JJ Abrams’ Fringe episode 2 review

Picking up neatly after the pilot episode, JJ Abrams' Fringe continues to intrigue. And John Noble, as Walter Bishop, is quite brilliant...

After the Fringe pilot episode it’s always interesting with shows to see what survives from it in the following show, where the budget and ambitions are under tighter control.

But clearly most people on the Bad Robot production team for Fringe were entirely happy with the pilot, because without perceivable change, the weirdness that pervaded last week is let loose again in this second encounter.

Like the pilot, something very strange happens in the first couple of minutes, leaving a mystery that takes 45 minutes to entirely unravel. This week’s craziness revolves around massively accelerated aging, a subject that curiously Walter Bishop worked on previously. If you thought John Noble as Walter was bonkers before, he’s madder than a box of snakes here, swooning between relative lucidity and introducing himself to people he’s met days before. When he’s onscreen, the show is quite electric and highly watchable.

His mental instability and the questionable nature of his scientific work are great pegs to hang the Fringe storylines on, though I wonder if the other main characters might ultimately suffer from seeming bland in comparison. This is especially true of Anna Torv’s character Olivia, who’s been given the emotional journey of coming to terms with the death of her traitorous boyfriend. The function of which seems to be a brake on the runaway train nature of the other proceedings here. I hope she gets over him soon, because her angst isn’t something I want to see Fringe dwell on, as it impairs the overall pacing.

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Where Fringe becomes highly enjoyable is when Walter comes up with some highly implausible pseudo science to solve a problem, and then astoundingly makes it work at his very first attempt. But this show is about suspending belief, and going along with a little madness has its rewards. It’s easy to poke holes in the science, but it’s more fun to watch them roll with it.

The larger story arc progression is really on hold this week, until the last couple of minutes when the origin of Peter Bishop is brought entirely into question by his father. Walter asks Olivier if they could keep this between themselves, unaware that she’s totally in the dark on this subject. That could make Peter more interesting a character than he’s appeared, but is this again the issue with Walter being the gravitational vortex of the show?

I’m liking Fringe so far, but it now needs an episode that creeps everyone out and makes it the subject of water cooler conversation.

Given what we’ve seen so far I can feel that episode is coming down the line, I just hope it doesn’t take too long for it to arrive.

Check out our review of the pilot episode here… 


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