Fringe Review: Olivia

M: As I mentioned in the Thursday edition of the Fall Preview, Fringe is replacing LOST as my show to obsess over this season.  Over the past two years Fringe has hooked me, and at times actually supplanted LOST as my favorite show.  With LOST having ended, I am free to embrace Fringe as my favorite show without any guilt.  Now, if you haven’t watched the first to seasons, let me try to explain what has happened.  No, there is too much, let me sum up.

You can see our previous post from this time last year, the season two primer, for more details of the first season, but here goes.  Fringe is a show following FBI agent Olivia Dunham and her team as they investigate slightly less than normal, and often paranormal cases.  She is joined on her team by mad scientist Walter Bishop and his son Peter.  Peter is actually only sort of Walter’s son.  You see, he’s from an alternate universe that closely mirrors ours, and is the son of the version of Walter in that universe.  The Peter from our universe died of an illness as a child, an illness that Walter, who had discovered the other universe and created a device to look between the two, found the cure for after his son died but before the other Peter died.  He crossed to the other universe to save Peter, setting off a chain reaction in which a pattern of paranormal events began happening in our universe, while the very fabric of the alternate universe began to collapse.

With the help of some wonderfully evil henchmen, the Walter from the other universe (Walternate, as our crazy Walter calls him) managed to cross over and bring Peter back to the universe he came from.  However, Peter quickly discovers that Walternate is using him to try to destroy our universe.  He also discovers that he’s fallen in love with Olivia.  In the season two finale, Walter and Olivia cross over to rescue Peter.  They are help by William Bell, Walter’s old lab partner and founder of the previously thought to be villainous Massive Dynamic, while they are hunted by the alternate version of Olivia (who I have dubbed Fauxlivia) and the alternate version of her partner Charlie Francis, and another member of her team, Lincoln Lee.

In the end of the season, Peter is saved, but the Olivias get swapped, with our Olivia staying in the alternate universe, and Fauxlivia coming back with Walter and Peter, while Bell got blown to smithereens.  The season ended with a shot of Fauxlivia making contact with Walternate letting him know that she has infiltrated the other universe, and then a shot of our Oliva in a padded cell, with Walternate pulling down the shade on the one window to it.  I have to say, the switch was a little predictable, but it was still a great cliffhanger.

As we said in the primer, the show definitely took a while to find its footing.  If you’re looking to catch up, don’t feel bad if you skip the six or seven episodes after the pilot, they’re not that good, and it doesn’t take it to the great level until at least half way through the season.  Season two was consistently great, producing at least one moment in just about every episode that made me say “I LOVE THIS SHOW!”  It is powerful and playful, is well constructed, written and acted.  If you’re looking for one episode to check out, I’d suggest season two’s White Tulip, which had a fabulous guest appearance from Peter Weller.  Ok, sorry, the summing up is over, let’s move on to the start of season three.

Season three picked up right were season two left off, with Olivia in the alternate universe, where she’s being detained and questioned in a medical facility on Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty, which in the alternate universe has managed to not oxidize and is still copper in color.  With the exception of the very last scene, we spend the entire episode following Olivia in the alternate universe, which was a little weird, and created an episode with practically no Peter and Walter, which was not a good thing, even though the episode worked.  Anyway, we quickly find that Walternate is having the fun scientist that works at Massive Dynamic in our universe experiment on her to try to implant Fauxlivia’s memories and DNA into her. Being the intelligent badass she is, Olivia finds a way to escape.

She manages to swim from Liberty Island to Manhattan, where she hijacks a cab.  She has the cabbie drive her around the city, get her some close, and take her back to the theater where she and Walter crossed universes.  Unfortunately for her, because of the breach, the theater is being encased in amber, like many areas have been, to try to contain the damage to the fabric of their universe.

