Can Fringe turn it around?

Carley finally catches up with the end of JJ Abrams' Fringe's first season, and sees some problems that need resolving...

The cast of Fringe

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a TV addict. Growing up it felt as if it took forever for new US shows to make it over to our screens. But now, as anybody can download an episode of their favourite show in a matter of minutes, UK stations are keen to get their hands on US imports that will get a good audience share and, most importantly, good advertising rates. And they’re keen, luckily for me, to get them on our screens quickly.

This now makes January my favourite month as it is when we get to see what shows are going to start and I can settle down safe in the knowledge I have something to do on miserable winter nights. This year I was especially excited as Sky One managed to get its hands on J.J Abrams’ new series Fringe.

Abrams has been riding high in Hollywoodland for the past few years with three successful TV shows under his belt (Felicity, Lost and my personal favourite, Alias). And with his movies making a killing at the box office, it does begin to feel that everything he touches turns into entertainment gold.

Then there is Fringe. After watching the first episode, I do have to admit I was a little deflated. I was really looking forward to watching this show, which on paper looked like it was in the spirit of The X-Files but with Abrams’ influence there was bound to be a funky twist. However, what I felt was that, rather than being completely new and different, it seemed to tread old ground and there was a slight feeling of déjà vu. Hadn’t we seen a sceptical FBI agent before, and is that a romantic spark I see between the two leads? As it was only the first episode I decided I couldn’t make too much of a judgement on the show. First episodes are always notoriously difficult; you want to jump start your story, while also trying to get an audience and introduce your characters. No easy feat. So I set the Sky + and waited for the following episodes.

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This week, after returning from holiday, I finally managed to catch up with the final six of the season and, in fairness, I really liked the ending and there are elements of the show itself I really enjoy, but something just doesn’t fit right and that is what is stopping me from really appreciating the show.

My first real bone of contention is the leading lady, Anna Torv, who plays FBI agent Olivia Dunham. Dunham is supposed to be the best at what she does, but I can’t really see how as she must be the worst FBI agent ever. She is constantly getting kidnapped, nearly blown up and she has a great habit of letting the bad guy get away. I am also over having to watch her get in and out of the bloody tank. It worked the first time but it became very boring very quickly.

She also has the emotional breadth of a badly constructed balloon animal, in my view. I really don’t care about what happens to her and that shouldn’t be the case of the show’s lead. I wouldn’t necessarily say Torv is terrible actress. I just think she has been miscast in this role but, like it or not, she is the lead that was chosen and the writers need to do something sharpish to make her more appealing to the audience.

The second issue I have is the plot. Now, there have been some great standout episodes over the course of the season, however, it does feel like we are spinning the wheels a bit. There was a big build up over Massive Dynamic and its involvement in ‘The Pattern’ (which seemed to be forgotten for awhile and then remembered again in the final episode), over the first half of the season, but it was never really fully progressed. Then we fell into the ZFT storyline and again that wasn’t fully explained but at least that looks like it could be a major plot in the second season. What we did get was a lot of the ‘monster of the week’ storylines, and while there were a few subplots ticking away, there was nothing that really fed through, which is one of the reasons for my next point: no real development of characters.

As I have mentioned above, I am not a fan of Olivia Dunham but I think that is linked to the fact her character hasn’t really developed. We are slowly learning her back story and the addition of family members have fleshed her out slightly, but we still don’t really know her as a person. The same can be said for the characters of Nina, Charlie and Broyles. Although they are smaller cogs in the machine, their characters need a bit more flesh.

There is a shining light in this show though, and it is what keeps me watching each week – the double act that is Walter and Peter.

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Out of all the characters, I defy anybody who watched the show to say they don’t love Walter. Out of everybody, he has developed the most this season and actually has the most interesting story to offer because we only learn things about him, his past and his experiments, when he remembers them. And as he comes to terms with everything he has done he becomes a more likeable and more human character, especially when in the final minutes of the season we see just how far he would go for his son, which leads me nicely into Peter.

I have to admit I have been a bit of a Joshua Jackson fan since his days down the Creek with Mrs Tom Cruise and I was really pleased to see him back on television again. He plays the role of Peter fantastically. From the beginning, where he is more or less blackmailed to sign his father out of the asylum, to the slow rebuilding of their relationship, the character has shown he is far from just a wheeler dealer. As we, the audience, now know that Peter is actually Peter from a parallel universe, I await for this revelation to come out and to see what happens.

I think Fringe does have a chance of turning itself around in its second season. It has pulled a U-turn and looks as if we will be taking a different path with Olivia and Co, although I do worry that the show may take a bit of a Sliders route and have the team bouncing through alternative realities, but whatever they decide, the show does need to raise its game. In the States there was a lot of talk of Fringe not making it to second season. I truly believe that, as in the case of Dollhouse, it is the name behind the show that has kept it going, which is a reflection of how sci-fi shows are treated by the US networks.

Fringe is now set up to become a fantastic show and I look forward to the next season, I just hope that I’m not, or any of the other faithful out there aren’t, disappointed.