Fringe 3×03: The Plateau
One of these weeks Fringe is going to have a bad episode. This is not that week, and Fringe is solidly three for three this season, and easily maintains its status as best sci-fi/drama show on TV right now.
That opening sequence, wow. A set-piece and a half right out of the gate, with savant guy starting a vastly improbably chain reaction. Seeing the way that was set up, noting with him all the pieces but not understanding how they fit together yet (as he did), and then watching it all happen was one of the finest TV experiences of the year so far. And the fact that they actually showed it all the way to the end, including the woman getting hit by the bus in full shot with him walking away as it happened? Daring, wonderfully framed, and perfect.
A lot was really well-shot in this episode, which was directed by Brad Anderson – a filmmaker I’ve come to enjoy a good bit in recent years (The Machinist, Session 9, Transsiberian). He’s directed a number of Fringe episodes apparently, among other TV shows, but I never noticed before. Anyway, you could tell someone with a good eye directed this.
We’re in the alternate universe this week, with savant guy basically a super-cool monster of the week that Olivia (still brainwashed into believing she’s Bolivia) investigates as a routine case for alt-universe’s Fringe Division. Apparently her partners don’t know she’s not Bolivia either, though Charlie kind of suspects. It’s an interesting interplay here, as Olivia isn’t just pretending to be Bolivia (as Bolivia is pretending to be Olivia in our world, but is aware of what she’s doing), she really thinks she is Bolivia, and only her sporadic hallucinations of Peter and Walter suggest any different. So when Charlie questions her, trying to trap her into a false memory, she’s not acting…yet the fact that she’s Olivia still shines through here and there. Props again to Anna Torv.
Of course, this being Fringe, even the monster-of-the-week ties in to the overall plot, as he’s part of an experiment spearheaded by Walternate for unclear but obviously sinister reasons. Meanwhile, Walternate’s plan for Olivia gets a little more clear – he wants to test her ability to jump universes so they can learn how to do it themselves. He’s already figuring out the water-submersion thing that played such a big part of Season One. It’s nice to know that our Walter has some tricks up his sleeve that Walternate, despite the more advanced technology in the alternate universe, is still learning.
Overall, I just want to point all TV writers to this show right now and be like LOOK, HERE IS HOW YOU DO IT. Here is how you balance character and plot, here is how you intertwine episodic and season arcs, here is how you play with a world that is both realistic and headily science fictiony, and here is how you make me salivate every week for the next episode to come. This is how it’s done.
Here’s that opening sequence:
Fringe 3×04: Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?
After three weeks of relatively non-descript, basically one-word titles, this time Fringe dares to evoke a Philip K. Dick story with its title – does it measure up? What do you think?
This week’s episode didn’t have the bug-out cool factor of last week’s monster; in fact, it was largely centered very close to home as a shapeshifter who had impersonated a senator for a very long time gets severely injured, revealing his true nature and potentially compromising Bolivia’s cover. She and Newton race to try to silence him without causing suspicion, while Walter and Astrid try to figure out how to recover his data storage unit.
Meanwhile, the most interesting things are going on between Peter and Bolivia. It should be OBVIOUS by this point that Bolivia is not Olivia – she’s too confident, she’s too flirtatious, and she’s just…off. And Peter all but reveals that he knows she’s not Olivia, but he doesn’t, instead indulging her advances. But I’m pretty sure he’s playing her as much as she’s playing him. Remember, Peter hasn’t always been on the up and up, and he has a lot of experience reading people. The question is, what is his game, and how is it going to reveal itself over the coming episodes?
I’ve been concerned that either Peter’s obliviousness to Bolivia’s obvious falseness would grow ridiculous or else they would discover and unmask Bolivia too quickly, but the development that Peter perhaps knows and isn’t telling for reasons of his own is fascinating and yes, proves again that these writers know what they’re doing. /broken record
Here’s the cold open of this episode, with so much double-meaning in every line of dialogue I needed a second viewing to catch it all: