Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fringe, "The No-Brainer": Bring me the head of Frank Sobotka!

Quick, belated spoilers for Tuesday night's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I buy a stained glass window for the local church...

Got a chance to watch this last night, and it was definitely not one of the show's better efforts. Aside from the pleasure of seeing "Wire" alums Chris Bauer (Sobotka) and Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris Partlow) in the same episode as Lance Reddick (though none of them ever had scenes with each other), there wasn't much here to latch onto. The teaser with the hand coming out of the computer monitor was suitably disturbing, but the rest of the hour didn't live up to that, instead feeling like those generic early episodes before we were introduced to The Observer.

Plus, the Michael Gaston character needs to go away, immediately. This kind of character -- the outside supervisor who's there to tell our heroes why everything they're doing is wrong -- almost never works (see Vogler or Tritter on "House" for two other examples that ground their shows to a halt). The guy's so obviously wrong about everything, plus he beat a sexual assault rap, plus he doesn't even have an interesting personality. So he adds nothing, except whatever newbie-friendly exposition he provided last week.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I didn't watch The Wire, but based on this episode I'd have to say Chris Bauer is a horrible actor. Hopefully he was just having an off day.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Bauer is amazing on "The Wire," but I've seen him in other parts like this where the character is so thin that he overcompensates and just seems like a guy who doesn't know how to do anything but yell.

He's an actor who needs material to work with.

Kel V Morris said...

Yes, please do not judge Chris Bauer based on the character of "Crazy Genius with a Grudge".

I enjoyed this one, but then, I've enjoyed them all, at least a little. This one had melting brains, that has to count for something.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for furthering the tangent.
If I hadn't watched the DVDs I would have had no idea Bauer was playing 10+ years over his age in a fat suit.
I thought they threw a great role at some old character actor like they always do. He just was Frank

J said...

Agreed on the Michael Gaston character. It's as if for some reason, after the show spent the first half of its existence allowing its characters to keep speechifying how strange their situation was - "My goodness, this is certainly out of the ordinary is it not?! How strange this giant weird world is and how unexpected that we, who are in an outfit that deals with the paranormal, would encounter such oddities!" - they now need someone to emphasize how abnormal the paranormal outift's procedures are.

It's as if the show refuses to accept the fact that it is a genre show we've all seen a billion times before. It thinks it is new and it keeps trying to find ways to explain itself to us.

This week the mystery was especially lame, and the Ring+Videodrome technique was yawwwwwn. The giant mystery, to me, is why I'm still dumb enough to leave the set on.

Anonymous said...

In addition to The Wire reunion, there was also a Dawson's Creek reunion between Pacey and Grams.

Rachel said...

I want to like this show. I really do. But both this episode and the one from last week are pissing me off.

Yes, the Michael Gaston character is horrible. Bad, bad, BAD! Neither he, nor the sister, appear to be written in for their own merits. They seem to be there to introduce obstacles. The Gaston character was obvious from the beginning. The sister, as of this week, now appears to be there to flirt with Peter and thus to help Olivia get in touch with her "real feelings" about him. (Which, by the way, strikes me as misogynistic).

I am waiting for the YouTube mashup of all the times Olivia tells Peter to wait in the car. That's a (presumably intentional) running gag that I do get kind of a kick out of.

And the science monsters are feeling like metaphors. I realize they're supposed to be metaphors -- the X-files pulled this off a lot of the time if not all the time -- but the metaphor needs to be a bit more subtle and written less lazily. I don't need my sci-fi to be "hard" sci-fi, but come on, at least go through the motions of making it plausible! Okay, I get it, the Internet "melts your brain." If I guess I'm the only one who was annoyed by the jumbo cold virus. (A virus is just a molecule wearing a coat, really. Why didn't they write it as a bacterium or fungus or parasite? Because somebody fell in love with the concept and the line of villains "killing epidemiologists with the common cold!")

