Last season Fringe skyrocketed from being a show I put up with hoping it would get better into one of the best shows last year and one of the better sci-fi shows I’ve ever seen. Not too shabby for a show that I initially labeled as a trying-too-hard X-Files knockoff with a boring lead character and a plot that couldn’t decide between epic arc and monster-of-the-week weirdness.
Once the parallel universe idea started becoming the focus, though, I was hooked – not only because parallel / alternate universes happen to be a particular favorite plot point of mine, though that is also true. No, Olivia suddenly started being a more relatable character, and Walter and Peter’s relationship started to go in a much deeper and more heartbreaking direction. Plus, the show proved that it wasn’t afraid to tackle hard science fiction concepts and be smart about them. If there’s ever a show I’m glad I stuck with while it smoothed out its rough spots, it’s Fringe.
And this year looks to keep up the momentum – last season’s finale left us with a killer finale, as Peter chooses this world rather than the other one despite learning the truth about where he’s really from, and even more jaw-dropping, alternate-universe Olivia (nicknamed Bolivia to distinguish them) managed to successfully impersonate our Olivia and infiltrate our universe. It was one of the best season finales I’ve ever seen, and gave me high expectations for this year.
In the season opener, our Olivia is being brainwashed in the alternate universe to convince her that she’s actually Bolivia and belongs there – she’s pretty resistant though and escapes, but that’s kind of all part of the plan. Meanwhile, Walter and Peter are completely unsuspecting about the true identity of the Olivia with them. And that’s one of the great things about this whole set-up – in a way they are the same person, yet also not. The exploration of how different and how similar an alternate universe could be, based on minute choices here and there that add up to very large changes, is totally fascinating to me, and indicated here really well by things like Bolivia being a dead shot and Olivia…not.
At the end of this episode, Olivia seems to be fully integrated into the alternate universe, Bolivia’s memories implanted in her. I kind of want the taxi driver to keep being part of it; Olivia’s touchstone with reality and who she is. Judging from the previews, it looks like there will continue to be some amount of monster-of-the-week episodes, which will be great if they use those to explore the Bolivia-Olivia switch. It’s shaping up to be a great season; let’s hope they can get over the third season hump without losing their way.