Fringe: Double the Fun

Sure, the big talking point from last night's Fringe, at least from an episode standpoint, may be OMG how is Olivia going to get home!?!?, but "Olivia,"—the show's excellent Season 3 premiere—did way more than just continue the story from Season 2 (and there's plenty to talk about with that).

What "Olivia" did was outline the blueprint for Season 3 and show us the direction this fantastic series is headed in, much like the season premieres of Lost dictated the tones and "gimmicks" of their seasons.

And boy howdy, it looks like we're in for some awesome television. The Fringe universe that once mimicked The X-Files (for better or for worse) is now marked by other characteristics, yet substantially still its own beast. Olivia on the run in the alternate universe smacks of J.J. Abrams' last ass-kicking-female series, Felicity. Wait, I mean Alias. And the idea of implanting Alt-livia's memories (and physical dexterity) into our Olivia lifts the best parts from Joss Whedon's Dollhouse (a series that failed to live up to its promise, though flashed moments of brilliance).

Yet the producers still have their own mark on the show. During a recent visit to the set of Fringe, Jasika Nicole (Astrid) told me that the show will alternate universes every episode. That is, 99 percent of last night's episode took place in Manhatan (was the misspelling intentional?) in the alternate universe, and next episode is due to take place in what we call "over here." It's a fantastic device that I'm looking forward to watching unfold throughout the season (especially with the alternation between blue and red show intros—how awesome is that?), even if it means a lot less Joshua Jackson.

While there's only one Peter, there are two Walters and two Olivias. Anna Torv and John Noble certainly have a very interesting season ahead of them, don't they? These are dream roles for actors, and who can refute the brilliance of Noble when we saw our Walter at the very end of the premiere? He's split himself in two and embodied two very different human beings. The guy is very, very good at his job.

But enough about that. Let's talk about Olivia. She's trapped over there, and the only way out (to her knowledge) is blocked by amber. She's been implanted with Alt-livia's memories by the "over there" Fringe division in an effort to effectively clone their agent and bring her over to their team. But I think that was their mistake. Walternate's arrogance may be his undoing here; put simply, Olivia is a badass, and giving her more knowledge and skill is going to backfire against those who wish to corral her. She's no longer Olivia, and she's definitely not Alt-livia (anyone else think she was faking cooperation toward the end of the episode?). Olivia is now twice the Olivia she was, a Doublivia or Dualivia. Well, that's my guess at least.

We don't know exactly what is going on in Olivia's mind. Is she faking cooperation, as I wondered above, with a master plan up her sleeve? Has she given up on trying to escape and, affected by meeting her mother and having that caring relationship, opted to willfully become Altlivia? Or are the drugs simply working? Discuss!

Fringe is becoming the show it was always meant to be, and I'm in. See you on the other side next week!

Alter-notes:
... I've been a big fan of Seth Gabel since his days on Dirty Sexy Money, and it's interesting to see a guy that good-looking take a role that involves third-degree burns all over his body. Good on ya for taking the risk, Seth.

... If there's one problem I have with the alternate universe, it's the fact that everything is so similar even though things can be so different. Lives walked a very different path over there than they did over here (no 9/11, etc...); with changes that drastic (we'll assume historical events vastly differ), how is everything so alike?

... If there are two problems I have with the alternate universe, it's that we may not get a Broyles or Astrid that's very different. In fact, Broyles appears to be very much the same person.

... But I'm willing to overlook those problems and enjoy the show. I suggest anyone else with doubts do the same.

... And of course, it was great to see The Wire's Bubbles (Andre Royo) back on television as the cab driver. It's too bad they couldn't squeeze in a scene with him and Broyles for a mini Wire reunion.

... Dammit! I wanted to see Peter's trick to get that pen working!

Do you like the new direction for Season 3? Or would you rather see the show go back to case-of-the-week episodes?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (23)
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Well done. I'm a big x-files fan, but we have had a show called x-files. The way that some of the fringe episodes were set up, it reminds me of several x-files episodes. This alternate universe is a very good way to make the show it's own. This is the TYPE of season a sci-fi show the tv world has been waiting for for.
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I have loved Fringe since the first trailers appeared on the internet, and I must say, I love where they are going with this! It is going to be a GREAT season!

Hope Fringe sticks around for a least 5 or 6 seasons!
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I gave up Fringe when it did look like it's going to be a poor X-Files knock-off with occasional flashes of the alt-dimension BUT you intrugued me with this - I may give it another chance from S3!
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She was definitely faking cooperation, but she doesn't have a plan yet. She's making it up as she goes along. She has effectively infiltrated their Fringe division.
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Going to be a great, GREAT season!
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It was very good but not great but i loved it and im excited to see what else they come up too
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Great premiere. Enjoyed watching it
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Fringe got 5 and some million viewers but crap like "My dad says", "Better With You" and etc are getting twice as Fringe... This is a mystery for me.
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I found myself nodding and saying 'yeah, I agree' the whole time I was reading that!
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I'm a fan.

No you don't get it.
I'M A FAAAAN !!!!!!!!!
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Good setup, but I felt slightly disappointed in it as an episode for some reason.
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Really great show...!!!!
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Ah, but the pen WAS working, the bastard behind the desk was just lying to him! Or too scared of Peter to allow him a "weapon" in such close quarters - remember what Nikita and Sarah Connor used to do with a pen? ;)



And yes, I'm praying that Olivia was faking it. And that Bolivia will come to care for our intrepid gang "over here" and start to doubt her mission. ;)
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just a little detail: 9/11 happened over there, involving the Pentagon and the White House.
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John Noble rules!
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Nice episode, but felt a lot like an introduction to the new season. So I'm looking forward to the next episode. And yes Olivia was faking it. She knows she is not the alternate Olivia.
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I WANTED TO SEE THE PEN THING TOO!!!!
:)
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The Best TV series for 2010
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So looking forward to next week! Fringe has outdone itself yet again
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Whether she's faking it or not, the drugs have definitely improved Olivia's memory...and her aim! Yowzah! I say she's faking it and she intends to wreak havoc, believing she's been left behind permanently with nothing to lose and no one having any reason to look for her. She's not counting on crazier than a fox (pardon the pun) Walter. The REAL Walter, of course!
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Awesome show!!!!
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I can't believe the ratings were so low! I love Fringe and Fox is ripping it off by keeping it at this awful time slot.
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I like the whole alternate universe idea but find I don't connect with the characters there so much and miss Peter. Also the fun goes out of the real universe because Peter is falling for the fake Olivia and that can only end with all three of them being conflicted both personally and professionally. But it will be interesting to see what affect Peter has on the alt Olivia and how that affects her choices.
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