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No-Brainer: Astrid Still Needs Character Development on "Fringe"

Is it just me or is Fringe's Astrid Farnsworth the latest victim of Mary-Sue Syndrome?

After many episodes of limited character growth, Fringe's writers are now shoving Astrid's amazing skills down our throats with greater frequency... instead of investing time to flesh out her painfully one-dimensional character.

She speaks Latin! She majored in linguistics! And in last night's episode of Fringe ("The No-Brainer"), we learned that she minored in computer science and can take apart computers and fix crashed hard drives with ease. It now seems that when the writers need an esoteric skill that none of the other characters possess, they magically give Astrid the ability to perform miracles.

I've been bemoaning the lack of character development for Astrid for some time now. After all, we're now more than 13 episodes into the season and other than the facts that Astrid has told us, we've yet to see her grow as a character or be fleshed out into anything other than a device for regurgitating exposition.

I don't blame actor Jasika Nicole; she's clearly doing the best she can with the limited material at her disposal but the answer isn't to attempt to dazzle the audience with Astrid's diverse skills but to find a way to have her do something other than answer the phone, snoop through the garbage, or repeat everything that Olivia has just said.

"The No-Brainer" once again demonstrated that the series would be just the same were you to remove Astrid from the equation altogether. Yes, she assisted in the case at hand by cracking open those hard drives but the heavy lifting was done by Peter's contact Akim (played, one must note, by The Wire's Gbenga Akinnagbe) and, while she went into the trash to pull out that note from Jessica Warren (Dawson's Creek's Mary Beth Piel), it was Olivia who confronted Peter about her.

No, far more interesting to me were the supporting players this week, such as Jessica Warren and Brian Dempsey (The Wire's Chris Bauer). Which is a bit of a problem: when you only have maybe six leads on the series and one of them is still a complete cipher, it's not good when they're overshadowed by the guest stars.

What do you think of Astrid? What suggestions do you have for Fringe's writers in order to make her a more compelling, three-dimensional character? Discuss.

Next week on Fringe ("The Transformation"), another bizarre incident aboard an international flight prompts the Fringe Division to investigate, where they encounter some rather freakish remains at the crash site; Olivia receives a visit from an old friend who may have crucial knowledge about the event.


I think that picture says it all - Astrid and the cow are pretty much equals on the show. Neither of them have much to do except stand around.
Anonymous said…
I bet they were surprised by the Astrid love. Seems like they've been scrambling to find ways to use her more but are limited since most scripts were already written. I'm almost hoping Fringe dies badly and gets cancelled since it would give Jasika a chance to find a better role. Well, maybe next season they'll figure out better ways to utilize her. It's not like the writers are bad at writing women ... is it?
Anonymous said…
She could be one of the bad guys.....
CL said…
Personally, I think the writers are saving Astrid for something else. She's probably a spy for Global Dynamics or something. That would explain everything - why she doesn't draw attention to herself, why she doesn't get too involved... A spy is supposed to be invisible and beyond suspicion right?

Now that I think about it, Astrid is in the perfect position to destroy everything if she needed to.
Anonymous said…
@Chris Could be that she is supposed to be a spy or something but there's a difference between a character not "drawing attention to herself" and being completely BORING. She could still be a fully developed character and be a spy. They're not mutually exclusive.
CL said…
@Wes Hey, I didn't say that the writers were doing a good job on that count... I just think that this is what they are attempting to do.
Page48 said…
If Astrid is so gifted, maybe she could step in and write a few episodes of "Fringe".

Did Olivia sustain a head injury in the last few days? What else would explain how she completely forgot about last week's developments regarding her 'operation', about Loeb's accusations about her being so stupid as to not realize who or what she was up against. Did she lose all curiosity about Loeb's claims that he operated on her to save her? Did the FBI cut Loeb a deal, is he being tortured in the basement the way Arvin Sloane would have done it?

Astrid, if you can write a script that advances the plot and throws in a sense of danger, urgency, suspense, excitement, a few thrills and spills, just put your hand up. You'll never have to brush a cow's teeth again.
rockauteur said…
All the scenes with Ari Graynor drive me crazy... She's actually a good actress but is saddles with horrible material... Obviously this will come to something, but if she is only there for three eps, they better give her juicier material than making pasta...

What really annoys me is that all her scenes are filmed separately. Notice how she and Anna Torv are virtually NEVER in the same frame together, or if they are, its the back of their heads... Stand-ins anybody? Annoying... JJ, lets these two actually share scenes and make sure you schedule them on the same day!
Harleypeyton said…
The first two episodes of the new year are pretty troubling. First, you've got what appears to be another Abrams Reboot -- in this case, dumping the larger mythology (including Blair Brown, teleporting dude, etc.) and focusing on closed episode stories. Second, we now have two consecutive episodes where the cases were broken by mundane police work (distinctive shoes! the vics have the same last name!) rather than Walter's scientific genius.

This does not bode well for the series.
Anonymous said…
Is this still on?

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