Friday, December 3, 2010

"Fringe:" Season 3, Episode 8

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 3:46 PM

WHO AM I HERE? Fringes Anna Torv as Olivia. Or is that Fauxlivia?
  • Courtesy of Fox
  • WHO AM I HERE? "Fringe's" Anna Torv as Olivia. Or is that Fauxlivia?
With the rationale that lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for, I hereby commence “Fringe” recaps. After next week’s episode, it goes on holiday hiatus and will return at the 9 p.m. Fridays in early 2011. It’s an irony that the original timeslot for “The X-Files” is considered tantamount to death for “Fringe,” given how much of Mulder and Scully’s DNA is in the current show.

“Fringe” has one advantage over “The X-Files” and Bad Robot’s “Lost” before it, in that the show’s overarching conflict is relatively simple. Compared to “The X-Files” conspiratorial aliens and “Lost’s” mythos of The Others, Jacob, et al, “Fringe” has built to a relatively straightforward cold war between alternate universes. The new episode, “Entrada,” seems to conclude the current arc with the two Agent Dunhams on opposite Earths, but the essential tensions remain, with ample potential for new stories. And you don’t need to consult Wikipedia to keep up to speed.

I’ll borrow the popular on-line nicknames “Ourlivia” and “Fauxlivia” for the each universe’s respective Agent Dunham. “Entrada” opens with Peter taking the fateful late-night phone message that reveals that Ourlivia is on the wrong side, implying that he’s sharing a bed with her imposter. Peter and Fauxlivia engage in a tense (and probably post-coital) game of cat-and-mouse and Peter tries to confirm Fauxlivia’s identity, and catches her with the Greek phrase she spoke on the Season 2 premiere. But she’s got a gun and a syringe full of a nasty paralytic substance.

Fauxlivia goes directly to the Bronx typewriter shop and goes to the back room, which always reminds me of one of sets from David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch: “Cover Blown. Request Extraction.” Which raises the issue of whether Walternate wants to send back Ourlivia alive or dead. As the skin-crawlingly creepy Brandon Fayette says, “I feel there are valuable parts for study, and would just have to replace her mass.” Apparently the transport between universes is like the scale at a butcher’s shop.

When Peter recovers, Agent Broyles asks him, “Now what were you doing here at 2:15 a.m.?” Awkward…

While “Entrada” features exciting plot threads involving Peter Bishop and both Olivias, the crux of the episode belongs to Earth-2’s Agent Broyles, who seems just like our Broyles, only more inclined to wear black undershirts at the office. Owing Ourlivia a massive favor after “The Abduction” last week, Broyles feels pangs of conscience at Walternate’s nefarious plans for her. He pays Ourlivia a visit in custody, saying he wants to make her more comfortable. “You’re hear to make yourself more comfortable,” Ourlivia counters.

By the way, has anyone noticed how much Olivia FREAKS OUT when she’s under arrest? When she’s imprisoned on this episode, like on the Season Two finale, she pleads for mercy and pretty much loses her shit. It can be attributed on the fact that she’s probably under the influence of Fayette’s pharmaceuticals, but it’s not the kind of behavior we expect from Ourlivia, given that Anna Torv normally plays her as being so unflappable.

At an alternate New York Botanical Garden, Broyles tells his wife about his dilemma, not explaining that helping Ourlivia could cost his career and possibly his life. She says, “Twenty years ago, I knew you were the right man to protect our world.” Ugh! “The Abduction” and “Entrada” probably offer Lance Reddick’s best acting on the series, but the wife’s dialogue is dreadful.

The episode gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that Peter and Fauxlivia’s laptops are virtually identical: not only does Fauxlivia take Peter’s Macbook by mistake, she leaves it in plain view at the typewriter store, where Peter finds it. The good guys bust into the Naked Lunchroom — cool! And Peter reads the typewriter ribbon to ascertain Fauxlivia’s whereabouts — ingenious! Pacing-wise, "Entrada" comes on like gangbusters.

As part of her “extraction.” Fauxlivia chats with a shape-shifter, who, without self-pity, alludes to the angst of constantly changing ones identity. When he’s injecting her spine with a dimension-jumping tuning fork, a commuter walks in on them in that compromising position. Oops! Fauxlivia uses the commuter as a hostage, but when the hostage doesn’t recognize her daughter, Peter takes her for the shapeshifter and kills her. Had he been wrong, he would have murdered an innocent woman in front of her child. Try explaining that in court.

Ourlivia’s about to go under the knife in a scene reminiscent of the finale of Seconds. Broyles not only busts her out, he transports her all the way from Liberty Island to Harvard so she can find a working deprivation tank. I was a little amused when the episode paused the action to show Ourlivia toting a sack of rock salt and filling the deprivation tank with a garden hose. Ourlivia makes the jump back to our side, but Fauxlivia gets switched, too, with the alternate Broyles’ remains used to even the butcher’s scale.

The episode ends with the status quo. Fauxlivia returns to the Fringe office, seeming to scarcely remember Agent Lee’s horrific burns. Peter greets Ourlivia in her hospital bed with “I’m sorry.” Ourlivia insists that thoughts of Peter sustained her through her ordeal. I wonder if Peter was actually apologizing for sleeping with her doppleganger. Awkward…

Gross-outs:
For a show with no squeamishness about showing autopsies and icky stuff, this week proved fairly restrained. We saw near-constant medical menaces against both Olivias, though, including Fauxlivia injected in palms and spine, Ourlivia threatened with a bone saw and then jabbed in chest with adrenalin shot.

Questions
:
Will Fauxlivia take over for the alternate Broyles as head of Fringe Division? Will she continue to behave basically like an evil twin on a soap opera, or will she reveal more depth?

So was the final scene with the typewriter shopkeep in our world? I’ll assume that the Mr. Rogers-looking guy with the red sweater was a shapeshifter (red = alternate universe, usually). Does that mean the bad guys have the football-shaped piece of the Doomsday Device? Didn’t the good guys have that same piece earlier, or did I miss something?

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