Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fringe “No Brainer” Gets In Your Head

Image from Fox
Fringe (Fox) is becoming one of those shows that I just don’t want to miss. It is very reminiscent of The X-Files in the manner where there is an underlying theme with each episode, yet each story can still stand alone. In other words, if you miss an episode, it is still very easy to keep up with what is going on. But I have no plans to miss any episodes.

The episode “The No Brainer” was one of those stories that make one think about an everyday activity that one may not normally give a second thought. Apparently a man who was bitter about being fired from his job and a failed marriage decided to take it out on everyone in a rather different way. It seems he was able to send a program via a computer that seemed to hypnotize whoever was looking at the screen, and while they watched the images flash on the screen, their brains would literally liquefy. While this occurred, it seemed that a hallucination – or was it? – of a hand reached out and grabbed onto the person’s brain. I have to admit that I am thinking right now about that same hand coming out and grabbing my head right as I write this blog.

As Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is called in to investigate, she also finds that she is running into a brick wall in the form of Sanford Harris (Michael Gaston). He is investigating the Fringe Division for FBI Internal Affairs, and he has a “history” with Olivia – she once had him prosecuted for a sexual assault, a charge that was later overturned. Harris wants to make life difficult for Olivia. He tries to control how she handles this investigation, which gets more cumbersome as more deaths by brain liquefactions occur. Things reach a fever pitch when Olivia’s niece Ella (Lily Pilblad) is on a computer at Olivia’s home and the program begins to unleash itself n her. Luckily Olivia and Peter get there in time before it does any damage. Olivia decides to ignore Harris and handle the case her own way. With help from her colleagues, she makes the connections between all the deaths to help crack the case and catch the man who had created and unleashed this deadly computer program on people who were related to those who hurt him. Despite Harris’ threats to Olivia, her boss, Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), tells Harris that he will give Olivia full support, and that Harris had better back off.

While all this is going on, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) receives a mysterious letter, and then receives a mysterious phone call on an old phone that was in Dr. Walter Bishop’s (John Noble) lab. We later find that it’s from a woman - Jessica Warren (Mary Beth Peil) - trying to reach Walter about the death of her daughter that had occurred in a fire many years prior in his lab. Peter wants to protect Walter from this woman, as he thinks it will trigger memories that will cause Walter to have to go back into the psychiatric hospital. Olivia tries to convince Peter that Walter is stronger than he gives him credit, and ultimately Peter relents and sets up the meeting with Walter and the woman. It actually goes well, much to Peter’s surprise, as the woman just wants to learn more about her daughter from Walter, not unleash her anger at him.

They may be trying to create a spark between Peter and Olivia’s sister Rachel (Ari Graynor). She appears a little taken with him, and he sparkles a bit when he sees her as well. Olivia has also picked up on something with those two, as she seems to be thinking about it as she shuts the door as Peter leaves.

So far, Fringe has provided very interesting storylines, and is weaving in the personal drama in a very subtle fashion. I have been warming up a little to Peter, and he seems to be a character that will continue to grow on me as the series progresses. As he discovers more about his father, it is as if it has softened him a bit, at the same time opening up his mind a more about what type of man his father really is. Anna Torv continues to be very strong in her role of Olivia. While Torv is very pretty, they downplay it, making viewers look more at Olivia as a person and an agent. It is almost as if they don’t want her appearance to be a distraction to her job and her resolve to get to the bottom of each case. I find myself becoming very interested in what happens to her, not just in her job, but also in her personal life. I don’t think it’s dangerous that they add what seems like a possible attraction between Peter and her sister, because I think it only adds to the complexities of Olivia’s life, not to mention Peter’s. Besides, the characters on this show are so likeable and so intriguing that it almost begs viewers to want to expand their exposure to the character’s personal lives.

I also appreciate that Fox is showing Fringe with abbreviated commercial interruptions, as it really makes the show go much faster and helps keep the exciting momentum.

Personally, I don’t know why The Mentalist is performing so well when a series like Fringe is airing at the same time. I suspect with the often weird and dark nature of the Fringe storylines, it may not appeal to everyone. But I believe it is the best new show on television this season.

“The No Brainer” Clip

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