye said...

there was a bus trapped in amber? (hey, it's a sci-fi-ish show and I don't watch it - there could be (plus I can't figure out how a *bug* trapped in amber would be sci-fi-ish, having read in Poland that bugs in amber were really big back in 1500 or whenever )

It's the commercials with the people being rushed down halls by doctors that are getting to me. I didn't watch the X-Files, I *do* watch Doctor shows. I can't decide whether I need to be torn.

Sleepyhead said...

I haven't watched this ep yet, but it sounds like my "speed through it on TiVo and then delete the Season Pass" plan will be enacted as anticipated.

I don't find John Noble and Pacey's banter entertaining or believable. I don't believe Pacey would be on board for this nonsense. Massive Dynamic seems silly, straight out of a comic book. I don't like the Massive Dynamic lady, and they've got a long way to go to convince me that "the Pattern" is interesting or ominous. Lance Reddick is wasted. I don't know why the young black FBI intern is hanging around all the time with no discernible personality.

I may be the only one who doesn't mind Torv - I think she's stunning, and you do need a sort of calm, level center in the middle of all these wacky scientists and psychic experiments.

But the real crime here, the reason this show isn't engaging or mystifying or compelling in any sense, is the astounding unbelievability of it all. And I'm not talking about the psychic powers or alien time travelers and all that. We watched Lost and X-Files and liked them just fine even though they occasionally involve magic visions and little green men. I'm talking about the sheer number of "shyeah, right" moments.

In the pilot, Mark Valley was dying in a hospital, in a coma from an unknown translucent skin condition. But, transfer him to the basement of a Harvard lab under no medical supervision? You got it, junior FBI lady! And congratulations on recovering so fast from that massive dose of LSD! Keep him out in the open in the lab, no precautions against infection or bacteria? Sure, why not. He needs a vast blood transfusion to undergo the Whatchahoozis procedure? Well, conveniently, FBI agents all keep huge backup blood supplies, and we can get that blood here and use it in a matter of minutes, there are no papers to sign or doctors to consult, go go go! OK, Mark Valley, you just woke up from your week-long coma, ready to go shoot some guns and flip some trucks? OK... you see my point. I don't mind the fringe science stuff. but Fringe is just willing to take any shortcut, jump around any supposed problem to get to the next scene or supposedly cool pseudo-science bit. And that's just terrible writing, and contempt for your audience.

Indeed, the least of all of JJ Abrams' children.

Anonymous said...

ZZZZZZZZ.....I agree. With each episode I am less and less interested (actually contemplated watching the Biggest Loser instead). I agree with most posters - the show is utterly predictable and lacking in credibility. I've found that many of J.J. Abrams' shows are like comets - they burn brightly for a brief period of time and then fade away. The difference is that it usually happens after a season or two - not an episode or two into the run. Lance Reddick is totally wasted - Joshua Jackson's wise guy persona is tired already - and Anna Torv needs to add some emotions to her character..... there has to be a better way to kill an hour until The Shield goes on at 10.

Anonymous said...


Both season 2 of "Torchwood" and season 5 of "The Wire" (if you have watched either or both shows) are now available on DVD.

My recommendation is to do what I one of those shows in the hour or you are waiting for "The Shield" to come on at 10.

(plus, if you watch "The Wire", you can see what Lance Reddick is capable of with ACTUAL writing).

Anonymous said...

The show is trying to do too much, and not pulling it off.

They have the characters investigate "fringe science" cases, but then also use more "fringe science" to try to solve the case. That's twice as much weirdness to carry as the x-files, and they didnt have to come up with faux-science to explain all the supernatural stuff.

Furthermore, they want every episode to be self-contained, yet every single episode they seem to be facing the same opposition group linked to massive dynamic. That seems to be an untenable formula.

However, I did like this episode a little better than the two previous ones.lhoefzh

Unknown said...

I think I'm with Alan on this: bored now, probably not watching after this episode unless next Tuesday is especially dull for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised by how passionate the dislike for this show is. To me it's just one of those shows that I can't seem to care strongly about one way or another. I will say, though, that having every single case tie back to Massive Dynamic is already getting old. If there were really a corporation out there that was working on such seemingly unethical projects and popped up repeatedly in the FBI's investigations don't you think they'd be the the ones the FBI would be investigating and attempting to shut down??

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if you agree with Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune when she says that Supernatural is "approximately 3.7 times better than Fringe" (, and if so whether you'd consider reviewing it once in a while. I used to read your column when I lived in New Jersey, and I've missed it sorely--at least until I found you online. I enjoy the heck out of Supernatural (my language has been modified in honour of their new recurring character) and would love to read your take on it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I enjoy Supernatural enough when I have a chance to watch it, but that's so rare that I don't feel especially connected to the show and its mythology, which in turn means I don't seek it out to watch that often.

There are shows where I miss getting on the train early on, and then that's it for me. Supernatural falls into that category, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

You even have Peter (joshua jackson) pointing out how ridiculous it all is. He says the exact things that everyone is thinking.

It doesn't work for me. I just wrote a post about it on my blog Fringe - it sucks

Anonymous said...

Alan, in my humble opinion, I think "Supernatural" is one of the 4 or 5 most entertaining shows on Television. I am addicted and have tos ay, if you watched it regularly, I think you'd be hooked.

I never dreamed when I started watching this back in 2005, it would become one of my favorite shows on Television. Just my 2 cents.