M: Last week’s season premiere, where we spent most of the week in the alternate universe following the story of our Olivia and focused entirely on the overarching story. It was an engaging first step into where this season is going to take us, but as I said last week, it wasn’t knock your socks off great. Part of that may have been due to the unfamiliarity of the narrative style of the episode. Well, the good news was, this week’s episode, The Box, took us a step back in the direction of the standard episode flow, and took us back to our own universe and characters. Yes, it was still driven by the overarching story, but they fit it into the form of a fringe team case. It’s a good form, and I was surprised how much I had missed it over the summer.
Like many episodes, this one started with a strange occurrence. In this case it was a home invasion, in which three men bound and gagged a family in the Boston suburb of Milton (knowing the town well, I can tell you that the house looked sufficiently Milton-ish, so E will be pleased). Two of the men proceeded to dig a giant hole through the concrete floor of the house’s basement, where they retrieved a box with mysterious markings. The third man, the cousin of one of the other two, was upstair looking both menacing and perhaps mildly mentally retarded. The cousin, while arguing with his partner, defended him as not being stupid, which we would later find to be rather important, but we’ll get to that. Their argument centered around the more mischievous of the two wanting to open the box, while the other, the cousin, wanted to just do what they were hired to do, which was retrieve the box for their employer. In the end greed won out and the lure of the box containing something worth more than what they were being paid did the cousin in. In a classic “don’t you know you’re on a TV show” moment, they open the box and everyone dies.
Well, not right away, first the lights flicker, they all convulse, have their eyes go all white like Storm in X-Men, and have their spinal fluid boil up into their brains, mix with blood and then drain out their noses. It was quite nasty. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the slow looking guy, he was fine. Walked around bewildered, watching everyone convulse and die. He picked up the box and left.
In our next scene, we find a few interesting details. Fauxlivia is working with last season’s mystery villain Thomas Jerome Newton, who’s helping her adjust to this universe, giving her tips on pop culture like how to pronounce Bono’s name, and removing her little neck tattoo. We also learn that he’s the one who hired the men to retrieve the box. I have to say, I was glad to see him back. He was maybe not as spectacular an adversary as David Robert Jones (from season one, for those catching up), but he was a good baddie. Plus, how can you not like a smooth, cunning and intelligent bad guy with a British accent?
It was from this point, though, that the episode picked up and brought us back to the heart of the show, Walter and Peter. Walter was very endearing in this episode, an episode in which he had a lot to deal with and a lot on his mind. He’s upset that William Bell’s obit is formulaic, and deeply saddened by his death. He is also still dealing with the distance between himself and Peter. But, of course, he is still Walter, so we get some wonderful Walter moments like announcing to Astrid that Bell would be very upset to know they were out of butter, calling Astrid by the wrong name again, him telling her that he enjoys the suction-y sound of the brain coming out of a skull, and especially him trying to feed Jeanne (his cow) cacao beans so that he, or more accurately she, can make chocolate milk. We see his awkwardness, as he tries to talk to Peter about his past, and also when he tried to help comfort Nina Sharp at the reading of Bell’s will. But we also see the brilliance of Walter at work in ways we are used to seeing it. Through examination of the brains of the dead robbers, he discovers that the box contains a super-sonic device that distorts brainwaves so much that the person dies. Of course, in displaying his theory we get to see him both sing opera and jam out to the Miami Vice theme song, and explain that it’s sound is above the range that humans can hear, and was, as he put it, silent but deadly, like himself. He then suggested they all take a few steps away. Rarely has a fart joke worked so well on a show that didn’t star Ashton Kutcher. Walter also come to the rescue in the end, devising a way for Peter to get close to the box without being effected by it, but again I’m getting ahead of myself.
Peter, is dealing with his own set of emotional issues. He still feels betrayed by Walter, and is angry at him for taking him from his universe, and for all the damage that is being created in the alternate universe because of it. He’s dealing with, but not picking up on enough, the changes in Olivia since they crossed back. And he’s feeling trapped. If you’ve watched the show from the start, you know that Peter had been extremely nomadic in the years leading up to the start of the show. It was nice to see them bring a touch of this back, and lace it with some good natured humor, where Peter joked to Fauxlivia that he felt like he was trapped in a bad buddy cop movie. However, his biggest weight hanging on him, which is also a weight over Walter, is the doomsday machine that Walternate was building to hook him up to. Peter is still struggling with the fact that his real father brought him back to try to use him to destroy a universe, which Walter is trying to avoid the fate of Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb.
Fauxlivia, on the other hand, has no moral dilemma going on. She is on a mission, and doing her job, She bosses Newton around and insults him, uses her connection with Peter to her advantage whenever she needs to, and kills the robber who turned up to return the box. That robber, by the way, was deaf, not, um, dumb (or blind, or a kid who plays mean pinball, but I digress), which is why he was unaffected by the sonic box.
Speaking of the box, Fauxlivia turned it back over to Newton, who in turn took it to a subway (“the T”) station that anyone who’s ever been in a T station in Boston knows was in some other city. Newton sat and put the box next to a little person, and practically goaded him into opening it, though he made sure to get out of the station first. The little man did, and the timing of it couldn’t have worked out better for Peter and Fauxlivia. He had gone to her apartment right after Walter apologized for taking him from the other universe, needing to talk about that and the doomsday device. Of course, he got there moments after she popped the deaf robber, and she didn’t have time to clean the body up. As they talked she noticed the man’s blood pooling up and seeping under the door of the bathroom she hid the body in. This was another thing that bothered me. She shot a man either in the back or the back of the head, then dragged him across her apartment without a drop of blood spilling, but once she got him, with his wound away from the door, the blood seeps under the door within just a couple minutes. To distract Peter, she basically jumped him, but before they could get too far, which Peter would have a really hard time with when he learns the truth, they get called to the T station, where the little man had run down into a tunnel and opened it, killing himself and five outhers.
At that point I was trying desperately what they play was. Newton and Fauxlivia. It turned out to be far more devious than I anticipated, which was good. First, though, Peter had Olivia shoot her gun directly next to each of Peter’s ears, making him temporarily deaf. He went down the tube, defused the bomb, and still had to be saved by Fauxlivia as a train came hurtling past their locations, even though all trains were supposed to have been halted.
In the wrap up we see Peter take the sonic device, which he recognized as being part of Walternate’s doomsday machine, back to the lab to tinker with it. We also see Fauxlivia at the cross-universe typewriter letting the other side know that Peter has taken the “first piece” and is “actively engaged” . The reply orders her to “work on” Walter next. Through the episode the characters were questioning why a piece of the doomsday machine (supposedly designed to destroy our universe and save the other) would be left or hidden on our side. Olivia’s word choice lets us know the answer… because they want the device to be assembled and Peter to use it in our universe. I didn’t see that coming, and that’s very close to always being a good thing. On the other hand, the episode ended with a “twist” that I saw coming at least a good 10 miles away, where Walter found that Bellie had left him Massive Dynamic. It may have been easy to read, but it’s still a plot line with a ton of potential.
All in all, The Box was a very different episode compared to Olivia, stepping back into the stride and rhythm it developed, balancing between the overarching plot with the case of the week. Interestingly, it looks like real Olivia is getting put to work next week, as it looks like they may have a case in the alternate universe. Just the idea of that has me giddy, and will be a great thing to watch, I think, if they choose to go that way with it. Until then.