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Fringe – “Neither Here Nor There”

Fringe (FOX)

Is Season Four of Fringe beginning in the sideways reality of Lost‘s Sixth Season?

 

Short thoughts on the Season 4 premiere of Fringe follow.

Fringe begins its fourth season in a strange, and possibly unnecessary, place. (*Spoiler Alert from here forward for both Fringe and Lost*) Peter Bishop is gone. At the end of Season Three, Peter jumps into the doomsday device and bridges the two previously feuding universes. Much like Ryan McGee, I thought that the “bridge” Peter built actually merged the universes together. In reality what has happened is that the device has actually created a sort of crossroads where the two universes meet and the inhabitants can move between them. (Whether this is something everyone knows and doppelgängers will abound in either universe is yet to be seen. I’m guessing that only the Fringe teams will cross, though there may be later cases where people are “sneaking” through.) It’s a really interesting way to take the world structure, though the necessity of removing Peter Bishop is yet to be seen.

Bridging the two universes could make for an intriguing story for the entire season without Peter missing. Though he is flickering into and out of the picture, he is gone for all intents and purposes. No one remembers him at the FBI. The basic backstory is that Peter was still stolen by Walter, but he died in Reiden Lake instead of the Observer saving he and Walter. So, Walternate and the rest of that universe developed as we have seen, but this universe has been changed. Olivia is the cold character we met in the pilot episode, Astrid’s rapport with Walter is less loving and more professional and Walter is effectively crazy. The impact that Peter had on each of these people is gone and we are getting a theoretical glance at what the show would be without Joshua Jackson’s Peter. The episode is hampered by constant reminders in the dialogue of each character reminding each other that something weird is going on and there is something strangely missing from their lives.

As these people kept talking about what was missing from their lives and we are seeing flashes of Peter or seeing him in mirrors and televisions, I could not help but think that this is the sideways timeline from Lost. As time moves forward this season, Peter will be reintegrated into the show and the lives of the people of this show. As he is moved closer into being fully integrated, I expect that the characters will begin “flashing” and remembering the moments of their lives where Peter had the greatest effect. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same over-saturation and the quick cuts that Lost utilized.) Much like the final sequence in Lost, once all of the core group we know is aware of Peter’s existence, just as once everyone knew they were in the after-life following their time on the Island, they will then move on to the next stage of their lives. Ideally this will be the point at which the universes have found a way to work together.

I am wholly uncertain on the point of having the universes linked right now as well as whether the link will be broken when Peter returns. It will be important for the show to have a purpose in linking the universes as well as Peter being missing. If those two things can be purposefully explained, I will look back on the Season Three finale more favorably as well as having complete trust in the show going forward in what might be its final season. The speed with which the resolution of these threads comes will be important as well. Without a relatively quick resolution and without clear reasons for the decision to remove Peter, the incredible amount of goodwill the show has earned will evaporate quickly. Much like the impatience of viewers in the final season of Lost, the viewers of Fringe have come to expect smart, efficient storytelling that is free of grabs for viewers or stunts solely to create conversation. Purpose is important to both shows and their ongoing legacies. Spending too much time in Fringe‘s alternate reality could be a regrettable decision, but I’m expecting that it will pay off much like Lost‘s and play an important role in establishing the show as one of the great genre shows in television history.

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Fringe – “Subject 13”

Fringe (FOX)

Fringe seems to be becoming ever more disconnected on a weekly basis. The most appalling part of this troubling aspect of the show is that the entire first half of this, the show’s third, season alternated back and forth between two separate universes but maintained continuity and an overarching interconnectedness that is largely absent from our episodes that have been airing on Fridays. It’s frustrating because the series developed into a tightly-wound, concise drama with some procedural aspects and heavy mythology, which is the opposite of where the show began. I’m not certain whether to be concerned or to hope that the new approach will draw in some new viewers before the end of the season and give us a renewal for a fourth season. Without regard to my overall reservations, “Subject 13” was one of Fringe‘s strongest standalone episodes and one that was wrought with emotional resonance.

