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

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