Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fringe, "Bound": Cool girl-on-girl action

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?


Anonymous said...

Admittedly, when watching it live, I usually get bored about a third of the way in and watch the rest later in the week on the Tivo. Tonight, however, I actually made it all the way through. This show is not appointment television for me, and I wouldn't miss it if it got disappeared, but I am not thinking about dropping it as of yet. How's that for a ringing endorsement?

Unknown said...

I don't know if it's been the absence but tonight felt like a really good episode. I agree that the back story of the dude from the Pentagon is pretty lame but I like the idea that someone in Washington is wondering what the frak they're doing up there in Boston.

The hints of the conspiracy were cool but I feel like they're going to strangle themselves by trying too hard to keep the show episodic rather than serialized.

Overall, however, I'm more excited to watch Fringe than I've been during the fall part of the season.
Alan, do you know if this is filmed in the Boston area?

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a way to return: with the worst episode of the season.

Olivia ass-kicking aside (After she goes through some horrible abuse, of course- who wrote this, Brian Bendis?), none of this episode made any goddamn sense to me. Why, oh WHY, is the guy Olivia had prosecuted anywhere near the Fringe division? That entire sequence made no sense, and if it was to complicate things for Olivia... it didn't. She didn't really have much of a problem doing what she needed to do. And considering how his friend behaved, why was Broyles so agitated in the pilot? From the looks of things his friend was scum and he also did the things Olivia accused him of. This guy, even if his conviction was overturned, probably wouldn't even be in a position of authority. It ruined the whole episode for me.

The addition of the sister and niece... ugh. Typical JJ. God, the dialogue was so hackalicious. Torv did seem to really enjoy working with the kid, though.

Oh, and Loeb confesses after Olivia shows him the picture of his dead wife. Yeah. And Loeb is dumb enough to leave his evidence on his home DESK. Yeah.

Then again, he IS named Loeb...

Walter was great. The monster was awesome. But it was too little of both. I'm not even sure I'll make it to next week.

Matt said...

Fringe is filmed pretty much entirely in NYC (primarily in the outer boroughs)--New York doubles for Boston.

And I was hopeful they were going to kill off Anna Torv and replace her with Ari Graynor, who was pretty darn great in "Nick and Norah."

Bobman said...

I was hot and cold on the ep. As Alan said, the idea that someone Olivia had had arrested would be put in charge of evaluating her in the future is too absurd to even imagine, even for a show that so often taps into the ridiculous. Even if he were inadvertently assigned this task, he'd be off of it in SECONDS when the conflict of interest was discovered.

And the exposition near the beginning of the episode was just so obvious and clumsy to me.

But beyond those gaping things, the action was good, the story was interesting enough. I wish they would tie a FEW things together to give the show a bit more ... cohesion? I understand it's a mystery and I don't expect all the answers, nor do I even want them this early on, but we need more than ominous-sounding warnings and hints. SOMETHING solid has to happen to make it actually interesting rather than just confusing.

J said...

Hadn't seen any eps for even longer than the show has been on hiatus. Torv seemed a lot more confident, the ep still felt meh. The ass-kicking was just silly, and I quickly lost any concern re: the internal double-dealings.

Alan, did anyone at the Mongo Critics' Whoozaholla last week ask these folks if Darin Morgan's going to write an episode? And if not, why not? And when it airs? And if they could e-mail me reminders as the air date approaches? Please?

Count Screwloose said...

I've never understood the antipathy towards Torv, so the action hero business was fun and just expanded the character for me. It did feel like something was off, though. Walter and Peter felt strangely detached from the goings-on (as well as from each other), sort of The Lone Gunmen to Torv's Scully. Pre-hiatus I felt more of an intimate bond between the three, but I'm probably being nitpicky. Certainly I hope the Walter/Peter relationship is allowed to develop along the lines it has been.

Walter's attempts to get Olivia and Peter together were fun, but forced. And speaking of forced, the sister and the Home Sec guy felt like they were shoehorning in too much too soon - this might account for why I sometimes felt as if I were watching another, less interesting, show.

