Blair Brown lends a solid supporting hand to 'Fringe'

Ninasharparm_lCall me an X-Files diehard with a soft spot for Alias, but Fox’s new series Fringe isn’t measuring up to either of those classic series. (And that bland Anna Torv—oh, do I miss Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully.) Yet I’ll say one thing for J.J. Abrams: He does serve up a class-A roster of supporting actors. Kirk Acevedo from Oz, Lance Reddick from the dear departed The Wire, and most especially, the incomparable Blair Brown. Speaking of the erstwhile Molly Dodd, why has Abrams thus far relegated her to the show’s, ahem, fringes…and saddled her wily corporate COO with that hoary horror fixture, an artificial arm?

To give Abrams his due, prosthetic hands have clawed their way through pop culture from Peter Pan’s Captain Hook to many a film and urban folktale. James Bond fanatics will, of course, recall Joseph Wiseman’s deadly metallic digits in Dr. No. Barely a year later, Peter Sellers mock-choked himself on screen with an artificial hand as the wheelchair-bound Dr. Strangelove. In the ‘90s, slasher films like Candyman, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legend accessorized marauding madmen with prosthetic weaponry. Most recently, there was the murderous hook-handed T-Bag of Prison Break. Admittedly, not only mad scientists and killers have sported artificial appendages—witness William Devane’s Vietnam-vet vigilante in 1977’s Rolling Thunder.

With that history in mind, consider Brown’s Nina Sharp: Is her physical impairment a tip-off to her possibly villainous nature? Or, more hopefully, does her willingness to display it infuse this tough, steely survivor of cancer and corporate intrigue with a glimmer of vulnerability? Does her prosthetics portend future revelations about Massive Dynamics’ excursions into bionics, nanotechnology, and human enhancement? Is there a tie-in with the show’s theme of humanity enmeshed in technology gone wild, in a world blurring the boundaries of nature and artifice? Ponder this, PopWatchers, and set your fingers to talking…be they God-given or man-made.

More on Fringe:
Review: Fringe
PopWatch: Fringe Snap Judgment
Fringe premiere ratings
Fringe vs. Terminator: Which has the cooler office?


Comments (22 total) Add your comment
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  • Laura

    Personally, I don’t base my opinion for Fringe on other shows. If I did that, I would never watch anything new, because nothing would ever match Lost. I’m loving Fringe right now, it just has to find it’s place and then get used to it.

  • Anonymous

    I like everything about this show EXCEPT Olivia! couldn’t they kill her off and give the other lead to Kirk Acevedo?
    Even Scully laughed once in a while

  • Dennis N.

    Now that I’ve seen Beyonce’s new video, I fully expect Nina to bust out her couture swimwear and pull off some fierce Fosse moves.

  • Patty

    I knew she had a robot arm. My husband missed one episode and I think that was the only one she had her arm exposed in – he thinks I am nuts. Thank you for validating my knowledge of fake arms.

  • Owen

    Why are people hating on this series. Its my favorite new show of the season! And compared to most the new sci-fi in the last five years, its STILL one of the best (besides THE best: LOST and/or BSG). Wow…I just reread this post and realized I’m an UBER nerd…

  • Eisley

    Weird, considering you’re a diehard X-Files fan, I would have expected you to see the Pilot episode of X Files. Remember it? It wasn’t that good. In fact the first season wasn’t all that good. You’re basing your opinion of Fringe on 6 episodes (which have each gotten better and better). And I’m personally enjoying the character of Olivia, she’s way different from most female characters on TV.

  • JKBopinion

    I’m also enjoying Fringe this season. I was a long time fan of the X-files, too, and agree with Eisley’s point. We own all the X-files seasons on DVD and it is enlightening to rewatch the first season episodes. They didn’t hit their strides with comfortable dialogue and easy camraderie between Mulder and Scully until season two. And the pilot of X-files? Seems like a completely different show. I hope Fringe gets the chance to find its tone because I see a lot of potential for the show and some of the characters (and actors) are already fantastic.

  • LoneGunman

    Really-everyone just stop comparing Fringe to The X-Files. On it’s worst day with one hand tied behind it’s back, X-Files was 10 times better than Fringe.

  • Andy

    I love Fringe, it has become a must see show for me the night it is on, no tivoing it, me and my friends watch it live. It is our Lost until Lost. I only started to watch X-Files about two years ago and about a year ago purchased the complete series. I do have a soft spot for the first season but it did not hit its stride until the second and third season. I can see a ton of potential to Fringe and at first I saw it as kind of like X-Files but it is finding its own voice as well.

  • Ellipsian

    I’m gently grooving on “Fringe” (I’m still waiting for its reality to catch up with its potential) but frankly, Ben, I’m really not choo-chooing along with you on the Blair Brown party train. I feel like her acting is wooden and forced, and that I can see right though her character to the actress acting underneath (I feel the same about Winona Ryder and EW cover lady Anne Hathaway, both of whom I can still enjoy and respect).

  • E

    Maybe I’m in the minority on this one, but I’ve not been that impressed with Blair Brown. In the first episode when she first meets Olivia and whips off her fake skin to show robo-arm for no particular reason, I laughed out loud. Umm, who does that? Very silly.

  • LisaMama

    I love Fringe and think people need to give it a fair chance. The same goes for the character of Olivia. She’s different than most female leads, and it’s refreshing.
    And speaking of one-armed men, don’t forget the one-armed man in The Fugitive that killed Harrison Ford’s wife. They always seem to be bad guys, don’t they? Except Luke Skywalker, of course.

  • Aseem Garg

    It seems to be a good comparison to Anakin/Luke Skywalker and their robotic hands. In Anakin’s case, of course, it signaled the beginning of his transformation into Darth Vader. So with that in mind, I would definitely say that Nina Sharp’s arm most certainly represents an evil influence within the framework of Massive Dynamic.

  • Raven_Moon

    Why is EW always ragging on Anna Torv. I don’t find her bland at all. I like her & think that with experience she’ll get even better.

  • ALC

    Here’s why I hate this show. In addition to being completely derivative of the X-Files, Fringe has a fatal flaw: the show lacks a skeptic and therefore lacks a constant, a basis in reality. From Episode 1, the seasoned FBI agent Olivia was quick to believe in the crazy stuff the mad scientist was dishing out–you can talk to your dead boyfriend telepathically as long as he hasn’t been dead for more than 6 hours!!! As annoying as Scully’s incessant “Mulder, you aren’t suggesting that…” and “Mulder, do you expect me to believe…” was at times, Scully’s skepticism kept the show honest. Without a skeptic, Fringe is like MacGyver on paranormal steroids. In Episode 2, the FBI agent was able to solve a crime using an “electric pulse camera” to capture the last electric impulses that traveled along a murder victim’s optic nerve and therefore reveal what she saw before she died. Over-reliance on this sort of deus ex machina = boring.

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