Tag Archives: Fringe

Fringe 3×03-3×04

Fringe 3×03: The Plateau

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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?

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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:

Fringe 3×02: The Box

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*spoilers*

This week on Fringe, we’re back in our universe, with a setup that initially seems like a return to a simple monster-of-the-week episode. But things aren’t simple on Fringe anymore, and the box that, when opened, melts the brains of those in the vicinity all Indiana Jones-style is actually not just a random treasure, but something that Bolivia and her alt-universe contact are seeking. The show is doing a good job of balancing monster-of-the-week episode arcs with the way each thing ties in with the overall arc. Meanwhile, Bolivia continues to fool Peter and Walter, but she’s walking a very fine line – and Anna Torv is doing a great job of acting Bolivia as a slightly off-center Olivia. It’s obvious to us that she’s not our Olivia, but the differences are subtle – a hesitation here or there, a slightly different timbre in her voice, a bit more outgoing and flirty, but not much. I never would’ve guessed two years ago that Anna Torv was capable of this.

It was really great to be back with Walter for an episode. I love him so much, and his dialogue continues to be priceless. The little teasers in this episode are highly intriguing, too – from Walter inheriting Massive Dynamic with the directive not to be afraid to cross the line, to finding out that it was Bolivia’s plan all along for the box to end up with Peter and Walter. I just hope they don’t let Bolivia tip her hand too early. Honestly, she’s acting just un-Olivia-like enough that Walter and Peter should be starting to suspect something, and I’m a tad afraid that’ll start to get unbelievable if Bolivia doesn’t get a little better at it. I’m still fascinated by this dynamic, and so far season 3 is continuing the show’s overall improvement. Next episode, looks like we go back to the alternate universe to see how Olivia’s making out with her newly-instilled Bolivia memories. Should be interesting. Can’t wait.

Fringe 3×01: Olivia

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spoilers within

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.

Fall TV Is Upon Us Once Again

This year I’ve decided to watch less TV. I decide this every year, and somehow end up with roughly 17-20 shows I try to watch anyway. Sure enough when I added up all the ones I want to check out this year, I ended up with seventeen. But I’m pretty serious about cutting back, even if it means leaving behind some things.

Definitely Watching – Returning Shows

These are the shows that I just can’t bring myself to give up.

Fringe

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Possibly my most-anticipated returning show this year. Season Two stepped up to the place something fierce after a rocky first season, and last year’s finale had me salivating to return to the Fringe universe – or should I say universes. Fringe is probably the best sci-fi you’ll see this fall, and is starting to get enough ideas going that it may make it onto the list of my all-time favorite sci-fi shows, if it can keep up S2’s momentum.

Community

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I never would’ve guessed it going into last year, but freshman sitcom Community consistently out-classed its more established siblings on NBC’s Thursday line-up, offering a witty and satirical look at self-absorbed types going back to community college. There’s far more here than meets the eye, and if the writing stays half as strong this year as last, I’m totally in.

Castle

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Usually I start each year with several crime procedurals, because they make me happy. Generally, they fall off my schedule fairly quickly as my time runs short, though. Castle is one that hasn’t, because its combination of mystery/procedural, comedy, and character development hits that sweet spot that most procedurals can only manage for a few episodes at a time before it gets old. Thanks to the actors and snappy writing, so far Castle has stayed fresh, and I look forward to seeing much more Nathan Fillion on my TV.

Chuck

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I very nearly threw Chuck over when it spend way too long waffling on the will-they-won’t-they of Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. Now it seems they’ve firmly moved on from that and tied it up in a very satisfying way without letting it get boring, plus the setup for this season, with Chuck probably going rogue, looks to take the show in a whole new direction. This is one show that manages to reinvent itself almost every season and make it work. But if they do start waffling on Chuck and Sarah again? I’m probably out.

Sanctuary

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Syfy shows have been doing right by me lately, and I’ve just about caught up S2 so I can start right in on S3 when it starts (S1 and S2 are on Netflix Instant Watch). It’s not a great show, but it’s fun, geeky, B-movie-like, Nicolas Tesla and Jack the Ripper are characters, and with Warehouse 13 finishing up its season next week, I’m going to want something in this wheelhouse around.

(Also Parks & Recreation is a definitely watch when it returns in spring. I’m still a little miffed at NBC for delaying it.)

Trying Out – New Shows

The Walking Dead

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AMC does zombies? Based on a graphic novel series? Seems a little outside their wheelhouse, but so far every original AMC show has been 100% awesome, plus I gotta check out what they do with the zombies. The trailers released so far look pretty darn good.

Undercovers

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J.J. Abrams + spies = I will at least give it a try. It may be nothing more than Alias-lite, and it’s not like we haven’t seen the married spy angle in countless other shows and movies, but from the clips I’ve seen, looks like there’s a nice mix of action and humor here, with good chemistry between the leads. We’ll see how it goes, but I can’t skip a J.J. show.

Nikita

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This one has already started, and I have the episodes recorded but haven’t watched them yet. Not an auspicious beginning of keeping up with TV this year. But so far reactions from people who like TV I like are quite positive, and have increased my interest. I love spy shows, and I don’t have any nostalgic connection to the earlier series (no one seems to be mentioning the Luc Besson film, which I have seen, but didn’t love), so I’ll be coming into it fairly unbiased, aside from my general bias against CW shows.

