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Fringe 2.1 Review: Welcome Back, Olivia Dunham

By  · Published on September 18th, 2009

Fringe Airs Thursday at 9/8c

Episode: “A New Day in the Old Town” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Warning: This review contains revealing information about several surprises that play out very early in the episode. No spoilers, we just suggest that you watch the episode, then come back to read and discuss.

Think about it. You’re an executive producer on one of television’s best new series, the hottest show in the Fox prime time lineup. The final moments of your first season’s finale have been the most talked about moments of last fall’s TV season, save for the finale of Battlestar Galactica. How do you follow up sending your main character into a parallel universe where the World Trade Center still stands and Leonard Nimoy is a crazy scientist? Where do you go from there?

In the opening moments of Fringe’s stellar season two premiere, we are witness to the aftermath of a simple car accident. A man, waking up from the accident, gets up and proceeds to run away to a nearby building. After entering the building, he meets a stranger in the hallway. Without a word, he kills the man and drags him into the apartment and proceeds to use a crazy little device to augment his face and steal the man’s identity. It is gruesome, awesome and it is not the whole story. That’s just a precursor to the wild, incredible opening sequence to the show’s second season.

Moments later, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and his father Walter (John Noble) are at the scene of the crime, wondering why records show Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) as one of the drivers. The only problem is that she’s not in her car. That is, until Walter gets in and fiddles with the radio a bit. The car jumps to life, spooks Walter and begins going crazy. A second later, seemingly inexplicable, Agent Dunham comes bursting through the windshield of the car, rolling into the street unconscious, about dead.

That’s how you begin the second season of Fringe

And if you’re that writer, you deserve a pat on the back. The first ten minutes of season two are the best that this show has seen in its short lifespan. And that includes the final moments of season one. From there, this week’s premiere opens up with a bevy of character introductions and set-up for an incredibly promising season. We meet Agent Jessup, played by Meghan Markle (who is a bit stiff, but shows plenty of potential), whose curiosity about Agent Dunham’s dimensional jumping car accident leads her to become involved with Walter and Peter. And in turn, she becomes a part of Fringe division. We also meet this new shape-shifting bad guy, who has come across dimensions to track down and kill Agent Dunham. And as you’ll see in the end, there is no end to that bad guy’s determination.

Kudos to the writers of Fringe, who have taken a stellar season finale, full of intrigue and surprise, and spun it into an additionally complex second season premiere. They begin by showing sending us to crazytown, only to reel us back quickly with a cat and mouse game centered around the mortality of the show’s main character. In a word, brilliant.

What we’ve learned with the season two premiere of Fringe is this: there is more water in this well, plenty more water. The introduction of Jessup is an interesting one, as it further plays with our emotions around the dimensionally challenged Agent Dunham. It will be interesting to see how her storyline continues to play. As well, did everyone catch the weird moment between Agent Broyles (Lance Reddick) and Nina Sharp (Blair Brown)? That was an uncomfortable little moment that should play out to an interesting end.

In the end, season two’s opening frame did what it is supposed to do – remind us why we’ve been watching this long, and to get us excited for more. And to tell you the truth friends, I am very excited to see what happens next. What did William Bell tell Agent Dunham? Who is this crazy shape-shifting soldier working for? And what’s the deal with Walter’s obsession with custard…? All will be revealed as season two of Fringe rolls along. Care to come along for the ride?

Read More: Fringe Recaps

What did you think of the season two premiere of Fringe?

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)