We revisit 1985 and we see the facility where Walter was conducting his tests in Jacksonville and see the first meeting between Peter and Olivia, but we also see the despair of Walternate in Earth-2. The episode opens with the heartbreaking moment of Peter heading back to the lake where Walter initially crossed over and he and Peter fell in after coming back, only to be saved by the Observer. Seeing this kid, who knows at his core that he is not where he belongs and having his “parents” lie to him daily, tie a cinderblock to his waist and throw it through the frozen ice on a lake because he thinks that the world from which he came is at the bottom was as difficult to watch as a viewer as I’m sure it was for Peter’s mother (played exceptionally by Orla Brady). The struggle of Peter throughout the hour was intriguing, to say the least. Watching him in the toy store, a place full of things that are different than what he knows, and his eventual decision to go with the airplane which was a foreign object for someone more familiar with the zeppelin was somewhat quirky, whereas his reaction to the tulip field with his mother, knowing that he was also in a place he is not supposed to be, is harrowing. The insight and resolve that young Peter found to find Olivia and see that the white tulips were the only drawing in her notebook that seemed happy displayed a lot of the intelligence we have come to expect from present-day Peter.

To this point in the series, we have only had vague mentions of Olivia’s difficulties with her stepfather and her desire to be as disconnected from him as possible. We know that she shot him as a young girl, but have never seen him or have any real solid information about him, other than he is an asshole and a wife-beater/child-abuser. The antsiness Olivia displayed in the Season 1 episode “The Cure”, when she received her yearly birthday card from her father, was given some weight here as young Olivia had to go to the school in Jacksonville with a black eye, where she says she fell and wants to stop the discussion there. She’s already developing the protective tone and aversion to personal details that we see in Olivia today. Walter can see that she is special because of her personal characteristics that go along with the way she interacts with the other kids, but there is something holding her back. During her stepfather’s attack, she slips slightly into the alternate universe and Walter realizes that it is the unique combination of love and fear that allow her to crossover. Walter spends the rest of the episode trying to recreate a scenario that will create an emotional spike that will see her cross into the alternate universe in a more contained environment, eventually doing so by scaring Olivia with the thought of one of her classmates dying. She bursts into flames and no one can find her afterward. (This was one section that was entirely unclear to me – did she crossover then come back at the tulip field or did she crossover for just a moment, come back and then run to the field before anyone could see her ?)

While all this is happening, we see the struggles of Walternate, as he is emotionally wrecked following the disappearance of his son, with no trace of where he might be. His ideas of where he might be are hilarious, but his wife acts as his foundation and keeps him moving forward, even though she sees how much it is tearing them apart. She wants to save their marriage, but I think she knows it cannot be saved without some type of closure or resolution to where Peter has gone. In Jacksonville, at the location of the school in our universe, Walternate is in his office in Bishop Dynamic as he thinks he has an idea of what may have happened, but is also not giving up. Then, after Peter and Olivia talk in the field, in a moment of a beautiful reveal, Olivia inadvertently shares what happened to her with Walternate as she crosses over for just a moment, both explaining to Walternate what had happened to Peter and possibly preventing Walter from continuing to perfect his testing based on this moment of vulnerability from Olivia. It was exquisitely executed by the show and put all of us in an intriguing position. Walternate’s resolve was founded here, Olivia’s deeply-held fear was sealed and Walter certainly fell further into uncertainty and insanity.

As several other reviews have noted, Fringe‘s decision to not end the show with a recalibration and ending it in 1985 was a smart choice. At this point in time, there is no reason to hold the hand of a viewer still keeping up with the show and making them feel like the show is even further removed from its fans. The choice to have this episode take place at this point, in this season, is a strange one. After the reveal of what the doomsday device hinges upon, we are now 3 episodes away from any directly forward moving progress on that thread. Some of the timing and ages of the characters seems off and we’ve never before heard about Olivia and Peter meeting – it has not even been alluded to from what I can remember. But, just as the white tulips are a sign of forgiveness and hope for Walter, the show deserves the same for being able to put together such a compelling hour of television that will undoubtedly hold weight as the season moves to its end (and hopefully into the fourth season – I’ve never been this antsy and uncertain in my hopes for a show. I’m hoping that FOX takes DVR numbers into consideration, since it is a Friday night show). This show has always been among the best in the previous two seasons in ramping up everything to a fever pitch at the end of the season and this season looks to be no different.

