Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fringe 3.01: "Olivia"

“I’m not your daughter. My mother died when I was 14-years-old. This is all wrong. You’re not supposed to be here.”

From an objective standpoint, I can comprehend that “Olivia” was a superior episode of “Fringe.” It had some wonderful, emotional performances, including a memorable guest turn by Andre Royo (Bubbles from “The Wire”). The plot was both intriguing and devastating. Personally, though, I’m unhappy. In general, I find plots involving misunderstandings to be extremely frustrating and not entertaining, and we’ve got a doozy of a misunderstanding here in two universes. It gave Anna Torv absolutely wonderful material to play, but that still didn’t keep me from wanting to constantly scream at all the characters to figure it out already. I can deal with big mythology mysteries like on “Lost” being told in small doses over a long period of time, but with misunderstandings, especially urgent misunderstandings like this one, I get really impatient really quickly. I want my characters to be okay again. Sure that would mean probably going back to the often flawed monster-of-the-week episodes, but that just shows you how frustrated this plotline is already making me.

For the beginning of this season, my understanding is that we’re going to be doing a sort of every-other-episode deal between the two universes. This particular episode takes place mostly on the Other Side. Olivia is still being held captive by Walternate, but what is happening to her is even creepier than the solitary confinement we saw at the end of the Season 2 finale. Olivia is taken to regular therapy where a doctor keeps trying to convince her that her story about being from another universe is ridiculous, and she must actually be Alt-livia. Olivia is adamant that she doesn’t belong on the Other Side, and she’s damn right about that!

We pull back to a shot of Walternate watching video of this therapy session, and the full scope of what’s going on quickly becomes apparent, with the help of the alt-nerdy lab tech from Massive Dynamic. Only the lab tech works for the DoD on the Other Side. The lab tech has been doing this memory transfer procedure on Olivia because Walternate wants to turn her into Alt-livia. Walternate’s reasoning makes perfect sense. He knows Olivia has the ability to transport herself between universes, and if she has the personality of Alt-livia, she might be willing to use that power for Walternate’s cause and show Walternate how to give that power to others.

Clearly the whole memory transfer thing hasn’t taken yet, so some military guys escort Olivia to yet another treatment. We can’t have an episode of “Fringe” without a bit of squickiness, and that’s what we get from Olivia’s treatment. It soon turns from squick to awesome, though. In between painful injections, Olivia fakes shortness of breath and makes a really badass escape from the holding facility. She reaches a wall and sees water below- clearly this is some sort of Alcatraz. Then the camera pans up and we see she’s at DoD headquarters on Liberty Island. Olivia takes another look down at the water, and then she jumps.

Now in “Manhatan,” Olivia hijacks a cab driven by the somewhat cleaned-up version of Bubbs (the character’s name is actually Henry, but Andre Royo will always be Bubbs to me). I was very excited to see he was the cabbie, because Andre Royo is a fantastic actor. And he didn’t disappoint. Quite a lot of the episode takes place in Bubbs’ taxi, and Olivia makes some important realizations. For instance, Bubbs points out the tattoo on her neck, which is identical to the tattoo Alt-livia sports. It becomes clear that the treatments are gradually starting to affect Olivia, and it’s rather tragic to see her slowly deteriorating. She mentions to Bubbs that Peter is the reason she’s in Manhatan, and that little fact becomes important later. Bubbs has a family, too. A wife and daughter. Although, a one sided phone conversation we hear makes me wonder if the daughter is still alive. Olivia wants Bubbs to take her to the opera house. She’s hoping she can use the vortex there to get herself back home.

At a hospital, Lincoln, the Fringe Division agent who worked with Alt-livia and Alt-Charlie, is going through rehab for the injuries he sustained when Sally spontaneously combusted last season. Alt-Charlie is there to visit and see how Lincoln is doing, and Alt-Broyles shows up too. Alt-Broyles tells the guys that Olivia has escaped the holding facility. Only they think that the woman in the holding facility is actually Alt-livia, who had a psychotic break during the fight that went down at the opera house. Lincoln and Alt-Charlie are going to go after her. Considering Lincoln still has a big gaping hole in his head, though, it doesn’t seem like that’s such a good idea. What can I say- Lincoln is a determined guy.

