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Fringe 3.01 – Olivia


The season 3 cast of Fox's Fringe

Grade: B

Too Long, Didn’t Read: Fringe is back. While the other world is beautiful and the mystery is great, the main plot device used to move the episode forward (and the series) in the other world is kinda… stupid.

I really love Fringe. I think it’s one of the smartest television shows currently airing. It’s taken the X-Files formula of sci-fi mystery of the week and successfully applied it to its own rich mythology and characters. Everything concerning the show is of the utmost quality.

That’s why tonight’s season premiere is so disappointing. There’s plenty love: the dynamic of the show for the first part of the season will be extremely clever and Anna Torv has never been so convincing as Agent Olivia Dunham. That doesn’t stop the main plot device of the episode (and the main plot device that will drive the “Over There” episodes) so painfully annoying. It’s a huge cop-out from other options that provides Agent Dunham with a forced crisis that will offer a predictable spectacle on the forthcoming odd-numbered episodes.

Let’s talk about the good, though. As we’ve seen from last season’s finale, Over There is just as interesting as always. The subtle differences that the Fringe writers inject into that world make it so much fun to watch. When watching with a group, we saw “code blues” (instead of code red), a different Department of Defense insignia, Dogs the Musical, flights to the moon and Shexxon Gas as well as a pretty sweet old-time bicycle. Details such as these might seem minuscule, but it develops the over mythology of Over There without intruding on the current storyline.

As previously stated, Anna Torv has never been better portraying the wooden Olivia Dunham. Torv’s portrayal has been subject to intense criticism during the show’s past two years and while tonight is not going to win Torv an Emmy (sorry Ausiello) it did show of a much more dynamic Olivia. The script and narrative called for a confused, nervous and anxious Olivia – Torv delivered. Her banter with the cab driver Kevin (played by guest star Cameron Smith) was extremely well written and especially well performed by Smith. He’ll obviously provide a believable way for Dunham to understand who she is again, like an Over There Sam.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe… that Dunham now things she’s Fauxlivia. Sure, it gives us a reason to stay Over There for more episodes and explore their world, but there are other ways of doing it that won’t inevitably involve a huge event of Olivia realizing who she really is. How about Dunham realizing what Walternate was trying to do to her and then pretend she believes that she is Fauxlivia? That way, she could work for their Fringe Division while also discovering Over There similarly to what Fauxlivia is doing in our world. The turmoil that Dunham will face will be long and predictable; she will obviously realize who she is again. And unfortunately no matter how much the show tries, it probably will be nothing more than Dunham realizing something about herself that the viewers are extremely aware of. It doesn’t make for compelling television – it makes for annoyance.

While this one plot device shouldn’t be enough to ruin my enjoyment of the episode, I can’t help but feel how much of a cop-out it is. These types of self discovery stories are rarely interesting, especially when the viewer is aware of the truth all along. It will sap time from more interesting possibilities, such as Olivia realizing that the Over There people are genuinely good folk and then having a more dilemma concerning what she has done on our side. We even saw it during the premiere. More time could have been allotted to building Kevin and Olivia’s relationship further, or even other characters but was we rather saw a sudden transformation into a character that isn’t all that interesting. Instead of building on potential character relationships of real Olivia and the Other Side people, we’ll be given many shots of Olivia standing in the mirror, trying to gaze into the windows of her soul for an epiphany of self-realization while we yawn from the couch.

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3 Responses

  1. “More time could have been allotted to building Kevin and Olivia’s relationship further…”

    Who the hell is “Kevin”?

    • He’s the cab driver.

      While I’m happy that he’ll be brought back in later episodes, it’s unfortunate that his main role will most likely be providing Olivia with comfort in her confused state and remind her “of who she really is!”

  2. is it really necessary to change Olivia into Nolivia (that’s what other websites are calling the other Olivia.)? I mean even Walternate commuted to our world last season. I had high expectation for season 3. Now it’s just blah. i hope they come up with something really good and aren’t cancelled after season 3.

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