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Fringe – “6B”

Fringe (FOX)

I didn’t find last night’s Fringe nearly as melodramatic and tedious as many people. Granted, I think I naturally gravitate a bit more toward the touchy-feely than the typical fan of the show, but I feel that last night’s episode showed progress toward a resolution of the will they/won’t they on our side without doing it in a cheap way. I do find it a little much when parallels are so clearly drawn between the week’s story and the character’s arc we are following.

“6B” dealt with the ability of the human heart to cross dimensions (literally) for someone we love, whether that be distance or death causing the rift. We have a lady who lost her husband due to a freak accident that he was a part of because he lost a coin toss (he didn’t take Harvey Dent’s advice and make his own luck) and her feelings of despair and desire seemingly bringing back her husband’s ghost. Walter determine’s that she is actually seeing her husband from the other side because they are in a “soft spot” in our universe where the two universes are converging and potentially causing a black hole unless it is tended to. Walter finds himself torn on whether to act like Walternate and employ the amber or if there is another means to ensure our safety. John Noble plays Walter’s fear of becoming the same man as Walter to perfection and the urgency with which he acts plainly shows us how important the situation is to our ability to keep our universe intact. To coincide with Walter’s fear was Lance Reddick and his portrayal of the horror in Agent Broyles’ eyes as he considered the weight of pressing a button to encompass an entire area in amber for the first time on our side after witnessing the destruction on Earth-2. As the Fringe team feels the weight of another universe pressing upon them, we also have Peter and Olivia feeling the weight of their feelings getting in the way of anything resembling communication.

 

Walter’s ploy to invite Olivia over for breakfast with he and Peter and then ditching the two so they can talk was a little too easy, but I appreciated Peter’s willingness to not let Olivia leave without at least trying and then his ballsy move to ask her what was standing in the way of the two of them being together now. The speech that Peter gave to the lady in 6B was too on-the-nose, as he has shown himself to be a savvy, resourceful character and I expected him to utilize that creativity to get out of his mopey funk rather that having that instance be what finally swayed Olivia. In the end though, I think that Olivia had made the ground upon which Peter was walking more like sinking sand and he had nowhere else to go. Olivia was the one who needed to crack and we finally had that happen. I think it was too drawn-out, but part of that might be the fact that there was a several week break in the airing of new episodes that made it feel longer than it actually was, which is no fault of the show. I’m curious to see how the situation finally does resolve, as we see that a willingness to talk through a situation yielded results that Earth-2 would rather solve with amber, but we still have a doomsday device at play that is something of a wild card. Are we going to see more soft spots? Is it possible that there will be so many soft spots that there will be a merging of the two worlds or will that create more black holes instead? With Olivia and Peter now together, there is no doubt there will be a stronger relationship component rather than the typically grander emotions the series has strived to achieve. It will be a difficult balance to achieve, but the writers have shown themselves capable of treading lightly over the last season and a half, but that was after Olivia was basically over the relationship that was torn asunder to introduce the series. Let’s hope the writers can move past those initial pitfalls to create a compelling combination instead.

 

*I don’t remember where I read this, but what is the likelihood that Fauxlivia doesn’t carry Walter’s grandchild to term? Is Peter going to find out about the child, or will something happen and he’ll learn of what happened in the wake of that event? I really have no idea how that is going to be handled. The other Fringe team has no idea she is pregnant (to my knowledge) and it will be interesting how it is handled Over There.

