As lightning flashes, an overly anxious passenger aboard flight 726 proceeds to inject himself with an unknown substance — the aftermath can only be described as one of the most gruesome and horrific sequences in television history. Let’s just say it involves melting flesh and gallons of vomit.
As shocking as the opening scene to Fox’s new series Fringe is, it effectively sets the stage for the entire show. In the pilot episode, which aired last week, FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is assigned to investigate the happenings on flight 726, which ended with the mysterious deaths of all passengers and crew on board. Agent Dunham enlists the help of streetwise genius Peter Bishop (Dawson Creek‘s Joshua Jackson) and his scientist father Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) who has been locked away in a mental hospital for the past 17 years.
After 82 minutes of explosions, jaw-dropping special effects, car-chase action, and more twists and turns than you can shake a melting fist at, Agent Dunham and company manage to get to the bottom of what happened on flight 726, while opening the door to a mythology that is set to be explored throughout the rest of the season. Dunham’s superior, now impressed with her efforts in the pilot, will utilize her and her team to investigate other crimes involving “fringe” sciences (including astro-projection, teleportation and dark matter).
Unlike the rest of J.J. Abrams’ series, like LOST and ALIAS, this series was meant be a fusion of sci-fi elements (like cult favorite The X-Files), procedural formula (used in shows like Law and Order and CSI), and the light use of a grand understory or mythology (as seen in serial dramas like Heroes or 24).
Though this combo will allow for a wider, more casual audience than the rest of Abrams’ series, it attempts to be too many things at once. This causes the show to be uneven. Instead of being solid in one niche, it ends up a little soft in two or three.
And the array of styles does not mesh well. While watching the intense car-chase scene, it becomes harder to take the translucent skin disease in the previous scene seriously.
It is true, though, that Fringe fills the sci-fi hole left in network programming by The X-Files six years ago. And although it might not resonate with some viewers, its characters and audience-pleasing execution will with most. Fringe can be seen Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on Fox.