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‘Fringe’ Paranoia: How Bad Will It Get?

Does anyone ... have any idea ... what's happening?

In last week’s premiere, Fringe established its three main characters and the evil corporation Massive Dynamic, manufacturer of the freaky-science phenomena that will provide tidy, episode-by-episode plots from here on out. How paranoid are we that this paranormal series will suck? Read on — much is revealed in episode two.

The Evil: A beautiful woman dies after being impregnated with the rapidly aging demon spawn of a creepy serial killer.

The Determination: Agent Dunham, Dr. Walter Bishop, and Peter Bishop discover that the resulting baby, which within hours became the dried-up corpse of an old man, is a more advanced version of a government experiment the good doctor attempted 30 years ago.

Intel on Massive Dynamic: Nina Sharp, the face of the supercorporation, coyly hints to Dunham that Massive Dynamic is one of the planet’s biggest economies and able to influence the outcome of presidential elections. And of course, MD’s sleek waiting room looks just like the one at CAA. Foreboding!

Wacky Factor: Will Walter demonstrate the Meet Joe Black Principle every week? It appears so! Last night, he was mesmerized by a car’s seat warmer and took time out from frantic lab research to milk his cow. He might have gone nuts and killed someone seventeen years ago, but he’s just so adorable.

Paranoia Level: High. So far, Fringe, like Walter, splits the difference between nutty and cutesy. Walter and Peter make an unfunny Abbott and Costello pairing — as if Abbott were whimsically deranged and Costello sullen — while Dunham has to do all the running and shooting.

Another worry: those ridiculous scientific gadgets. So far we've gotten an undies-only sensory-deprivation chamber, a retinal camera transmitting the last glimpses of dead people, and a makeshift defibrillator that Peter, with coaching from his father over the phone, pieced together from spare parts. J.J. Abrams listed several inspirations for this show — The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, Cronenberg — but its most obvious touchstone seems to be MacGyver.

Photo: Courtesy of Fox