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Fringe – “Immortality”

Fringe (FOX)

 

Fringe visited Earth-2 this week with “Immortality.” It also put a lot of balls in motion as we race toward the end of Season 3, and possibly (but, hopefully not) the series. After last week’s lackluster entry, I found myself rather unsurprised at the show’s continued freefall in the ratings. The first two new episodes of 2011 earned 1.9 A18-49 ratings, leaving fans (absolutely including myself) pining for an early greenlight for renewal. Last week the show dropped to a 1.6 rating going up against a new episode of Supernatural and this week American dumped a disgusting 1.4 rating on Fringe going up against new episodes from Supernatual and CSI: NY. It’s disappointing that a show, albeit heavily serialized and based in science fiction, that is full of heart and fine acting is being ignored by the masses as it gets stronger (likely due to the serialization). After hearing J.J. Abrams and company at the winter press tour state that they thought the show could not be wrapped by the end of the season and that the Season 3 finale is going to be a cliffhanger geared toward a new season, it’s more frustrating. All I can do is enjoy the hell out of what we may have left, and “Immortality” made it easy to do so.

 

Even though the episode took place entirely in our alt-universe, it is well-integrated into our overarching mythology and changes my view of last week’s episode (which I didn’t even consider writing about because I found myself so distraught over the direction I thought we were going) in retrospect. The episode spends the hour dealing with organisms growing inside other organisms with greater implications. We have our baddy who is harvesting Skeleter (sp?) Beetles (not to be confused with “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles) inside of people. The beetles eat their way out of their hosts because their relationship is not symbiotic, unlike their original relationship inside of sheep, before all the sheep died off in Earth-2 several years ago (and thereby ending the lives of the beetles). Our baddy is harvesting the beetles because he is developing a vaccine for the avian flu (which has broken out Over There) and likens himself to Jonas Salk in his creation of the polo vaccine. Although his goals are not entirely pure, his ultimate goal is for the greater good even if he wants to reap the spoils of being well-known. He kills two people on his way to harvesting the queen beetle, who is necessary to create the balanced vaccine necessary. At our episode’s end, he leads on like he has infected newly-engaged Fauxlivia but only to ensure that the reaction and growth of the beetle is given sufficient time to take place within his own body as we watch him remove the queen beetle as it crawls out of his neck, leading to his death. His last request is to make sure his name is spelled correctly (R.I.P. Dr. Silva, creator of the vaccine for the bird flu).

 

Fauxlivia is in an ambulance on her way to the hospital while Dr. Silva is dying. As her fiancee Frank is about to inject her with an anti-parasitic, the paramedic notices on the ultrasound that there is not a beetle inside of her, but it is a baby. Affirming my suspicions of what The Observer told Peter two weeks ago, Fauxlivia is pregnant with Peter’s baby. Frank does not know this at first, but when he asks how far along she is, he realizes he was away when it happened, gets pissed and leaves. Fauxlivia returns home to an apartment full of boxes and not Frank. Walternate shows up, because he has heard the news and ensures her that she will have no worries, now that she is carrying his grandchild.

 

Walternate only has a few scenes, but he became drastically more human this week, as we learn he has limits of where his experiments will go (as he will not touch children), even though his despair is greater than it has been. He has seemed full of hatred and vengeance to this point, but we see him struggling and truly uncertain of his ability to bring Peter back to Earth-2 by his own choice. It seems as though Walternate has a mistress and the two share a bond of deep understanding, as she shows great faith and encourages him throughout their pillow talk escapade. In all of this, I couldn’t help but think that Walternate was eerily similar to Dr. Silva by the end of his interaction with Fauxlivia at her apartment.

