Listening to the latest Firewall & Iceberg podcast, I found myself concurring with my HitFix colleagues when it came to their analysis of this season of “Fringe.” While the back-and-forth between our world and Over There has been fascinating, it also had an inherent shelf life that did not extend to a full season of episodic programming. That’s not to say I hope that time spent Over There has completely disappeared: far from it. But the Olivia/Fauxlivia storyline could not have lasted any longer than it did, and tonight’s episode “Entrada” ended this particular phase of the saga on a strong note.

The tension in long-form storytelling between potent idea and excellent execution is a tricky one for shows to balance. If it were easy to balance the two, we’d have a lot more of shows like “Fringe” and a lot less of shows like “The Event.” Coming up with a solid premise for a piece of storytelling is difficult enough as it is, but having the insight to realize how MUCH of a piece one has is often a trickier process. Many shows would take the strong switcheroo premise and bleed it beyond dry, poking and prodding it like Alterna-Brandon did to Olivia. In his eyes, she ceased to be human and instead simply served as simple mass given female form.

So credit where credit is due, even if the form of what will ensue is currently up in the air. Ostensibly, if the show possessed the foresight to end this compelling (but narratively limited) arc of the story approximately a third of the way through the season, than it has a sense of where it wants to go from here. In some ways, tonight’s credits (and a few cool transition shots) gave us a hint of where the show plans to go: an ever-growing feeling of fusion between the two worlds, where events that happened only periodically start to happen with greater frequency as well as intensity. At some point, our world may be as aware of what’s causing these events as the citizens do Over There, although only two versions of the same women have insight into the true nature of the supposed “enemy.”

The Olivia/Fauxlivia had to achieve certain practical things (the ongoing discovery of doomsday device pieces, the development of cortexiphan Over There) necessary to move things along mechanically, but did its most important work in starting to give both sides a clear look into the mindset of the other. Olivia needed to see the pain in Alterna-Broyles eyes as he described the affects of Walter’s crossover; Fauxlivia needed to see that her world’s antichrist was a broken (albeit brilliant) man with a sweet tooth. The latter had a Lady Gaga-esque poker face after her capture, but the photo booth strip found in her bag showed the type of empathy that Newton warned her about before his death.

Both Olivias are the heroes of their own narratives, but now understand that 1) they do not solely own that mantle, and 2) are not in fact in multiple narratives but in the same one. Recognizing that second fact turns sympathy into empathy, turns foe into potential friend, and represents the “other way” first expressed by Peter in “6955 kHZ” and repeated tonight by Olivia to a pre-sliced and diced Alterna-Broyles. Both versions of Walter have sensory deprivation tanks*, but it’s unlikely that this pair can ever work together to avoid the upcoming universal destruction. Neither Peter nor Broyles have a double on the other side. The solution will have to come from the two Olivias, each of whom may return to solving cases of the week but will do so with new context thanks to their crossover experiences.

* I’m trying to come up with a good reason, in-story, why Olivia didn’t bounce back Over There after this particular trip. Maybe concentrated cortexiphan + sensory tank = Olivia sticking the landing?

That’s not to say that the Bishop Boys can’t help. I hope they do help, because although he did employ some neat trickery in ascertaining Fauxlivia’s true nature (via the phrase she spoke upon waking up after her first trip Over There) and that Fauxlivia was using a shapeshifter to elude capture in Penn Station, Peter didn’t do a whole lot but stew on his inability to realize that he had been sleeping with the enemy. (That Peter NEVER ONCE got suspicious after returning is one of the few sour notes sounded all season. Especially given the “Sons of Anarchy” twist in this week’s season finale, having Peter’s actions this season not be a long con was just disappointing.) Walter didn’t take the news particularly well, either, which gave both Bishops a dark, menacing energy throughout the hour but didn’t acquit them as people with the brains and scientific know-how to match minds with their increasingly equipped foe.

But perhaps Peter’s anger over his mistake will fuel this second leg of the third season. Perhaps an attempt to overcompensate will cause recklessness in assembling the doomsday device. Perhaps it will drive him away from Olivia, who will constantly remind him that he can’t trust his own eyes. There are ways to redeem Peter from simple love interest to Olivia (to paraphrase Fienberg’s phrase in the aforementioned podcast) back to a street-savvy, semi-seedy genius that just so happens to have the correct DNA to unlock a device built by pre-humans that may or may not wipe out an entire universe. (That last sentence should be atop Peter’s Match.com profile should he decide to branch out from women that look like Anna Torv.)

A few harmonic bullets about tonight’s episode…

*** “Fringe” has shown some pretty terrible things onscreen, but I’m not sure anything has disturbed me as much as seeing Olivia’s body covered in magic marker, as if a butcher was prepping his cuts of meat. Torv sold the living HELL out of her scene with Alterna-Broyles while covered in these marks, making it one of her single strongest scenes in her time on the show.

*** We didn’t get to play a lot of “Spot the Difference Over There!” this week, but the bar’s quiet reaction to a wormhole in the Hudson River spoke volumes about the psyche of the world over there. They aren’t panicked per se, but there’s a quiet fear that hangs over them, the type of fear easily manipulated by someone like Walternate in order to sacrifice personal freedoms in the name of greater security.

*** I’m guessing that the owner of the typewriter repair shop has polio. The idea that shapeshifters will use medical advances in order to bribe people over here to do their work feels way too “V” for my liking.

*** I wonder if Broyles seeing his own corpse will send him down the mental river a bit. Lance Reddick did some of his best work in this hour, and between this and last week’s outing, I’m hoping the show finally realizes that he’s been woefully underused over the course of the entire series.

*** Walter’s line about Fauxlivia’s insidious “vagendas” was the greatest one that “Cougar Town” never wrote.

*** Alterna-Astrid’s childlike worry over her boss broke my freakin’ heart.

*** I’ll confess that the Doomsday Device to me right now is a 5,000 puzzle piece MacGuffin. Until everything’s assembled and the picture’s clearer, I’ll just chalk it up to a plot device to move the story along until Gob Bluth appears on the scene playing Europe’s “The Final Countdown” near the fully constructed device.

What did you think of “Entrada”? Did the Olivia/Fauxlivia storyline end too quickly for your tastes? Have we seen the last of Over There for a while? Leave your thoughts below!