Fringe returns to television, with Olivia back in our world and an invasion by Skrulls the Body Snatchers Cylons who look just like us the Dominion otherworldy shape-shifters looming.

Title: “A New Day in the Old Town”

Cast and Crew

Director: Akiva Goldsman
Writer: Akiva Goldsman, J.J. Abrams

Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham
Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop
John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop
Meghan Markle as Agent Amy Jessup
Kirk Avocado as Charlie Fisher
Lance Reddick as Philip Broyles
Jaskika Nicole as Astrid Farnsworth
Chris Shields as Special Agent Fisher
Ari Graynor as Rachelle
Stefan Arngrim as Creepy Mysterious Store Owner

Synopsis

Olivia makes a smashing return to our reality, but her memory is missing and her initial report is all Greek to her. The government cuts off funding to the Fringe, and we learn the shape-shifters walk among us.

High Point

Anna Torv has been an uneven performer, and fan-following though she has I’ve never found she generated much chemistry with the others. Meghan Markle shows potential, and I’m hoping she becomes a regular part of the series. I especially like that, from the start, Agent Jessup has an agenda of her own that may not serve the Fringe Force’s interests.

The discrepancies in Walter’s memory remind us Peter Bishop isn’t quite who we initially believed him to be.

Low Point

The episode ends with Biblical references and an entirely predictable twist. In and of itself, this is not a big problem. However, given that (I suspect) most of us saw that twist coming, why haven’t the characters addressed the possibility? Even if they suspect something later, one thinks they would have tested the possibility from the start.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen an invasion by shape-shifters. The rest is classic Fringe-modified X-Files, as this episode seems to acknowledge. The invasion, while not original, may be sending the show in a direction slightly less derivative of, at least, that classic series.

Effects: 5/6. The show features conventional effects, done well.

Story: 4/6 It’s always difficult to assess a story in progress. I really hope they address the convention of “secret group that MUST break the law and behave unethically for the greater good,” especially as they’re now tempting the U.S. government with world-changing technology in order to remain operative. We see a glimpse of awareness on the part of the writers this week; Broyles

The hearing and the conclusion also raise the question of why the government isn’t seeing results in the form of Walter’s advanced comic-book mad science. Last season saw a few developments that strike me as having real-world applications.

Acting: 5/6. Anna Torv gives one of her best performances to date. Unfortunately, they had her regain consciousness. (Okay, she was pretty good even after she woke up). Jackson and Noble retain their chemistry. Nicole continues to have little to do besides deliver brief quips and nods. Reddick, who can be strong, seemed a little too caught up in giving us postures rather than performances, especially in the hearing. The supporting actors give credible performances.

Production: 6/6.

Emotional response: 4/6. The show’s comic-book tone and charm are starting to gel for me, though I don’t know if they’re doing so enough that I’ll care about the new developments, and….

Overall: 4/6. …They still haven’t managed the Whedonesque balance the show requires if we’re supposed to accept its inherent fantastic silliness and take its characters seriously. Still, the premiere promises an exciting second season.

“A New Day in the Old Town” receives thirty-one out of forty-two.

Notes

Actual forthcoming ep description:

The Fringe team travels to Pennsylvania to investigate an underground tunnel full of human remains. Meanwhile, Walter experiments using frogs to travel between realities.