 

Is Walter planning to utilize the baby growing inside of Fauxlivia as the catalyst to bring Peter back to Earth-2 and cause him to enter the doomsday device to destroy our world, to ensure the repair of Earth-2 and the greater good of his world. Now, obviously I do not want the baby to be a pawn like Abel in Sons of Anarchy in Season 3, but there are clear ramifications for this child. The thing that sticks from last week’s episode is that Sam told Nina that the device can be used for creation or destruction, depending upon the frequency at which Peter is operating (is he more fond of Olivia or Fauxlivia?). The potential therein is great and has me curious about the resolution. Is it possible that we could see a convergence of the two universes if Peter is 50/50, creating Earth-3, but seeing no actual destruction? If one universe is destroyed, does it cease existence or is there pain and turmoil that leads to a self-destruction? And regarding the baby, how does this information get shared with the others? The did not know of the switcheroo that Walternate pulled sending Fauxlivia to Earth-1 and Frank is obviously not going to be in the picture any longer, so what happens there? Broyles is the only one who knew and he is now Colonel Sanders crispy style Colonel Broyles (too soon?). We’ve got several things to shore up by the season’s end, but if it is anything like last year, the quality will be ramped up as we rush to the finale. Let’s hope that it is only for a season, and not the end of this challenging drama.

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Fringe – “Reciprocity”


Fringe (FOX)

“Every relationship is reciprocal, Peter. When you touch something, it touches you.” — Walter Bishop

The growth and evolution of Fringe is splendidly described by Walter Bishop with his statement regarding relationships and their reciprocity. Fringe has evolved from a mostly procedural driven sci-fi show with hints of mythology and serialization to a full-on serial sci-fi epic involving multiple universes, dopplegangers, weapons of mass destruction and shapeshifters with mercury as blood and data storage drives at the base of their spines. The show seems to have taken its relationship with its fans and realized that fans were pining for the mythology as well as the deeper look into the lives of its main characters. Along with this, we have seen the mythology move from its initial iterations (“The Pattern,” the ZFT, lots of the Observers, etc.) and turned it into what we are currently seeing with our alternate universe. Last night was my favorite wink to the viewers, with the show now referring to the other Olivia as “Fauxlivia,” which has been the internet’s choice way of differentiating between the two Olivias, instead of the term that has been used on set for months of “Bolivia.” But, what drives Fringe is the human elements we see in these characters which mirror our own lives.

Last night’s episode brought Peter (Joshua Jackson was excellent last night after having very little to do this season) and his relationship with the doomsday device Fauxlivia had been finding pieces for before her return to the universe of the zeppelins. Massive Dynamic has pieced, seemingly, the entire device together and are in the process of determining what powers the equipment when we find out it is a “who” instead of a what. Oliva, Walter, Peter and Agent Broyles enter the lab and begin talking with the lead scientist of the project when computer screens begin flickering and metallic objects are pulled toward the device as it seems to be in the process of arming itself. As this happens, we see that Peter’s nose has begun bleeding and remember the end of season 2 when we discovered that Peter’s specific DNA/electromagnetic print is the key to making this thing run. Since he is yet to directly touch the device or enter the device, we do not yet know what will happen, but it does not seem promising.

As the scientists at Massive Dynamic begin experimenting on Peter to understand his relationship to the doomsday device, we see Walter’s fear growing with the realization that he might actually lose his soon well before he desires. Walter is highly protective of Peter and John Noble continues his outstanding work conveying Walter’s emotions. Considering the lengths to which he went to save his son, it’s no surprise that he is so fearful of what may happen. But, as the tests begin, a dead body shows up outside in a business park’s koi pond, which we come to learn is a shapeshifter from the other side whose data storage drive had been removed. Another body shows up with its storage drive gone. The Fringe team believes that Walternate has sent a cleaner to our side to remove any remaining shapeshifters who might compromise his grand plan. The rest of the hour is utilized to find the cleaner and sift through Fauxlivia’s computer, which was accidentally left on our side.

The problem with sifting through Fauxlivia’s computer is that it is hundreds of pages of material, with parts of which reading like a diary and parts of which being comprised of details and minutiae about our world, with hundreds of names and pieces of valuable information scattered about, possibly encoded at that. The parts that read like a diary are about Peter and the intimate times they shared and everyone is looking to protect Olivia from reading that information because of how hard she has taken learning of the relationship Peter and Fauxlivia had.*

*As a side note – I have found most of the Peter and Olivia relationship scenes since her return particularly annoying and looking to find ways to keep them apart. I was beyond pleased to see that their is some forward motion in this episode.