No Blair Brown, no Mr. Jones, and no Observer (or maybe there was?) also made things feel off kilter. I kept waiting for the big reveal scene at Massive Dynamic that would tease us into next week. I guess the Loeb confession worked just as well, and I suspect Loeb is being completely truthful or else what's to come isn't going to be half as interesting.

In any case, I'm in it for the long haul. The wonderful moment when Walter waxes poetic about the qualities of the Ebola virus with a deranged grin on his face would be enough for me to forgive this installment any of its other shortcomings.


Anonymous said...

Alias did something similar midway through its first season, with an episode where Sydney was questioned by an FBI agent who just happened to ask his questions in a way that served as a recap for the series so far.

As for Olivia's ass-kicking...yeah, I found myself thinking "When did she become Sydney Bristow?"

Anonymous said...

If anyone knows the name of the song playing during the kitchen/cooking scene with her sister, please post it here. I'd been so grateful!

Unknown said...

To anonymous, I'm pretty sure it was a cover of The Cure's song "Just Like Heaven" but I'm not sure who the artist was. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chris! I appreciate it.


Anonymous said...

Knowing this would be a re-introduction episode, I gave Fringe a third try. I won't bother with a review, I'm done, but I did notice one thing I wanted to put up for discussion.

I was so happy that Hollywood finally picked up on all the talent from The Wire, but every single Wire graduate seems to be stuck in a crappy role on a mediocre show. Daniels on Fringe, Michael on 90210, Bubs on Terminator/Heroes...seems like there are a couple more that I am forgetting. Their fates remind me of Marlo, gone legit but to a life of unending boredom. At least the Bunk and Lester are getting to do Simon's New Orleans show.

Anonymous said...

Sayid vs. Olivia. Who would win the fight?

Anonymous said...

Ugh. So these "Fringe" people believe everything, no matter how far-fetched, except when it's important -- such as the fact that Olivia clearly had something put into her, or taken out of her, that was supposed to save her from something. (Which, by the way, is exactly the sort of thing that used to happen to Scully.)

It was enough to make me want Olivia's "ghost lover" to show up again, just so he could talk some sense into her.

Anonymous said...

>>Oh, and Loeb confesses after Olivia shows him the picture of his dead wife. Yeah. And Loeb is dumb enough to leave his evidence on his home DESK. Yeah. <<

In his defense, when you don't think you're doing anything wrong you're less likely to consider your documents to be "evidence".

I'm still more interested in Walter and Peter than I am anything else on the show, but Olivia as ass kicker definitely raised her stock a bit. The on going conspiracy doesn't hold my interest that much, but the characters do, so I'll stick around at least a little while longer.

Anonymous said...

Hm, I didn't like it nearly as much but I think it was because it was being used as an intro for new audiences.

The horribly stupid 'glass of water' request. And how she has to 'sit up' in order to be able to drink it? OMG, stupid. If they are clever enough to clean up any evidence they had in this big old warehouse, wouldn't they at least be smart enough to know NOT to let her out of her restraints? Find a damn straw.

The other problem I had was the confession scene. It just did NOT work for me. There was no need for a confession as I am sure they arrested him before he could hide the stuff she found at his house, PLUS what I'm guessing would be a vial of the virus eggs at his office. I mean, who else had access to the room where the scientist was when he was killed while in custody? Don't they have cameras going in all these rooms or at least in the hallway to see he was the one who brought the guy a glass of water?

Just not good.

I like more of the conspiracy stuff rather than add in more gov't dudes to make it hard for them to do their job of exploring the 'pattern.' As if they would send the very guy she sent to jail about SEXUAL HARASSMENT to her division.

But the big old virus was cool, as was the way it erupted out of its victims, and still adore crazy scientist dad and his relationship with his son.

Anonymous said...

Again, I'm defending it in spite of the fact that there were a lot of holes and I didn't even like it that much...but, I think there are, at the very least, easily wanked reasons for the behavior of some of these people. The guys at the warehouse weren't criminal masterminds. I believe Loeb when he says that they weren't trying to hurt her and I would assume that the guys "working" there would know that as well. They were a bit silly and naive, but when you're not doing a bad thing you don't necessarily think of the bad consequences. Plus, they'd just given her a spinal tappish thing (I'm still not clear on what we know they did to her, much less what they really did to her), so I can forgive them for assuming she wasn't a flight risk. Dumb, yes, unbelievable, not really. Besides, I'm guessing there were more than just those three people there because even if they *were* criminal masterminds, it probably takes more than a couple of banged up dumbasses to load all that stuff up and move it so quickly.

