TV Review: Fringe

by Irma Arkus

One of the more exciting offerings of fall 2008 TV is the new J.J. Abrams show “Fringe.” It daringly dips into the sci-fi territory. Moreover, it critically approaches our contemporary concerns, as new technologies are increasingly invented in private labs, further complicated by industrial military complex consisting of privately owned companies. The best bit is a response of an FBI agent who explains, and I paraphrase: These days my clearance is superceded by some private company. Exasperated, the agent points to a painful truth – so many things are copyrighted, licensed, outsourced, that it is hard to manouver the currents of investigations.

Pitying the FBI agents set aside, the show brings forth some welcome new faces, including Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham, whom you won’t recognize unless you’ve been consuming as much UK TV as I have. And even if you have watched “Mistresses,” Torv brings out something different on screen this time around. A confident, beautiful but understatedly so, Torv exudes confidence of a contempoary heroine, an aspect of TV I have been sincerely craving.

She is not uber-lip-glossed, or confused, or wearing astoundingly high heels. She works for a living, and it’s the serious kind – which is why I love it!

Science fiction aspects are there too. Not to get swept away by wardrobe choices, but the pilot episode does exactly as promised – offers us a glimpse at fringes of science. From a plane that arrives full of dissolved passengers, a la The Rock style – all virus, all deadly, all hungry for soft tissue, Dunham (Anna Torv) investigates who brought it on board and why?

Her investigation leads her to fringe scientists who slowly unravel a more complicated schema that has conspiracy written all over it. Both the guys “upstairs” and the industrial conglomerates who seem to have as many secrets to match their seemingly unlimited funds, are in some kind of web of lies and conspiracies that will take entire seasons to unravel.

To help her in her immediate quest, namely to save her dying lover and partner, Dunham turns to an unlikely source of assistance – an imprisoned Harvard scientist Dr. Walter Bishop, who sat last 30 years in a room staring at walls. To help Dunham is freedom, which is why Bishop is willing to let her in his vast vault of secrets. Their collaboration is very much dependent on Bishop’s son, Peter, played by Joshua Jackson, who allows for that extra lubrigous interaction between the crazy-but-geniuous dad and great agent Dunham in her quest to get to the truth.

X-File-ish you think? Yes. Fringe very much depends on old fans of the X-Files to awaken with new hunger for distinguishing between real science, fake science, real conspiracies, and imagined ones. That, and science! And what is better than science? Nothing. So, get watching, because the Fringe show is simply put, cool.