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I zoned about about halfway through this with one by alternating between thinking about how unbelievably hot Pacey is these days and making lists of other films and television shows that have done the evil image/sound/video story. It's like "Max Headroom" with a computer! It's like "The Ring" with a computer! It's like that movie with Kristen Bell that I didn't see that might have had a computer...with a computer! It was just boring.

But, again, hot Pacey goes a long way. Nevermind that Walter's line worrying about getting busted for buying bull semen was awesome.

>>>I am waiting for the YouTube mashup of all the times Olivia tells Peter to wait in the car. That's a (presumably intentional) running gag that I do get kind of a kick out of. <<<


Hyde said...

Yeah, not as good as last week. Two questions that I might know the answer to had my mind not been wandering so much: was the second death in the episode ever explained, since I don't recall it tying in with the plot in any way? And was that Ring-like phone call to the lab a complete red herring? I thought we would get some payoff from that.

Anonymous said...

"Tritter on House"!!! Yes, exactly!

That's why we stopped watching House, cold turkey - we couldn't stand the stupidity of that character and what he did to the show. It was so unappealing that we just gave up. If this Harris idiot continues this season, I'll be done with Fringe too.

Anonymous said...

@Hyde: the phone call was from the girl's mother. We're to presume that the number in the basement is still the same after all these years and in her efforts to track down Walter, she called her daughter's old work phone.

The second victim was explained, but hell if I remember who or what the guy was/had to do with anything. I do know that I totally enjoyed his overly talky, strip club loving coworker. That guy was a minute away from randomly confessing all sorts of things.

Anna Weaver Lopiccolo said...

Did they ever explain what the car salesman's connection with the evil programmer was?

And I was wondering why Olivia's sister was seen cooking a complicated meal (at least complicated enough to put off her daughter's call from the other room) when in the previous episode the joke was that she was a horrible cook.

bsangs said...

Couldn't agree more about the Michael Gaston character. Every time he's on screen, I find myself reaching for the FF button.

And it's been a lot of fun sifting through the programs I watch regularly to find all "The Wire" or "Oz" alum. They are everywhere!

The Critic said...

totally agree on the new special agent guy. Why bother with this idiot. Was there any doubt that his interrogation technique was not going to just treats the viewer as dumb to have a character like this. And i highly doubt they'd put him involved with Olivia after she helped get him convicted.

Unknown said...

I didn't get why they did this one when it didn't seem to be part of the "Pattern" weirdness in the end. Yeah, boring. I do not know why I haven't just thrown up my hands and quit this show yet. I keep waiting for the episode that will make me do that.

K J Gillenwater said...


I was reading your comments and thinking that you must've sucked them out of my brain! I agree with you 100%.

The biggest problem I've had with the last 2 weeks - too much Olivia with her sister and new 'boss' that makes no sense. What is missing? More Walter/Peter banter (the best thing about this show) and more Massive Dynamic. Massive Dynamic has disappeared along with the whole idea of the 'pattern' and how it all is related.

Now we are stuck with a one-off ep about a computer programming madman...who is just acting on his own out of revenge? Boring.

Can we go back to clones and strange objects that drill up from underground?

Anonymous said...

I gave up after the cold open, because I've already seen Videodrome and read Snow Crash. Maybe next week.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else think the "evil computer virus" plot seemed like something that should have been done 10-12 years ago?

Anonymous said...

Yes. I was checking my calendar to see if it's still 1995.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem seems to be how dumbed down these past two episodes were compared to The Equation and Safe and how shallow the stories, especially the emotional stories, seems to be. Peter (yes, yes, "Hot Pacey" ftw) has to "learn" that sons protect their fathers? Detective Tritter, er, Harris has to make the team "prove" themselves by throwing unnecessary obstacles?

All the neurons that weren't visually involved in enjoying Hot Pacey walked out on strike.

Bring us back the Bishop story and drop this garbage.

Anonymous said...

I don't think they ever explained the used car salesman, but I got the gist that the vengeful murderous computer programmer may have purchased a lemon vehicle from him.

But why was he trying to download the virus to Olivia's niece? Did Olivia even know this guy?

