As I promised yesterday, today we talk Fringe. I'm just not sure how I feel about it yet. There's so much potential there, there's so much possibility for the show to be great, but it wasn't great in its premiere. I wanted it to be, but it wasn't.
First, let's face it, it's very The X-Files. No, it's not an exact copy, but it is still very similar and certainly seems heavily influenced by The X-Files. It's just impossible to watch Fringe and not think “I wonder if that's what Mulder and Scully would do,” or “Mulder totally would have solved the case a half-hour ago,” or “Scully would definitely synthesize the reagent faster than that.”
Unfortunately for Fringe, comparing it to The X-Files is not good for the show. The X-Files wasn't always spectacular, but there were definitely some truly outstanding episodes. The show was a part of our popular culture for an extended period of time, and even if the most recent movie failed, people still look back on the show with fondness. The mythology surrounding The X-Files was mammoth. There were plots within plots, evil groups, good aliens, bad aliens, and the Cancer Man (you might call him Cigarette Smoking Man, but to me he'll always be Cancer Man).
There's no way that Fringe could possibly establish such a deep mythology in such a short period of time. The X-Files was on for nine seasons and had a major motion picture under its belt by the time it went off the air. The mythology didn't spring fully developed from the pilot episode a la Athena from Zeus. The groundwork was established in the first episode, but it took years to fully explore it. Fringe comes up short though, because it's so easy to look at The X-Files now and see the fully formed mythology, and Fringe isn't as deep… yet.
Fringe could end up with an overarching story as, or more, compelling than The X-Files, but those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Only time (if the show lasts) will tell if that happens.
As for the pilot itself, no comparisons to other shows, it was good but not great. The “fringe” science was completely ludicrous, and I think the show figures that it can get away with foolish science simply because it refers to the science as being “fringe.” It felt like they were using fringe as an excuse, and that I didn't like. I also wasn't terribly fond of our crazy scientist, Walter Bishop. Maybe it was the rapidity with which he seemed to return to the normal world, maybe it was his interactions with his son, Peter, but I definitely wanted him to be more normal. Olivia is probably going to get told week after week not to pay any sort of attention to anything Walter has to say because Walter is crazy, and that will not be enjoyable.
While Peter's interactions with his dad weren't great, I did like him talking to Olivia. Their dynamic wasn't new either, but it was at least fun. The way she was playing him at the beginning of the episode was easy to see coming, but at least she copped to it early on, she didn't let him go and think forever that she had the secret scoop on him. From there, the two were interesting. He was put in a hard place, trying to help her and help his dad in order to help her, but it worked.
Finally, Olivia herself. I'm sorry, but I have to say this, she seems like Scully a couple of seasons in – she's seen enough already to know that the truth is out there, but she's not quite ready to accept everything on face value yet. That's a problem. That's just too similar. I assume that as more episodes air this will change, but it just wasn't a great way to start things off.
Where will it all go from last night? Only time will tell.