There are no Fringe benefits.

Urged by a friend, I watched the pilot episode of J. J. Abrams’ series Fringe on 21 September 2008. I was leery, as it seemed to be simply a rehash of The X-Files (which, for the record, is my favorite television series). Nevertheless, I jumped in with an open mind, hoping to enjoy Fringe. My reaction, written immediately after I viewed the show, is recorded below. I have edited it slightly from the original version.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet seen the pilot episode of Fringe and wish to do so unspoiled, do not continue. 

* * *

Huge, distracting, floating words tell us where each scene takes place. Two FBI agents (the male looks vaguely like Robert Patrick) are having a secret affair.1 A plane lands with no one alive on board. Something happened during the flight2 that caused everyone to become amorphous and gooey.3 The agents get an annoying boss.4

There’s a chase through some storage containers and an explosion,5 and then FBI Man starts to become gooey, too. FBI Woman goes to a mental institution to obtain the assistance of Denethor from The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King a mad scientist. He has a lab in a basement.

Denethor decides that FBI Woman can access FBI Man’s mind by taking LSD, sticking a needle in her neck, and lying in a sensory deprivation tank while wearing only her underwear. This is rather gratuitous.6 Driven by an unstoppable desire to rescue FBI Man,7 FBI woman goes through with the potentially fatal procedure. While tripping on said LSD, she sees a junk yard, a kayak, a graveyard, some goofy lens flares (this last element seems to be a recurrent theme among Mr. Abrams’ works, perhaps symbolizing the blinding nature of truth and lies), and FBI Man. FBI Man & Woman mentally snog before FBI Woman seizes and wakes up.

During her hallucinogenic journey, FBI Woman saw the face of the man responsible for the explosion that caused FBI Man’s condition, who is the twin of a passenger on the plane. He worked for Massive Dynamic, an Evil Corporation that does everything.

As Denethor watches Spongebob Squarepants, FBI woman finds out where Twin lives. She leads a raid on his apartment, where she discovers a secret room underneath.8 There is a chase, and Twin is caught.

Twin reveals the cure for FBI Man. Denethor begins to cure him. Annoying Boss Man reveals that there have been other anomalies related to air travel and asks FBI Woman to work for her investigating FRINGE SCIENCE! FBI Man wakes up and is completely fine.9

FBI Woman visits Twin in the hospital, where he reveals that FBI Man was in cahoots with him. While FBI Woman is off verifying this, FBI Man smothers Twin in his hospital bed.10 There is a car chase. FBI Man crashes, says some cryptic things, and dies, leaving room for sexual tension between FBI Woman and Denethor’s son (who is neither Boromir nor Faramir). Another FBI agent gives a monologue about the ambiguity of The Truth.11

Meanwhile, FBI Man’s body is taken to Massive Dynamic headquarters for questioning. To be continued…

It’s as if J. J. Abrams took all the old X-Files scripts, dumped them into a McDonalds ball pit, and danced on them for a while, before picking up random sheets and saying, “Let’s film this!” What isn’t recycled from TXF lacks coherency, though those two cases are by no means mutually exclusive.

My advice to Mr. Abrams is to return to Lost. Even though it makes almost no sense, at least it’s original and more interesting than this garbage. Also, the show’s quality seems to have deteriorated since Mr. Abrams left.

For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Abrams’ Star Trek. He managed to make the giant floating words less annoying this time around.

1: See The X-Files, Seasons 7-9.
2: See The X-Files, episodes 4×17 – “Tempus Fugit” and 4×18 – “Max”
3: See The X-Files: Fight the Future and episode 6×01 – “The Beginning”
4: See The X-Files, episode 6×01 – “The Beginning”
5: See The X-Files, episode 5×11 – “Kill Switch”
6: See The X-Files, episode 1×79 – “Pilot”
7: See The X-Files, esp. episodes 6×22 – “Biogenesis,” 7×03 – “The Sixth Extinction,” and 7×04 – “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati”
8: See The X-Files, episode 1×02 – “Squeeze”
9: See The X-Files, esp. episode 8×15 – “Deadalive”
10: See The X-Files, episode 2×06 – “Ascension” and Twin Peaks, episode 7.
11: See The X-Files, Seasons 1-9, The X-Files: Fight the Future, and The X-Files:  I Want to Believe.

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One thought on “There are no Fringe benefits.

  1. Finally! Someone blogging for the 0.002 percent of us who want footnotes with our television criticism (99.9% of whom are Germans). Seriously, good post!

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