In last week’s season premiere of “Fringe,” the show spent much of its time in the alternate universe. But, as I tried to stress last week, the word “alternate” should be used as little as possible when discussing the show at this point, because so much of Season 3 concerns two sets of people that views the other as the alternate to their own “correct” universe. The person we call the Walternate appears from our perspective a hideous, evil monster, perhaps even the Big Bad of the show. Over there, more than one person considers him to be the hero of this particular tale. History is written by the victors, to be sure. But currently, both sides look more like victims.
[Full recap of Thursday's (Sept. 30) "Fringe" after the break...]
“The Box” didn’t have the same sense of inventive, propulsive energy that “Olivia” did. Then again, the amber-filled world in which Original Recipe Olivia now resides seems like a fantastical foreign land at this point, delighting us with its slightly different history and the social/architectural changes that spawned from that diverted reality. Having returned from Disneyland of the Damned, we’re back to what’s familiar. Familiar can be comforting, but it doesn’t always give you the spark that the unfamiliar can.
What we should talk about isn’t sparks but rather sounds. One of my favorite all-time records is The Who’s “Tommy,” a deaf, dumb, and blind boy that can only interact with the world around him through musical vibrations. “The Box” took Pete Townshend’s idea of spiritual uplift through sound and turned it into an apocalyptic, ultrasonic attack on the human body. It did so through what will undoubtedly become a through line for the third season: a scavenger hunt for the missing pieces of the Doomsday Device.
Now, we’re only an episode into this new mythological arc, so certainly things will fall more clearly into place as time moves on. At the end of last season, many theorized that the Walternate brought Peter over to engage the Doomsday Device and destroy the other universe. However, it appears now that such a step was needed in order to complete work on this side that Newton and his cohorts had not been able to do in all their time over here. And hey, that makes sense: Newton doesn’t exactly have strict hiring policies when it comes to getting help. I’m pretty sure he got those would-be thieves off of Craigslist.
Having Fauxlivia immediately and assertively wrest operational control from Newton was a smart, effective move in establishing her as a competent threat. She might not have Olivia’s photographic memory, but she’s steel-willed, crafty, and not above using tongue in order to distract Peter when a pool of blood is seeping from under the bathroom door. In sending Fauxlivia over, the Walternate seems to be assigning her to be project manager in “Operation: Build a Better Killing Machine.” Plenty of shows have built season-long arcs around finding components of a larger weapon, so “Fringe” isn’t breaking any new ground here. Luckily, the show has another trick up its sleeve in this iteration.
Giving Walter Bishop the keys to Massive Dynamic was a brilliant stroke, timed perfectly to both give the show a new environment in which to play and indicate the level to which the stakes are being raised on both sides. Fighting the War of the Universes from a dingy Harvard lab might seem shabby chic, but also woefully inefficient. Operationally speaking, using Massive Dynamic from the get-go would have aided The Bishop Boys in their search for things weird and wild. But Walter could not possibly have taken over the reins, no matter how much the resources of Massive Dynamic would have helped, until he made peace with his old partner.
Their shared time together in Amberville helped ease Walter’s pain and give him a fresh perspective on what happened after he initially crossed over. Moreover, tonight’s episode seemed to heavily hint that for some time, William Bell stole pieces of the Doomsday Device and planted them in various parts of our world. (This would explain why he was stuck over in that world: he crossed over again and again not to produce profit for Massive Dynamic, but help prevent the Doomsday Device from being built.) William didn’t see his plan as foolproof, which is why he left the company in Walter’s hands: William knew that Walter would need the technology housed within to help counter Walternate’s eventual attack.
Just having a multi-billion dollar corporation won’t do Walter a lot of good if he can’t help reconcile things with Peter and ultimately ascertain Fauxlivia’s identity. The latter can’t happen before the former: Fauxlivia is leveraging the gap between the two men to keep them focused on finding the missing pieces of the Device. She might give lip service to helping them get on the same page, but only there could the Bishop Boys realize there’s an intruder in their midst. Hopefully by the time they realize it, that handy little device Walter spied inside Massive Dynamic will be ready to transport them back over and bring Olivia home.
And now, a hail of bullets that will render you deaf for three minutes:
- Astrid as Walter’s confidante? More, please. They started down this path last season in “What Lies Below,” when Walter accidentally revealed Peter’s true nature to her. I’m all for anything that involves more Astrid on my screen.
- Speaking of things that I’m all for having more of, “Walter singing operatically as he provides scientific exposition” has to be tops. Good Lord that made me happy. That was musically better than anything in this week’s “Glee,” that’s for darn sure.
- Bacon-flavored pudding IS the Spanish Inquisition of desserts. It’s true.
- It goes without saying that John Noble killed the scene in which Walter tentatively tried to explain to Peter his reasoning for bringing him over, but the ambiguity in his tale felt more like a writer’s choice to extend the tension as opposed to a natural thing Walter would be unable to share. Slightly frustrating, that.
- Fauxlivia’s pronunciation of “Bono” slew me. Anna Torv is playing Fauxlivia with the proper amount of bad-assery, but she’s finding moments of humor than don’t involve moustache-twirling. I am interested to see if her time on this side changes or mutes her desire to follow Walternate’s orders, or if she’ll be a dutiful soldier to the end. (I’m leaning heavily in the direction of Door A, but I wouldn’t bet my mortgage payment on that, either.)
- That had to have been one of the longest “previously”s in television history. Seems like FOX really wants to overcome the natural tendency of shows like “Fringe” to never gain audience over time, only lose it, due to its heavily serialized nature. I get why they are doing it, but on the other hand, that’s 60 seconds in which Walter Bishop could have explained space/time via “Don Giovanni”.
What did you think of “The Box”? Does it have you excited for the overall arc of the season? Or did it have you closing both your ears AND your eyes?
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