Because of the situation, Olivia finally realizes that what had happened was in the past and that she and Peter can get past it. What we unexpectedly learn is that Peter has been taking it so hard because he is ashamed of what happened and does not want for Olivia to see him as a fool for having been conned. What we eventually find out is that Peter has been the murderer and not asa cleaner for Walternate, but because he wants to know exactly what his role is with the device and how he fits into the grand scheme of Walternate’s plans. I did not see this coming and found myself being entirely in agreement with Ryan McGee in his assessment of this thread going forward and what it meant for how we view Peter being taken for a fool earlier this season. It was great for Joshua Jackson to shine as Peter this episode after spending most of the early part of the season not being asked to do much early this year. He hasn’t detracted from the work of the other characters, but has not been asked much in his role. That should absolutely change as he figures heavily into where the story goes from here.

Walter finds Peter as he is killing the final shapeshifter and finds himself awestruck at what his soon has become and he cannot understand why. Peter’s responses about his reason for seemingly becoming a serial killer range from unfeeling to vengeful. The exasperation on Walter’s face says more than any script could ever manage, but he decides to keep the information secret as the rest of the Fringe team believes that the killer has gotten away without a trace, when the rest of us know that it was Peter. I find myself hoping that he finds something on that final storage device, but I cannot help but feeling he will not. As Walter talks with Peter to end the episode, the quote at the top of this post is said but leads to Walter telling Peter that he understands why Peter is acting the way he is and it is because the doomsday device has “weaponized” Peter. Based upon how sickly he looked with the final look we had of Peter, he better get into the device soon or find out what the device is taking from him.

As a final note, Fringe maintained its 1.9 A18-49 rating from last week, but it’s face-off against Supernatural on the CW will not happen until next Friday, 2/4. But, seeing it steady after two weeks is a great sign and I hope that we receive word that we’ll be getting a renewal and a fourth season soon in case the writers need to try and end the story this season in the scenario that there is not a renewal. Fringe Friday!

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Favorite TV of 2010: Fringe

Favorite TV Shows of 2010, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These are in reverse alphabetical order, mostly because the last show listed (first in alpha- order) was also my favorite show.)

Fringe (Fox)

 

Cellular regeneration, astral projection, fringe science and alternate universes – these aren’t characteristics you’ll find in many shows I watch. Fox’s Fringe takes all of these pieces and melds them with extensive character stories and thoroughly immersing viewers in their world to create one of the best dramas on television. Fringe has gone through its share of ups and downs through its first 2 1/2 seasons, but have come out in the end with a rich, vivid story that can be surprisingly deep and emotional.

 

Fringe has managed to clearly describe time travel, movement between alternate universes and the riffs that can take place between people when hiding secrets from each other. The deftness and the clarity of the writing has become something marvelous and has allowed this show to become a serialized, fully-realized, mythology-heavy piece of television that understands the show it is and has grown past its earliest days of being a procedural, monster-of-the-week drama to a stylized, highly-atmospheric piece of television. Anna Torv has become one of the most nuanced television characters as Olivian Dunnam, an FBI agent who continues to learn pieces about her past which shape her importance in the future of two universes. John Noble, as Dr. Walter Bishop, is one of the most emotionally affecting characters in television, especially so as we learn more of his relationship with his son Peter (Joshua Jackson). During the third season, which is currently airing, Fringe has put all of its story together to create a fantastic dynamic that has delved deeper into the history of the characters as well as the future implications of every decision each one of them makes.

 

Fringe has become one of my favorite shows because of its ability to take high-concept/high-risk stories and turn them into a show with immense watchability and characterization.

 

*Note: The show has been moved to Friday nights on Fox at 9 pm. In the past, this move has been a sign of a coming end for Fox shows. Please tune in to keep this show on the air.

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