A Sci-Fi BuffetBy Michael Karol Posted: Sep 25, 2009
The news this season is good for those of us who like our soaps tinged with the paranormal.
Fox's premiere of FRINGE stood up to the series' first season. And that's saying a lot. FRINGE picks up where it left off, with FBI agent Olivia (Anna Torv) returning from her visit to another universe (similar to ours but, for example, one where the World Trade Center still stands) in a dramatic way, via a car crash. She doesn't remember what she saw in the parallel world once she wakes up, but does remember (she thinks) that she's supposed to find something. She does not remember who told her this, or what or where the "thing" resides.
In the meantime, the Feds are shutting down the Fringe division of the FBI. The reason: lack of actual proof that the weird stuff Fringe investigates really happened, and that continuing to investigate it will help mankind in any tangible way. Broyles (Lance Reddick) is hard-pressed to offer the committee that is investigating Fringe the proof it needs; in the meantime, whom- or whatever sent Olivia crashing back into our reality is still after her. Cue the Bishops, the formerly "mad" (and still with a screw or two loose) Walter (John Noble) and his stalwart but shady son Peter (Joshua Jackson), who work to figure out who's trying to kill Olivia and stop him (it?). They do, and as a result Peter provides Broyles with the proof he needs — but there's a jaw-dropping twist in the last few seconds.
The cast (including Blair Brown as a key employee of Massive Dynamic, a global technology company that figures in many episodes, and Kirk Acevedo as Charlie, Olivia's FBI colleague and loyal friend) is uniformly excellent, and the setup in this episode ensures a crackling and suspenseful season to come. Special props to creator JJ Abrams for several shout-outs to an acknowledged influence, THE X FILES.
The former Sci Fi network, now called SyFy, recently wrapped its summer series WAREHOUSE 13. I found it every bit as intriguing as FRINGE. Saul Rubinek is note-perfect as Artie Nielsen, the schlubby-looking but savvier-than-you-think steward of the titular warehouse, a government storage space hidden somewhere in South Dakota that houses supernatural objects.
Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock are equally satisfying as sparring but respectful Secret Service agents Myka Bering and Pete Lattimer, newly assigned to retrieve lost or missing Warehouse 13 objects, like Lewis Carroll's looking glass (from which an evil Alice doppelganger escapes, trapping Myka in the mirror and taking over her life), or Edgar Allen Poe's pen and journal, which give the user the power to make anything he writes come true. As Artie's mysterious, imperious boss, Mrs. Frederic, the imposing CCH Pounder, is amazing as usual, but woefully underused (probably because she's also starring in the new Fox sitcom, BROTHERS).
The finale had several nice surprises — including a betrayal by one of Artie's loyal friends, and a huge explosion in the warehouse with Artie at ground zero. This is one that I hope comes back.
Finally, FLASHFORWARD premiered with a literal bang — worldwide chaos, including car, plane and every-other-kind-of-vehicle crashes — precipitated by a two-minute, seventeen-second blackout that apparently affected everyone on the planet … except for one mysterious man in black. During the blackout, almost everyone had a vision of himself or herself living their lives six months in the future.
Our hero, FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), saw himself investigating the cause of the blackout, especially the "Why?" aspect. Unfortunately for Mark, a recovering alcoholic, his doctor wife Olivia (Sonya Walger, LOST's Penelope) saw herself with another man in six months. And his partner, Demetri (John Cho) was the only one we know of so far who had no vision at all during the blackout. Does that mean he'll be dead by next April?
Maybe, maybe not. As one character suggests, perhaps they were given these visions of the future so they could change them. But given the man in black, seen via a blurry video camera lurking in a Detroit stadium while everyone around him was unconscious, I doubt the blackout has such positive ramifications. That's better for the viewer, because, as we all know, any successful soap thrives on villainy and treachery to balance all the heroics.