Fringe: A New Day in the Old Town

fringe13Oh Goodness. Fringe is back, and I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in this first episode of the sophomore season. Could it be that Charlie Francis is on his way out and the new female agent replacing him already bores me to death? Could it be because other than Olivia’s jump to a parallel universe, not much else seemed to carry over from the last season’s final episode? Or could it be that I must finally accept that the John Scott storyline is at last, officially, over?

I shall always hold out hope, Agent Scott! Anyway, we’re back! Several months ago, Fringe ended its first, uneven season on a high note. Everywhere, reviews called it a cliffhanger, but I don’t know how true that is. I do know a lot of people were blown away and looking forward to this week’s premiere. Which makes sense, considering how well done that last episode was: well-paced, nice character development, action, sci-fi, Leonard Nimoy (finally), alternate dimensions, surprises, and Mr. Jones – the best villain on television.

We return with just another typical episode, although when Olivia goes missing (no one thought to look in the alternate dimension, natch), then reappears at the scene of a car accident by flying through the windshield of the damaged car and landing in the middle of the street – that was pretty awesome. That was also the high point. Olivia spends the rest of the episode in bed as a fragile and short term memory amnesiac once she wakes up from the coma that should have killed her. Good news: though Rachel stops by, her daughter doesn’t. I’ll take what I can get.

All the while, a “shapeshifter” kills and assumes the identities of random people in order to find, question, and kill Olivia because of information she knows (but has now forgotten). This shapeshifter appears to have been sent by someone from the Alternate Dimension, and he uses a nifty little box the size of a point-and-shoot camera to shift. All it takes is a matter of seconds…

Over in the Bishop household, i.e. the Harvard Lab, Doc and Peter are old friends again (didn’t Doc go on a sabbatical or something?) and Doc is making Peter custard for his birthday. So is Peter a Libra? It’s hinted that Peter doesn’t like custard, but our dimension’s Peter probably did before he died. Whoops! Also, does Peter look more and more sick as the episode progresses, or was that just me? Exposition has five lines, one of which is to remind people of her name. The cow has one line, and it’s hilarious. Peter and Agent Jessup (wait for it) investigate Olivia’s accident, and with Doc’s help, stumble up on the existence of the shapeshifter.

And here is my least favorite part, the arrival of Junior Agent Jessup. She questions Peter, hacks into Fringe Division’s computer systems (we learned last season that the internet solves all manner of secret cases and problems), then helps Peter’s investigations. Peter none too subtly points out that she should be freaked and/or running away and isn’t; Jessup says, “I think I’ve been waiting for you people my whole life.” And oh crap. What nonsense are we going to get with Jessup? Was she originally from the alternate dimension and never felt she “fit in” here? Did someone from the Other Side steal her parents? Did she take cortexephan? Has she seen strange things her whole life and could never explain them (and that’s why she joined the FBI)? I pray I’m wrong and that JJ Abrams and team do not make this into another stereotypical storyline. Because, presumably, Jessup is the agent replacing Charlie Francis, and let’s be clear – I’m a fan of Charlie Francis (despite Acevedo’s I could care less attitude at NYCC), I just never liked the story and plot holes surrounding his character. Fire a writer, not Acevedo. So maybe that’s why I’m wary of Jessup, or it’s because her storyline seems like a cliché already. I do hope I’m wrong.fringe12

Charlie does stop by the hospital, as fans everywhere scream happily and think, I thought they fired him! Damn you, Twitter!, then remember he’s sticking around a little longer before he dies. Because…

The shapeshifter shifts into the form of Olivia’s nurse. The nurse questions Olivia, realizes she knows nothing, then tries to kill her. But Peter and Jessup have figured it all out (who needs Olivia, anyway?) and with the help of Francis, they save our girl and chase the shapeshifter into tunnels below the hospital. There, Francis kills the shapeshifter … or does he???

Meanwhile, Broyles reports to D.C. to defend the funding of the Fringe Division, and only saves the day when Peter arrives to give Broyles the shapeshifter’s toy – Broyles can use it as proof that we need to prepare for an invasion. Or something. Do you think the guys in Washington know what’s going on? If so, why can’t we hear that conversation? It would clear up so much. So basically, The Man was going to shut down Fringe Division, and now they’re not, and we’re probably going to get more bureaucratic nonsense out of this whole sequence, so … just great.

We end with Jessup comparing Fringe cases to chapters of the Bible, and then follow Charlie Francis as he incinerates the body of … Charlie Francis! Yes, in a moment you knew was coming once we saw Francis shoot at the shapeshifter, Charlie Francis is dead and the shapeshifter will be infiltrating the FBI starting next week.

Though we don’t receive too many answers upon our return, the writers have delivered plenty of new questions to keep us interested. Still, I was a little disappointed. The story was fine (though shapeshifters are kind of an old device from scifi and comics), and this other, scared side of Olivia has potential. Unfortunately, the creative changes with a new character worries me. However, if they pull it off and I love Jessup, I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. On the other hand, why not just do Jasika Nicole a well-deserved solid and give her some lines? Or a fleshed out part? Or something other than exposition? It’s only week one, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Of note:

Olivia wakes up from her coma speaking Greek, which translates to: Be a better man than your father, which Peter’s mother used to say to him before bed.

What’s the deal with the car accident? In the finale, Olivia almost hit another car on her way to meet with William Bell. How exactly does that relate to the opening car accident?

Nina kisses Broyles. What the what???

Next week: I have no idea, my Tivo overlapped with It’s Always Sunny. So we’ll find out together!

For another take on this episode, check out New Season, Same Lab Cow by Paul Secrest.

Listen to The J Factor with J.B. and Jaimie here or on iTunes.

Season 2, Episode 1: A New Day in the Old Town (originally aired September 17, 2009)

For more on Fringe, click here.

Thursdays at 9/8C, Fox

Photographs courtesy of Fox and IMDbPro

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