"Fringe" kicked off its second season by essentially ignoring the most lingering question from the first year's finale -- namely, what happened to Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) when she traveled to an alternate universe? What does that reality represent for her and the rest of the show's participants? And what's the frakking deal with Massive Dynamic founder William Bell (Leonard Nimoy)?
Sadly, the season's second installment, titled "Night of Desirable Objects," doesn't particularly clarify the details of "Fringe's" central premise of multiple dimensions. Luckily, it's clear that the rules and promises set forth by last year's conclusion aren't being ignored -- they're just peppered a little more conservatively than we'd like. The revelations might be slowgoing, but they are undoubtedly on the way.
The episode once again reverts to the mystery-of-the-week format, pitting Dunham and her crew of Peter and Walter Bishop (Joshua Jackson and John Noble) against an underground-dwelling, tunnel-burrowing creature. But the mystery is barely compelling when stacked against the ongoing conflict between Olivia and her problematic memory -- and, more importantly, her problematic skill set.
During one tense moment, Olivia nearly blows Peter's head off due to heightened nerves. Our heroine is starting to hear things, a clear side effect of her field trip to the still-unexplained alternate reality -- but is she hearing things from those various worlds, or are her already superhuman abilities growing unstable? The answer is unclear, but the question is intriguing enough to bring viewers back for another episode.
Olivia's plight is clearly the most fascinating development thus far, but the story of Agent Charlie Francis (or at least the monster wearing his flesh) is a close second. The shape-shifting nemesis from the season's opening episode remains in place, this time played by "Fringe" veteran Kirk Acevedo.
While I'm disappointed at Charlie's demise, I'm nonetheless thrilled by Acevdeo's portrayal of the creepy creature that nobody knows about -- it harkens back to his days as Miguel Alvarez on "Oz," one of television's more eerie performances. Hopefully Acevedo is here to stay, but even if his role on the show ends soon, the shape-shifter could potentially be a villain to worry about for many episodes to come.
Going forward, my biggest gripe is that the overriding mysteries of "Fringe" are infinitely more compelling than the sub-plots of each individual episode. I understand that "Fringe" rides a fine line between an ongoing drama and a series of stand-alone stories, but I'm more and more convinced that the show will need to decide upon one or the other before too much longer. The questions posed by the alternate reality are too captivating to address in only a passing fashion -- soon, they'll need to take the spotlight, front and center.
Until "Fringe" gets to that point -- or when it figures out a way to make the mysteries-of-the-week as interesting as the overarching plot -- the J.J. Abrams-created show remains an entertaining way to spend a Thursday night, but it falls short of being an all-encompassing experience.
What did you think of this week's "Fringe" episode? When are we going to find out the mysteries behind "Fringe's" alternate dimensions? Give us your predictions in the comments section!