2.7 Of Human Action
Of Human Action isn’t a bad Fringe episode by any standard. Compared with the week before, it’s actually got quite a strong storyline and is very watchable. Yet, part of me wants Fringe to be the sort of show where I would tear it to pieces for not being as good as I know this show can be. I won’t do that, but it’s still not up to the standard that some of season one delivered.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, this is a slightly devious tale about an abduction, where it soon becomes apparent that the abductee is the one calling the shots, not those who apparently took him. That’s obvious in the opening sequence, so I don’t think that’s a major spoiler telling you that.
As such, the viewer has knowledge that the Fringe team isn’t in possession of, and it’s curious to see exactly how far they get before that particular penny drops.
If I’m not exactly selling this, I apologise, because it is very good in some specific places. Those being the subtle character interactions and the superb acting craft of John Noble and Blair Brown respectively.
John’s portrayal of Walter Bishop when he thinks he’s lost Peter is some of the best TV acting I’ve seen this year. It’s fear, concern, confusion and terror, simultaneously. It’s easy to forget just how reliant Walter’s character is on those around him, especially Peter, and the work done in highlighting this here anchors Walter and Peter in a way that few TV shows would allow them to be.
But I must also deliver accolades for Blair Brown, whose duplicitous Nina Sharp personality is revealed in full Machiavellian glory this week. At one point she exudes entirely convincing empathy for Walter, only for a short while later it to be shown that she and William Bell are the architects of his predicament. Nina Sharp has her own agenda, and Blair Brown plays this single-minded character with clinical precision.
What I’m finding oddly fascinating is that, as we get deeper into this season, how Olivia Dunham’s character has been succinctly curbed. She’s here, but in this and many of the stories so far she’s not the sole focus that she became in the latter part of season one.
Perhaps the writers have realised that she’s actually one of the less interesting Fringe characters, or that it was time for others to come forward. I’d love an Astrid-centric story, as her growing fondness for Walter is one of the human touches that lifts Fringe from conventional mystery material. What’s Astrid’s back-story, and how crazy does she get when she’s alone in the lab?
If this story has a weakness, it’s that the greater story arc only really surfaces in the closing scenes. The series really needs to lock back on to the bigger story and drive it, and I’m hopeful that the next story, August, will do that next week.
That’s important because it’s the last episode that Fox has given a title to (suggesting maybe another hiatus), and as viewing figures went up with this story, the chance of more Fringe would be enhanced by carrying some momentum at this point.
In terms of where Fringe sits in my mind currently, it’s certainly better than FlashForward and Dollhouse (which was just canned), but not remotely as gripping as Dexter.
It hasn’t yet delivered a convincing argument for a third season, but enough episodes in the order exist to turn that around. I just hope they don’t blow any more of them away with irritating X-Files salute monster hunts.
Read our review of episode 6 here.