As for the necessity of the confession: it wasn't necessary. They said as much. Homeland Dude wanted it. They didn't need a confession to hold Loeb, he was just making them jump through hoops and waving his authority around. And for the time being I'm operating on the assumption that he's not there because they needed someone to investigate this office so much as that he's a part of some bigger evil (or a lackey of evil) and/or he has a vendetta and the people around him are just as scuzzy as he is and don't care what he does. In the real world, in a real investigation, it's unlikely he'd be allowed to investigate anything involving Olivia's job performance, but it's an office where a double agent is pouring cold germs in people's water and growing giant slug colds in them in order to kill them. That a slimeball would land a gig where he gets to knock around the girl who busted him for rape (because it was assault and not harassment, wasn't it?) doesn't really surprise me or seem unlikely in this universe.

Anonymous said...

"The horribly stupid 'glass of water' request. And how she has to 'sit up' in order to be able to drink it? OMG, stupid. If they are clever enough to clean up any evidence they had in this big old warehouse, wouldn't they at least be smart enough to know NOT to let her out of her restraints? Find a damn straw."

Let us also point out that the guy wasn't wearing a mask. If they were going to let her go as Loeb claimed, why wasn't he also disguised? And the fact that the guy broke down gave her the drink of water implied pretty heavily that they were going to kill her.

Oh, and since she didn't kill the guy IIRC, she doesn't mention him or give a description to the FBI so they have a lead. I understood why she hid that other evidence, but hey, SHE KNOWS WHAT ONE OF THEM LOOKS LIKE!

Also, Homeland Security guy needed a confession, but unless Olivia had super-hearing, she didn't know that, did she?

Anonymous said...

Pulse-pounding action, the introduction of an intriguing new character (Harris) (previously referenced but never before seen), a good job of recapping the past episodes (at least the major points), and a wonderful job of advancing the mythology. I was very pleased with last night's episode. Best in the series to date!

Anonymous said...

I don't know the actor's name playing the new bad guy, but he was great on Prison Break. This character, though? Ehhhh. I guess they set up Broyles to be her nemesis in the pilot but wanted to make him more sympathetic, so they needed a new adversary. Kind of like how Star Trek needed to keep introducing new alien races after members of the old ones became fan-favorites.

Pretty boring, nonsensical episode, but John Noble continues to make me laugh (in a good way) every time he's onscreen.

Sayid vs. Olivia. Who would win the fight?

The baby they'd end up making afterwards.

Bobman said...

I believe Loeb when he says that they weren't trying to hurt her and I would assume that the guys "working" there would know that as well. They were a bit silly and naive, but when you're not doing a bad thing you don't necessarily think of the bad consequences.

That's fine, except for the fact that Loeb talks to his wife on the phone and has no problem ordering her to kill Olivia. Yeah, we had your best interest in mind, you have no idea what you've done! But, also, I will kill you without a second thought. So I goddamn HOPE he was just lying, because if he WASN'T, how could he justify ordering a hit on her?!

The Critic said...

I was surprised they never mentioned the fact that loeb was the one who injected himself with the parasite in one of the earlier episodes.

Anonymous said...

@ Dan: I'm guessing Olivia didn't just randomly wander into the room. She was sent in to get a confession and did so. The only reason the back and forth on the other side of the mirror happened, I'm assuming, was to give us a lame explanation/power move.

I'm also assuming that Trini was told to kill her because Olivia had come into their home and, as we clearly found out a few seconds later, could/would/did kill her. No need to kill her until she threatens your wife/life.

The episode wasn't solid or even especially good outside of the actual action and the usual Walter/Peter stuff, but most of the actions didn't especially confuse me. It doesn't surprise me that, when cornered, Loeb would wipe Olivia out, nor does it seem likely that he ever had *only* her best interest in mind, but I don't think that any of his main goals involved her being offed or that he was a dude who thought he was doing bad things. The fact that he's BFF's with the leader of this questionable gang and not on anybody's radar as far as being a bad guy goes, adds up to even more of a reason that he wasn't especially secretive with his work at home. The only part that rang totally lame was the fact that a gal who is involved the way she is and can fight the way she does would be all "a gun? really? where?" on the phone. That was "Peter's working on the wiretap" pointless stalling. The rest? Meh...not deep, but believable in this world.

