Fringe channels Alias, Smallville phones it in, Nikita in brief and Chase is better than Breakout Kings (IMO!)

Many US tv shows are approaching their finales, with Fringe cranking it up big time this week as Peter seeks to help save our universe. Meanwhile, the latest episode of Smallville was a pretty big yawn as Clark and Oliver visited the Phantom Zone. Also airing, the late lamented (by me anyway) Chase is getting its last few episodes burned off. Nikita is also delving into the darker stuff as Alex calls in the cleaners!

First up and the best of the bunch, Fringe enjoyed a really strong episode this week as Peter’s attempts to turn off the doomsday machine became more complicated. Last time, he was knocked unconscious after trying to touch the machine. Olivia visited her old bowling buddy Sam Weiss who took her on a Sydney Bristow-like mission to retrieve something called ‘the crowbar’ that would open up the doorway between world in some way. Indeed, the Alias parallels are really starting to come thick and fast. Any Alias fans would have yelled ‘PAGE 47!’ on seeing that mysterious old parchment that was ‘the crowbar’ unrolled to reveal an image of Olivia.(Alias’ Page 47 was an image of Syd in Rambaldi’s ancient manuscript) Indeed, the Rambaldi conspiracy and the evolving mythology of the first ones have a fair bit in common. Add in parental issues, dead former fiancés, growing love between the work colleagues and this week’s time jump and you can tell JJ Abrams is involved!

It seems Olivia’s latent telekinetic powers are the key to turning off the machine on the other side – much as Fauxlivia got her messages via the phantom typewriter. Once she does indeed deactivate it and Peter steps in, there is a big flash and he is suddenly 15 years into a pretty wild looking future, (no, not Sydney waking up in Hong Kong at the end of S2 of Alias, but similar!) Is it a glimpse only and Peter will return to our world, or will be now be stuck there? Have we seen the last of the ‘other side’? I hope not, I want to know what Walternate, Fauxlivia, AutisticAstrid and the rest of the gang get up to. In many ways I have loved this season of Fringe, but the show is in danger of getting as convoluted as Alias and making it all but impenetrable to casual viewers. However, great work as always from John Noble and the rest of the excellent cast.

My love of all things Superman goes back a long way – but not particularly to the comic books! I actually get a bit fed up with how many tv shows and films seem to be so reverential to comic books. Last week’s ‘Booster Gold’ episode was also pretty dull – although maybe fans of the character from the comics liked it more than me.

For me, it was Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder than caught my imagination, then years of Saturday teatime viewing of Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in The New Adventures of Superman. I did not actually get into Smallville until Lois came on the scene in Season 4. I HATED drippy Lana and found smug Lex to be pretty irritating too. Lois is one of my favourite characters  in any comic book adaptation, and I just love Erica Durance’s cocky and confident Lois on Smallville. As a longtime (and several incarnations) Lois and Clark fan, I think Smallville handled the relationship really well. Initial teasing and squabbling, that over six years has grown into love. I was quite surprised that they took it further and have them engaged and possibly getting married in the show’s finale in a few weeks. Can that tie in to the Superman mythology? Can Clark be married BEFORE he is Superman?

Anyway, back to this week’s episode – directed by Oliver himself, actor Justin Hartley – and what a snooze fest it was! Zod was back – Callum Blue does his best English baddie as the boss of the underworld, well, the Phantom Zone, the Kryptonian prison Clark sent him too at the end of Season 9. Oliver, along for the ride, ends up fighting Clark in a very 300/Spartacus style scene, with the super slo-mo and splattering blood (although not the gore of those two.) Meanwhile Lois and Tess come to a Mexican stand off as Tess prepares to close the gateway (or whatever) to the Zone to prevent the baddies from escaping, thereby trapping Clark and Ollie. Lois is not going to let that happen however.

Frankly, the desaturated visuals aside, the Phantom Zone stuff was just uninteresting. There was little genuine tension as we know Ollie won’t really kill Clark on the promise of ruling alongside Zod. Plus it just went on too long. Similarly, the Lois/Tess tensions were rather over the top. While Lois got to wail about standing by her man, it was all a little pointless. The end scene where Clark returns to their new apartment and Lois just kind of smiles at him was weird. She says he’s been gone 3 weeks, but unless she is in shock, her reaction is strange. Not sure what they were trying to say here. That Lois will always wait? The sight of her Whitesnake cushion covers were about the best thing in the snooze of an episode.

So here’s a game: spot the difference between Chase and Breakout Kings. Why has Chase been axed while Breakout Kings is still airing (although not sure how well it is doing and how likely it is for renewal.)

Both shows follow US marshals hunting down runaways, however watching this week, I spotted what I think made Chase fail to connect with viewers. Chase is more emotional and, well, girly! Not just having a girl in the lead – Kelli Giddish was incredibly macho at first, recklessly so. But Chase dwells on the emotional side of the  criminals much more. Last week’s excellent episode guest starred Ugly Betty’s Eric Mabius as a clever paedophile whose crimes got marshal Daisy (Rose Rollins) got all emotional. We saw her watching a child and parent and it was kind of implied this might be her kid who she had lost custody of. We learned this week she was abused as a child, and it was NOT the child and parent she was watching at the end of last week’s episode, but the piano teacher whose house they were exiting – her abuser. I liked that this was not an easy and obvious story thread.

On Breakout Kings, it is all much more macho. I actually cannot stand the two lead marshals and the escaping cons are often much more violent. Yes, Breakout Kings has the wonderful Jimmi Simpson, but the rest of the cast are totally charmless. A similar failing on Chase at times. I read somewhere Cole Hauser was paid big money to appear. I have yet to see him in anything, film or tv, that convinced me he is a great or charismatic actor. Amaury Nolasco, so likeable as Sucre on Prison Break is underused in a big way, but the team are still more appealing than the Breakout Kings mob for me. However, the sort of audience for this type of all action show is probably mainly male, and listening to the Grey’s Anatomy style singer/songwriter tunes that played us out, I think Chase has just misjudged its audience. A shame as this week’s episode was another really good one.

Quickie on Nikita. The last few episodes have seen Michael now teaming up with Nikita and Alex, determined to bring down Percy and Division (more Percy than Division itself for Michael.) We had a very exciting episode last week as the team prepared to extract Alex, but ended up having to carry out their mission to stop the megalomaniacal son of the leader of an African country use chemical weapons on a bunch of diplomats.

This week, Nikita and Michael go after another of the black boxes while Alex ends up fighting her Division frenemy Jaden after her super dumb boyfriend spills the beans, and ultimately pulls the trigger on her. Unfortunately for Alex, Jaden has a bugging device on her and Amanda (the deliciously evil Melinda Clarke) now knows all…uh oh for Alex! Pretty good stuff.