When I tell people that Fringe is one of the best shows -- if not the best show -- on TV right now, it is because of episodes like this one. An episode that can stand alone by itself, as great hour of television, and also continue to advance the series with fresh angles at the same time. "The Abduction" has everything you want out of a great suspense sci-fi movie but packed into 43 glorious minutes of TV awesomeness.
"The Abduction" is a kind of two part episode, taking Anna Torv's Olivia in two very different directions, but both mesh together seamlessly. Back in the alternate universe, the first part of the episode has this week's fringe event involving a child being abducted from a serial kidnapper named the 'Candyman'. Even though it just starts out as a normal kidnapping, the Fringe team is still brought in to investigate. Because of Peter's unique kidnapping, Walternate, being the security of defense, implemented that every time a child goes missing, it is to be treated as a possible fringe event. Also with Broyles' son, Christopher, being a former victim of the 'Candyman', it makes this fringe event that much more personal for the team. The second part of the episode is Olivia attempting to escape back to her universe, with a little help from her former hostage/cab driver Henry. Her escape ends in dramatic fashion, concluding "The Abduction" in a cliff-hanger good enough for a season finale quality of a finish.
Torv does another tremendous job playing the multi-layered character(s) of Olivia Dunham. In this episode, Olivia finally embraces what us as audience members have known from the start, the fact that she is from the other universe. With this angle, Torv gets to plays one Olivia pretending she is one of them (so she doesn't lose her cover), another being fully open about not belonging, and even a small scene as Bolivia at the end. Not to take away from the fantastic writing or direction (I'll get to that in a minute), but because Torv is able play this range so well it's almost scary, it just makes the whole story so much more enjoyable for an audience member at home watching the episode as it slowly unfolds.
Though Torv steals the show, "The Abduction" has some solid stuff from its guest stars, as well as series regular Lance Reddick. Reddick's Broyles has become more of a crucial character in the series and in this episode he steals some scenes with another strong performance. Broyles is personally becoming my favourite character in the show, probably because whenever Reddick has scenes with the other cast members he always leaves you wanting more. And when Fringe has episodes focusing more on Broyles, like this one, Reddick delivers every time without fail. As for "The Abduction" guest stars, the producers bring back Andre Royo as Olivia's skeptical cabby hostage from the season premier. Royo again does an excellent job playing the slowly-convinced confidant for Olivia, making him the only person she can trust. The other impressive guest star is Curtis Harris playing Broyles' son, Christopher. I'm always surprised when TV shows are able to find such amazingly talented child actors who aren't just there as background characters but are an essential component to making an episode like this work. Harris plays a former victim of the 'Candyman' who ends up being permanently blinded after his horrific abduction. If I didn't look this kid up online after I watching the show, I would have still believed they hired an actually blind actor for the role. Harris was that convincing.
Certain aspects of Fringe, which usually go unnoticed after great episodes like this one, are the writing and direction. With "The Abduction" having two main directions for the show's main character to take, it never feels like they are two different stories or two different episodes. These two parts, being again the weekly fringe event of the 'Candyman' and Olivia's escape attempt, are both separated and intertwined with perfect timing and execution for flawless pacing. On a rare occasion like this episode -- when a viewer doesn't notice any little imperfections or gets lost trying to follow the story -- you know it's because of great writing and/or proper direction. Any average fan of Fringe may have seen the ending of "The Abduction" coming sometime this season, but it was done in such a way that it still was shocking, leaving you on the edge of your seat 'til next week's episode. Even with all the big dramatic plot twists, the writers still manage to add in those little funny details that make the show great, an example being that with all the advancements in technology they have over in the alternate universe, they still are using pagers (remember those). Those details add some flavour to the show and give its own certain style.
With the next episode promising to introduce an exciting dynamic, after this week's conclusion, for whatever universe the writers decide to place the story in, the quality of this season's Fringe episodes don't seem to be effected by its poor timeslot. Their ratings, unfortunately, are a different story. If the bump from Tuesday to Thursday wasn't bad enough, when American Idol returns, Fringe will get the bump yet again, but to the dreaded Friday night slot in FOX's burial ground of a line-up. It's no secret that shows moved to Friday nights on FOX are a death sentence on their network, even if it is temporary (so they say), as shows like Dollhouse and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles quickly felt the sting of the cancellation axe soon after the move. If Fringe hasn't guaranteed its future on FOX after a phenomenal episode like this, maybe they should jump to a different network that would market the show properly and start capitalizing on all this talent.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.
Paul Little says...
I actually think the move to Fridays might save Fringe.
In its Thursday timeslot opposite Grey's Anatomy, CSI, and The Office, its 18-49 rating has put it by far in last place (not counting the CW, of course).
If it pulls the same 1.8 or 1.9 on Friday that it does on Thursday, it will be the top-rated show of the night. So here's hoping Fringe viewers follow it to Fridays, and it can be a hit on Fridays instead of a struggling show on Thursdays!