Christy said...

I thought it was awful and wondered how it had stayed on the air.

Anonymous said...

Its funny how some people can watch a show about giant slugs growing inside people's stomachs, but then complain that a man leaving pictures of said slugs in his desk is unrealistic. Or complain that a captive being allowed to drink some water is beyond belief.

I'm not saying that these are not valid complaints, but I still find them amusing. There were a few little things that bothered me too which have all been mentioned, but I very much enjoyed the episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Its funny how some people can watch a show about giant slugs growing inside people's stomachs, but then complain that a man leaving pictures of said slugs in his desk is unrealistic. Or complain that a captive being allowed to drink some water is beyond belief.

Time to bring up Clark Kent's eyeglasses and the concept of willing suspension of disbelief. The universe of Superman takes it as a given that a man can fly and bend steel bars with his bare hands, and so within that universe's logic, the only thing we can possibly question is why Lois Lane never recognizes that the hero she loves is an identical twin for her nebbishy colleague.

In the same way, the universe of "Fringe" asks us to accept that mutated cold viruses, telepathy, resurrection, etc., are possible, but that only works if the logic of the story around it makes sense. Complaining about the giant slugs is missing the whole point of the series; complaining about Loeb's sloppiness is complaining about the series' execution.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. If all this crazy stuff was really happening, how would the people responsible for it behave? How would the people investigating it behave? Would they act dumb just to move the plot along? Then that's worthy of discussion.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Interestingly, "Idol" didn't turn out to be that huge a help to "Fringe," which was up over recent episodes but was still slightly behind the first episode that aired after "House."

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Alan. What made me really unhappy was that all this sloppiness could have been avoided, with a little more effort on the part of the writers. Olivia could have found a secret compartment in Loeb's office. Or maybe Olivia recognized a colloquial phrase Loeb used while treating her, instead of his wearing the same shoes.

The only reason the auditor seemed to be there was to help us along with the exposition, since the conflict was largely useless to the narrative. Maybe Olivia could have had a dream with flashbacks instead.

Anonymous said...

I wish they'd revealed earlier that Olivia was such a good ass-kicker because then I might not be as bored with her character. But to reveal it now? Eh, evs. She can still die for all I care.

Bring on more Walter, Pacey, and the Giant Slugs. They can solve crimes and at the end, celebrate with a song and a montage.

Anonymous said...

I understand suspension of disbelief. I suppose my previous comment was poorly phrased. I still find those complaints amusing.

About the slug photos in the desk as one example: Loeb has the technology to walk through walls, teleport people across great distances, and presumably knows about the mind reading we've seen on the show. A guy knowing all that probably figures there is no truly safe place to hide something like the slug file from his real enemies, whoever they are. And if someone like Olivia is snooping around his house, then he's already been discovered and its too late. As for his confession, its completely meaningless as well. The people he works for can kill him or teleport him out of prison anytime they please. Like Loeb said, Olivia and company have no idea what they are up against. They don't even know who the two sides are.

There is so much going on in this show, and so much we don’t know about Loeb and who he works for, that to find major faults with the story because he makes minor mistakes regarding what is ultimately a meaningless piece of evidence seems to be missing the big picture.

K J Gillenwater said...

I really like this show, but this one was one of the worst for me. That's all. It was very clunky exposition. Almost using every cliche in the book..."Can I use your bathroom?" And then she explores the house. Oh, how clever!

The water request. Also cliched.

Anyway, it seems to always be a weaker ep when it surrounds Olivia more than the scientist/son duo. They make the show for me.

Will still watch. I'll just hope next week is better.

Anna Weaver Lopiccolo said...

What would be an awesome twist to the family B story is if Olivia's sister left a note saying she needs to work things out on her own and Olivia has to take care of her niece for awhile. Now that would be an interesting side story a la the German film "Bella Martha/Mostly Martha."