Thursday, October 1, 2009

Drink Up

Fringe: Fracture
Season 2, Episode 3

"To all that's weird." - Peter Bishop

While I can't agree with Peter's choice of drink (I still prefer my Russians White, not Red), I easily embrace his toast. The second season has gotten off to a much better start than the first's early stumbling. It's been good to relegate Olivia remembering her time on Earth-2 to the B-plot each week. It isn't ignored and will probably be the lead story sooner rather than later, its just nice to let things take a slower pace and develop more layers to this Weird World. The bulk of the episode revolves around a single monster/villain seemingly unrelated to the multi-verse wandering experiments of Walter and Bell.

As far as creepy villains go, Man Bombs is sufficiently high on the list. It's nice for scifi shows to have those stock episode plots to fall back on - in this case military science experiment continued by crazy commander. It's a formula that works well enough, especially in this episode where the main bad guy, Colonel Raymond Gordon is played by Stephen McHattie, a television veteran I remember best as the bad guy in The X-Files two-part story in "Nisei" and "731." Casting 24 and The X-Files veterans are generally both solid moves in my book.

At least we don't think its part of the main series mystery until the final reveal that Colonel Gordon's bombs are meant to destroy agents reporting to the Observer. And here I never even knew he had minions. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The mysterious opening involves a police officer abandoning his partner and searching for a man with a black briefcase as the man on his phone, Gordon, has instructed. Promptly after finding the man, the policeman crystallizes and goes Ka-Boom. And a good time was had by all. It's a decent effect and the resulting carnarge looks great. Generally everything this week involving discovering the Colonel's identity and plans and the science behind it is golden. From Peter and Olivia's evening trip to Baghdad to Walter blowing up a watermelon like some science fair version of Mount Vesuvius - all good stuff. Fun, humorous and gives us a few tiny, but interesting peeks into Peter's back story.

The mystery that Peter does as much to solve as Walter, gives them both a chance to shine separately. Pairing Walter, Astrid and an exploding watermelon works. I mean we see it coming from the first shot of the scene, but it's still fun. John Noble always has his little quirks (licking the ear brings a special smile to my face), but in the few times he is really experimenting in the unknown and being surprised works the best. Above anything else, Noble can sell this great sense of wonderment for things and its important since this quirky character would be torturously bad if he couldn't sell those jokes at least a little. But letting Walter not have all the answers right away also gives Peter a way to step up in mentally helping solve problems (discovering the radio-wave trigger) in addition to helping carry the load of physical action with Olivia hobbling around like the female Dr. House.

Speaking of Olivia's injuries, while I'm fine with dragging out the mystery for a couple more weeks, it unfortunately only took two episodes for Kevin Corrigan's stint as Olivia's... um... bowling alley owning therapist, Sam Weiss... to wear thin. I realize he might tie more into the mystery and frankly, I'm dreading it. He just happens to be one of those That Guys that seems to always be playing themselves. And not like Dennis Quaid is always playing Quaid or Denzel Washington is usually playing Denzel, but a bad way. I've seen him in seven or eight things since, but he's still the annoying, detached guy from Grounded For Life. And his tactic of annoy Olivia until she stops relying on her cane is just... nope, nevermind, annoying is the perfect word to describe it. I can only hope he either disappears quickly or is killed off... painfully.

While talking about limiting the cast, splitting time between the mystery and Olivia's drama is helped by trimming the cast for the week. Nina Sharp, our new agent Amy Jessup and Fake Face Charlie are all unseen this week, which is a bit unusual since a major FBI operation goes down to capture the Colonel and his final (Wo)Man Bomb. It stinks to miss Kurt Acevedo as Fake Face Charlie, given how well he's performed in the first two episodes this year. Jessup is still a non-entity for me, so no problem there and the less tonsil-hockey I see between Sharp and Broyles the better.

To end things, let's mention that the ending scenes are too rushed. Perhaps some of the writers and directors have to get used to allowing for more commercial breaks this season, but there is almost no time after Gordon is taken down by Peter and Olivia to explain his motivation. They obviously wanted to tie it back to end on the Observer getting a bunch of surveillance photos of Walter and company, but it meant Gordon explaining his crazy plan of detonating his own soldiers and accepting massive civilian casualties without actually being seen by the audience while talking. And that's a hard sell, my friends, especially since the bit we do see has him sharing face time with a surprised Broyles. McHattie's best assets are his grim expression and kind of creepy face and it hurts losing these tools during his big moment of the episode. I guarantee he probably nailed the scene, but it was ruined in favor or either poor directing or saving a few extra seconds from the running time.

And come to think of it, why does the Observer need to have other people photograph the Bishops? Isn't observing people already kind of his thing?

1 comment:

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