As usual, love the Peter/Walter banter, and the stuff about the bull semen was unexpectedly priceless. But lose the sex crime-beating boss.

And the sister just seems to be there to have a child to endanger. I hate those child endangerment storylines. Every time there's a kid, the kid has to be endangered in some way.

Anonymous said...

how has someone who posts in a tv blog like alans NOT SEE THE FREAKIN WIRE??


Bobman said...

how has someone who posts in a tv blog like alans NOT SEE THE FREAKIN WIRE??

NOt everyone has HBO?

Anonymous said...

Bobman to Anon.:


Rachel said...

I know I'm pretty much alone on this and a lot of people think Olivia's a charisma black hole, but I like her. She's not angsty. She's not sassy. She's not sweet. She's not damaged. She's not chirpy. She's not a lot of that lazy writer's shorthand stuff. She's smart, she's competent, she's compassionate, and she believes in her work. I like that she kicks ass and doesn't make a big deal about it. I like that she doesn't react when Peter or Walter hint that Peter likes her. I like that she has a personal life and a work life and appears to be fully engaged in both of them, and unapologetic when either one suggests she should "pick a side" (No dear sister, I won't tell you about my job, but thanks for asking about my day. No new boss, I'm not going to apologize for having been in a romantic relationship with someone who, in retrospect, turns out to have been a bad guy).

I feel like they've got a lot of great elements to this show. Walter (more LSD jokes, please!), hot Pacey (hell to the yes!). Massive Dynamic (um, well, okay, jury's still out on that one). But it's like the people who are writing the show have never met the people who conceived of these characters. They're writing around them.

Take Asteroid. If she's an FBI agent (albeit a junior one) and Peter's a genius whose job is to to babysit, interpret and assist his dad, why is she always stuck in the office taking messages and ordering bull semen while Peter is busy getting cold-cocked by teenagers instead of waiting in the car as he's told? "Hi, guys, go outside and bring in the body Olivia's sending to the lab. Yes, I know that as an FBI agent I probably should be taking point in the chain of custody for important evidence like a body, but I'm busy typing and filing and rolling my eyes at Walter because he's talking about giving LSD to a squirrel while extracting semen from it. Again."

Oh, and now Asteroid is making the eyes at hot Pacey, too? All this lady attention for Pacey is so sudden! Please continue to telegraph that something's surely going to come of it.

skipska said...

My shocker came from the fact that Olivia supposedly lives in my largly BC student/poor young professional neighborhood. Not with an apartment that nice and that much light. Oh and Pacey would have had quite the hour+ walk to get there. No T?

I'm willing to suspend belief for the story but not the 'real' details :) Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe the writer's have not yet figured out that it is Walter and Peter that are keeping most people watching this show. Instead, we have WAY too much Olivia. Every so often there is a glimmer of something to the character, like the undercover bar scene from several episodes ago. Then she does something so ridiculously stupid that I can't imagine this woman passing the FBI entrance exam, let alone actually becoming an agent. She knows the suspect is the super smart computer guy, and doesn't think he might possibly have a security system? I was on the floor laughing when they showed her trying to be all stealthy and he's watching her on the monitor. Not to mention the whole not waiting around for backup.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I heard Walter reference "baboon seminal fluid" not "bull."

And I agree about Olivia's sister. I hate the character's introduction as a romantic interest for Pacey, I hate that the niece is there so that we can suddenly see that Olivia has a warm, maternal side. I agree with Rachel; I have grown to like the fact that Olivia is the buttoned-up ass-kicker. The character's flatness had actually begun to work (albeit slightly) for me. Now they've screwed with that.

And, based on Jasika Nicole's swoon-worthy glances, that if they want a romantic entanglement for Pacey/Peter, then Astrid makes much, much more sense and doesn't burden the show with another extraneous character.

I also believe that Astrid is in the lab so much because she's there to keep an eye on Walter. He's still crazy, donchaknow?

Anonymous said...

Thw Wire has been on DVD for almost 6 years now. Not having HBO isn't an excuse.