No Ordinary Family

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Looks like a live-action The Incredibles, with a family suddenly getting superpowers and having to figure out what to do with them. This could really go either way, but with Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis as the parents, it definitely seems worth a shot. The really REALLY bland marketing so far is not encouraging me, though.

Boardwalk Empire

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Martin Scorsese producing an HBO show sounds like a winner right out of the gate, and the period Atlantic City setting is attractive to me, too. Of course, I don’t get HBO, so I may not actually be watching this right away, but if I did, I would be.

On Notice – Returning Shows

These are shows I’m going to probably start watching, but whether I keep watching them will depend greatly on how much time I have and how compelling they end up being for me this year.

Caprica

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We thought this was going to be a mid-season return, but turns out Syfy is starting it later this fall after all. Good thing, because hopefully it can get enough legs this way that they’ll renew it. And hopefully it will deserve renewing. It has been a pretty slow burn, but there’s so much percolating in there that I love that I really hope it comes into its own this year.

Stargate: Universe

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I enjoy SGU quite a bit and it filled a space-travel-sci-fi-shaped hole last year pretty well, but I’m not going to be too upset if I can’t make time for it this year. I’m going to try, but no promises, unless the writing turns really compelling. It had a couple of really good episodes last year, but tended to meander and backtrack a bit overmuch.

Survivor: Nicaragua

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I’ve had a soft spot for Survivor the last few years, even though I didn’t watch it for the first several seasons. Last season was really good, with the two all-star teams, but I’m afraid it can’t really come up to that again. Survivior is my go-to “I’m too drained to watch anything else tonight” show, but there’s so much on Instant Watch now that I’m likely not to need it for that.

30 Rock

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Oh, 30 Rock. I love you, but the last year or two have been a little lackluster. Both of the two newcomer shows to NBC’s Thursday night outshone even you, and I can’t promise that I’ll keep you if you don’t step it up.

How I Met Your Mother

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This is a comfort show for me. I love the characters, but the storylines haven’t really been grabbing me for a couple of years. These are the kind of cuts that are hard to make, but especially since this isn’t available on hulu, I’m likely to leave it behind.

Family Guy

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Family Guy is one of the few shows that I don’t care about watching in order, or if I miss an episode. So I’ll probably keep it in my hulu queue just for those times when I have 20 minutes and need some quick laughs, but it isn’t something I’ll feel the need to watch every week.

The Office

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*sigh* This one’s hard, but I haven’t really been enjoying it for a couple of years. It’s time to cut the cord. Unless Amy Ryan comes back, which it seems like may happen from last season’s finale. Those episodes I might watch, even though it seems like a rather desperate attempt to recover the one thing that was good about the show the last couple of seasons.

The Amazing Race

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I get a kick out of the whole traveling-around-the-world aspect of the show, but the last couple of years the format has been getting really stale for me, and the contestants more and more annoying. Not really worth it anymore.

Tentatively Checking Out – New Shows

Checking these out, but I’m not totally convinced they’re going to stay on my schedule.

The Event

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Heh, yeah, so this is the only one that ended up down here. I will probably check out an episode or two of this, but the marketing is sooooo earnest and sooooo “this is the next big show” that I’m pretty dubious. My guess is it’ll turn out exactly like FlashForward did last year. In other words, not good.

Fringe 2×01: A New Day in the Old Town & 2×02: Night of Desirable Objects (spoilers)

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Great opening to the new season of Fringe, and gives me hope that it will improve on last year greatly. I am easily swayed by alternate universes, but the little hints and bits of information we’re getting through normal character interaction are now meaningful (like Peter’s concern that his father is watching him sleep – obviously because Walter knows this isn’t the Peter from this universe and is studying him), and it’s making the show a lot stronger. They’re still cribbing a lot from The X-Files (especially in 2×02), but hey, if you’re gonna crib, crib from the best.

Olivia is not bothering me nearly like she did last year – I’ll admit she got better toward the end of last season. Some combination of Anna Torv committing to the character more and the writers giving her more to commit to is starting to pay off. Keep it up, all. And Walter, oh Walter. It’s not easy being both the intellectual and emotional center of a show, especially when you’re a supporting character, but John Noble, you’re making it work EVERY SINGLE WEEK. And Joshua Jackson – stay hot. That’s all I ask. :)

Also, I gotta give props to a show that’s willing to casually kill off a relatively major character and basically turn him into a villain. Very intriguing plot move.

Olivia’s got heightened senses? Is she possibly hearing echoes from another universe? What’s required for her to cross over? I forget from the finale – is she going to be able to do it at will at some point, or are there specific circumstances required? The heightened senses isn’t constant, though, but apparently random. Is there something specific she’s supposed to hear?

New puzzle piece – Sam Weiss. The man who “put me back together” says Nina Sharp. “When you’re ready, I believe he can help you.” Help her what? Go back to the other universe? Remember what she heard there? Recontact William Bell? Weiss predicts Olivia will get headaches – sounds like he’s been to the other side, and perhaps Nina as well? I’m liking the way this is going, very much. It’s building much tighter than the first season did, but still leaving enough time for Monsters of the Week. So glad I didn’t give up on it last year.