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Fringe Review: “Neither Here Nor There”

Originally posted here.

In the season premiere of FOX’s Fringe, we learn that once in a while an episode’s title perfectly describes it.

In a newly augmented timeline devoid of Peter Bishop, an uneasy truce is established by both universes. Meanwhile, Team Fringe investigates a translucent skinned killer with the help of our side’s agent Lincoln Lee.

Major Spoilers Follow:

Back in May, I mentioned how season finales are a funny thing. Premieres are also funny in the fact that how they are constructed is reflective of how the show is doing ratings wise. A ratings juggernaut such as Lost can open a season and pick right up where they left off… but a show always on the renewal bubble like Fringe often needs a stand alone story to draw in new viewers. As a result, we have the season opening in a place friendly to new viewers. Agent Lee serves as the audience’s perspective as a newcomer to the Fringe universe. While Lee’s a welcome addition to the cast, everything else just came off as business as usual.

The big disappearing and reappearing elephant in the room is the absence of Peter Bishop, and it really took an episode without him to make us realize just how much the show needs his colorful perspective. Without Peter’s irony, sarcastic quips, and devilishly heroic personality everything came across as far more dull than usual. Olivia’s reactions were mostly cold and ultimately empty, as she has nothing in her life except her job. Walter is just a crazy person with nothing to humanize him. Lastly, Astrid is pretty much the same. Poor Astrid, you really need to get a character arc or a plotline. By the end of the episode, all the changes make for an excellent look at how Peter changed lives for the better, but it also led to everyone becoming far less interesting than they were before.

Peter’s absence also had a strange (and selective) effect on the timeline. Really, the reason any of the animosity between universes began is due to Walter kidnapping Peter. Without that, why did the attacks still occur? Why would they even interact? I suppose it’s possible that Walter did kidnap Peter but failed to save him, but the Observes keep mentioning how Peter never existed in the first place. The audience is left in a somewhat awkward place, as we’re given little explanation how the timeline now works. After all, the episode opened with both Olivia’s having a heated conversation which would leave new viewers confused. It’s also hard to imagine how all the talk of change to the timeline changing would resonate with a new audience. In essence, the episode tried to have its cake and eat it too.

The stand alone plotline of the translucent skinned killers felt very “been there, done that.” A rogue cell of malfunctioning shape shifters is an interesting idea, especially as they seem to possess upgrades such as possessing real blood. But really, the shape shifters were played out last season. Having another plotline with them seems like the writing staff couldn’t come up with a more original idea. It’s certainly possible that the rogue shapeshifters will lead to a more visceral threat, but at the moment we’ve seen far better concepts come from Fringe.

Overall, “Neither Here Nor There” has a standalone plotline that would leave long time fans bored and possess too many elements of the overall plot to truly welcome new viewers (but not enough to satisfy fans). No one part of the episode was bad, but none of them were particularly noteworthy. Agent Lee’s addition to the cast will be fun to see, but he’s no substitute for Peter. In addition, if the two universes are working together now, what will the overall plotline be? If they’re just solving cases for the entire season as an uneasy team, the show won’t have any momentum. Meanwhile, Peter can’t be lost for more than a few more episodes without drawing out the story and frustrating viewers. That leaves the Observers. Will we see both dimensions unravel the mystery of their hairless watchers? If so, how do they present an interesting threat? Only time will tell. For the moment, all that can be done is judge the episode on its own merits.

6.5/10 (5/10 being average)

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