Friday, November 19, 2010

FRINGE 3.07 "The Abducted" Review

Fringe closes out November (there's no episode next week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday) by shifting the Two Worlds story line into high gear, but I'm afraid it's at the cost of logic, scripting, and acting.  I'd say this is easily the worst episode of the season, but I think those shortcomings come at the insistence of moving the plot forward.

As friends will note, I've been a defender of this series, even when the writing and acting hasn't been entirely up to snuff.  Mainly this is because of the strength of the ideas behind the show.

"The Abducted", however, was lacking in nearly every department.

Spoilers ahoy!

The opening sequence this week was suitably disturbing and gave me a lot of hope for where we were heading, particularly when it came to the look of this week's villain, The Candyman.  The silver full-face mask was extremely creepy, especially glimmering in the darkness as he slowly pushed the bedroom door closed and abducted the little boy who was afraid of the monster in his closet.

Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there, and not even an appearance by Andre Royo (Bubbles, from The Wire) can save it.

The main thrust of the plot this week is focused on the hunt for The Candyman, a serial abductor who kidnaps children every two years, holds them for 48 hours, then frees them.  But when the kids are returned, they are suffering from severe cellular damage and, on occasion are then diagnosed with diseases they had no traces of before, like various cancers.

It's not a bad idea, but it's so obvious that he's an old guy draining the youth from these kids, from the very first moment that his M.O. is discussed, that even my normal suspension of disbelief skills were unable to let it slide.  This wouldn't be such a big deal if the rest of the episode brought some sort of imaginative twist or used it to move into an unexpected area in the overall story, but none of that happens.  Instead, we find out, in some of the worst expository dialogue in the series to date, that Alterna-Broyles has a son who was a victim of The Candyman a couple of years earlier.

I appreciated the bonding moment between Alterna-Broyles and Walternate over their fatherly anxieties (as well as the revelation that the Peter Bishop Act requires all child abductions Over There to be legally treated as potential Fringe Events), but it was awkward and poorly acted.  I suppose Lance Reddick does the best he can with the script he's working with, but it's rough.  Even John Noble can't save the scene.

But the search for Candyman is a feint, to get us to the real point of the episode: Olivia's (Anna Torv) escape attempt and Broyles' passive complicity in it.  Walternate has discovered the chemical component in Olivia's brain chemistry that triggers her trans-dimensional leaps, so has ordered her retirement back to the prison/lab.  She knows something is up, and contacts Bubbles (I don't care what his name is here - he's Bubbles after getting his life back together as far as I'm concerned) for a boat ride out to Liberty Island so she can break into Fringe Division, sneak into the lab, drug herself, dunk herself into the sensory deprivation tank, and zap back over to her Home World.

Yeah, that's the actual plan.

As expected, she figures out the Candyman case, using information from Broyles' son and wins him over, at least temporarily.  He realizes that she no longer believes she's Fauxlivia, but gives her a head-start since she just captured the man who nearly killed his son.  Which is just as well, since Walternate is gathering her up in the morning.

Bubble's brother owns a boat, so he's conveniently able to give her a lift, even if all he really does is fret about the time and the risk.  Really, Andre Royo is given some of the worst lines, and direction, in the episode, essentially wasting the character's (and the actor's) potential.  The child actors are nothing to write home about, either.  Really, there's just not a lot of good to be found this week.

This becomes especially clear when we get to the end of the episode.

Not only is Olivia's plan fundamentally flawed, in that she seems to have forgotten that her natural Universe-Hopping skills are always temporary at best.  Even if she can leap Home, it's not going to last.  The only reason she's still Over There is because they punched a hole in the universe.  She always gets yanked back.  Every time.  It makes the plan seem incredibly stupid, only serving to allow her to leave a message for Peter during the few moments that she's Home. 

Of course, she's immediately captured once she's back in the tank.

Which brings us to the biggest letdown of the episode.  Peter (Joshua Jackson) gets her message in the closing moments of the episode, after a nice, romantic evening with Fauxlivia watching Casablanca.  Fauxlivia has no idea what the film is about or who is in it, which should be another huge clue that something's not right with her.  But even worse is the look on Peter's face when he gets the message that Olivia is trapped on the Other Side.

He looks shocked and surprised.  Now, unless this is just a poor acting choice, it seems like he had no idea he was sleeping with Fauxlivia.  I'm hoping that's not the case, as that would really reflect poorly on the character (and the writers).  Hopefully next time we'll find out once and for all that he knows what's going on, and was just surprised by the arrival of a message from Olivia rather than the news of the message.

I've got my fingers crossed.

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