As she was spotted there, her team gives chase, including Lincoln, who is recovering very quickly from massive burns and injuries inflicted upon him in the finale, and Charlie, who in the three days of in-show time between the finale and this episode has grown a complete head of hair.  Oddly, the actually showed a picture of him with the shaved head in one of the first scenes, so it’s not like we could even pretend we forgot.  She escapes from them at a gas station, while making an incredible gunshot out the window of the cab over Charlie’s shoulder to not harm him but blow up a gas tank.  It was a shot that Fauxlivia could make but our Olivia couldn’t.

One quick interjection.  As Olivia is driving around we get some glimpses of the differences in the alternate universe, and it is an odd mix of new and old.  They still use blimps (dirigibles, really) for travel, and we see a guy on one of those old fashioned giant front wheel bicycles.  On the other hand, there’s an animated billboard advertising daily flights to the moon, little ear-clip bluetooth type phone things and the amber stuff that traps people inside in a state like cryogenic freezing.  Just a weird vibe, I can tell if they want us to think all the technology is better, but the people are worse, or if only some of their tech is more advanced.  Anyway, back to Olivia.

The gunshot was the first sign that the memory/DNA treatment is actually working.  Through the rest of the episode we see the two Olivia’s beginning to split consciousness and memory.  In the running theme of the episode, Olivia is trying to convince people that she is who she thinks she is, that she is not the Olivia from their universe.  She is insistent on not hiding it, not trying to fool people or go along, but no matter the circumstance, no matter the consequence, remain herself.  In an excellent scene with Henry the cabbie (played well by Cameron K Smith), she finds an ally of sorts.  He tells of a time in his life where he was broken and doing things he didn’t want to do, but his wife believed in him, that he was the person that he thought and felt he was on the inside, and that one person believing in him pulled him back from the edge.  He begins to be less of a hijacked driver, and more of a sympathetic helper.

Olivia, however, begins to lose the battle with the implanted memories.  When an implanted memory leads her an hour outside the city to the house of her mother, who in our universe has been dead since Olivia was 14, they take over almost completely.  She gives in to them, and when Charlie shows up to ask mom (played by soon to be recurring guest star Amy Madigan) if she’s heard from Olivia, she turns herself in and agrees to go back with him.  In a twist I didn’t quite see coming, though, the connection with Henry the cabbie pays off, as he waited outside the mother’s house instead of heading back to New York, and follows Chalie and Olivia.

I have to say, I liked Henry, so if they make him a recurring figure, even if it’s just for a few episodes, I’ll be glad.  He was a good ally, and quickly developed into someone you wanted to make sure was OK.  I remember thinking several times that I wanted Olivia to somehow have in her plan a way to make it so that he wouldn’t get in trouble.  Now there’s no doubt that he’s either going to end up in a world of trouble, or dead, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to get to be heroic along the way.

The episode ends back in our universe, first with Peter recounting his travel between universes to a goverment official in the Capitol Building in DC, then with him reuniting with Walter and Fauxlivia, and giving her a kiss, showing us that Olivia was the reason he came back to this universe.

Overall, it was an entertaining and interesting first episode back, though not a great one.  It didn’t have the bang of last season’s premiere, where Olivia was missing and then returned by getting shot out the windshield of an SUV, and where a shape shifter killed Charlie and assumed his identity.  It also didn’t provide me with an “I LOVE THIS SHOW!” moment, though those almost always center around Walter, and he barely appeared in the episode.  Olivia’s mental struggle, and the groundwork of whatever Walternate is planning, were the important aspects of this.  We have, as the alternate universe version of Broyles, Colonel Broyles, laid out, one infiltrated member of the fringe team on each side.  The trick is, at least for the moment, they both think they are Fauxlivia.  It looks like next week we get a case mixed in, which is good.  I want to see them maintain the balance between creature of the week episodes and overarching plot episodes, the show will lose some of its greatness if they go to just continual plot.  I suppose we’ll find out soon.

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One comment on “Fringe Review: Olivia

  1. shasas says:

    you were very tired writing this with a few spelling errors, honey. still good review.. and my jury is out on whether or not I think they did a good thing the way they got off the ground this season…

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