Olivia arrives at the opera house to find it’s in the process of being encased in amber. Olivia, understandably, is devastated. We get two interesting bits of information about the Other Side from the sequence, though. First, we see the actual “amber-ing” process. It’s quite quick, and it’s handled by the NYPD. We also see a group of protesters, carrying signs that say things like “Amber = Death.” I was kind of surprised to see open protesting in a society that is so closely controlled by the government, what with everybody having to produce their “Show Me” to use any transportation. It looked like the opera house was completely cleared out before being encased in amber, but I guess they were protesting the occasions when NYPD ambers a place before it can be cleared out. Anyway, word gets to Fringe Division about Olivia’s presence at the opera house, and the chase is on.

Olivia’s next move is to go to what she believes will be the headquarters of the Other Side’s version of Massive Dynamic. She’s hoping there will be an alt-Nina there who can help. It’s a bit of a drive, though, so Bubbs needs to stop for gas. While Bubbs is filling up (and placing a photo of his family on the back of his cab and praying over it…weird), Olivia goes into the gas station bathroom. She looks at the tattoo on her neck in the mirror, and she has a good cry. I think she’s starting to doubt her sanity. Fringe Division shows up at the gas station (they used the tracker on Bubbs’ cab), and there’s quite an awesome action sequence involving Olivia shooting a gas tank and causing a huge explosion that almost blows up Alt-Charlie. Olivia claims she’s not much of a markswoman, and she’s surprised she made the shot. When Walternate looks at the footage of the incident, though, he sees it as Olivia becoming Alt-livia. Alt-livia made the Olympic marksmanship team, after all.

After the gas station incident, Bubbs is ready to believe Olivia, and to prove it, the throws his cab’s tracking device out the window. The tracking device seems to be standard issue on Other Side cabs, by the way. When Bubbs drops Olivia off at the address she gave him, though, she’s in for a big shock. There is no Massive Dynamic headquarters, just a park. William Bell did not start an Other Side counterpart to his business in our universe. Olivia has one last idea. She gives Bubbs the address of a house in Tarrytown. She can’t remember where she heard the address, but she knows it’s a safe house. On the way, Bubbs mentions something about how she must really love the guy she put herself in this position for, and the first name she says in response is “Frank,” Alt-livia’s boyfriend. Bubbs has to correct her about how she mentioned Peter earlier. The change is definitely progressing.

Bubbs drops Olivia off at the house in Tarrytown, and Olivia says he’s free to go- he’s done more than enough for her. Leaving Bubbs behind, Olivia circles the house, looking for a way in. She eventually finds an open window. The house turns out to be the childhood home of Alt-livia, and she has a very awkward and painful reunion with her “mom,” who is also under the impression that her daughter had a psychotic break on the job. A shocked Olivia hugs her “mom,” but then she quick snaps back to reality and starts screaming about how her mother is dead. Her mom wins the day, though, asking Olivia how she knew to come to that house if she had never been there before. Charlie then shows up to take Olivia back to Fringe Division. Olivia is totally docile about the whole thing. The helpful lab tech explains to Walternate and the audience that it was the adrenaline from Olivia’s escape that made the implanted memories finally take effect. Bubbs, now fully believing Olivia’s story, follows Charlie in his cab.

There’s a quick flash, and now we’re in Washington, D.C. in our own universe. Peter is being debriefed by a member of Congress on what happened when Peter went to the Other Side. The legislator doesn’t seem especially interested in what Peter has to say, though. He cuts the debriefing off early, saying his pen has run out of ink. He also refuses Peter’s offer to fix the pen. I think this could have some interesting implications for the future of Fringe Division in our universe. After the debriefing, Peter heads outside to meet up with Walter and Alt-livia (who hasn’t been doing an especially great job of maintaining her cover). Peter says all he was able to think about during the debriefing was “this” and kisses Alt-livia. That most definitely did not endear me to Alt-livia at all. Peter needs to realize his Olivia is missing, and fast, or I’m going to start thinking he’s an idiot.

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