Welcome to the Alt-verse, Season 1
Up to this point, Fringe had been doling out tidbits about an alternative universe that seemed to be conspiring against ours. But it wasn’t until the end of the hour, as the camera pulled back from the building Olivia occupied to reveal that the Twin Towers were still standing, that we realized she had ”crossed over.” How the hell did she do that?! —Ken Tucker
Quoting this for emphasis cause I just loved it: “And, by the way, Peter and Olivia are in love in a manner that’s so glowing with passion yet so challenged by emotional roadblocks thrown in their way, they make Romeo and Juliet look like Phil and Claire Dunphy”
The bonds of family, the ecstasy of romance, the exhilaration of intellectual inquiry, and a secret government agency working to protect you from all kinds of crazy, weird stuff. If I told you there was a TV series featuring all of that, plus great acting and superb action sequences, wouldn’t you want to watch that?
Sure you would. And people who are watching Fringe now know it’s doing something rare: It’s a TV show working on all levels, characters with which anyone can identify, imaginative scripts, crackling dialogue, and a positive message (boiled-down: All you need is love). It’s the kind of show that, every time you finish watching the latest installment, you want to see its next episode right now.
A new episode of Fringe, titled “Os,” airs tonight, and as I explain and exhort in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on sale today, you’re making a mistake if you miss it.
But if you’re not watching Fringe – and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a passionate please-save-Fringe plea to you and to the dear, intelligent, how-much-flattery-do-you-need folks at Fox — here’s what I suggest: Forget everything you’ve heard about Fringe. Banish the notion that you’ll be confused by the serialized nature of its storytelling, that it’s too deep into its mythology for you to catch up. It’s not.
Because like the best TV, Fringe works on a number of levels, and one level is, it’s highly entertaining, accessible stuff. All you really need to know about Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham and Josh Jackson’s Peter Bishop is that they’re brave investigators for the FBI’s Fringe Division, seeking to solve the mysteries of our world, which may be in jeopardy from another, alternate version of our world. And, by the way, Peter and Olivia are in love in a manner that’s so glowing with passion yet so challenged by emotional roadblocks thrown in their way, they make Romeo and Juliet look like Phil and Claire Dunphy.
And all you really need to know about John Noble’s Walter Bishop is that he’s a brilliant scientists who’s also emotionally fragile, playfully eccentric, and a junk-food junkie (it’s unlikely any other genius has referred to Pop Tarts as “delicious strawberry-flavored death”). Oh, and by the way, Noble deserves an Emmy for his extraordinarily delicate, wide-ranging performances.
At its big, red, throbbing heart, the show tells the story of a love so powerful, it crosses universes: When Peter was seven, he died. His brilliant-scientist father, Walter, having discovered that there was a parallel universe containing doubles of everyone here, transported himself to that Other Side and brought back that universe’s Peter, to love and to cherish. In doing so, he created not just a rift in the universes (which are now dangerously, explosively out of balance), but also a rift between father and son (when Peter discovered who he really was, and grappled with the idea that he belonged to another Walter, a “Walternate”).
This is the bare-bones version of Fringe, which is creatively capacious enough to also take in the dual nature that resides in every one of us; arcane conspiracy theories that end up as eerie realities; and the over-arching idea held by every regular reader of Entertainment Weekly that we can experience everything – politics, art, philosophy, and cures for loneliness — through the culture around us.
From The Twilight Zone to Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi/fantasy genre has been downbeat, dystopian, pessimistic, and bleak. In that context, who can blame viewers leery of Fringe, after seeing all those Fox promos in which the heroes yelp variations on “Our whole universe may end!”? We get enough of that kind of message on other channels, like Fox News and MSNBC. Successful, hit TV shows, all hits of any pop-culture kind, have one thing in common: Reassurance. They make you feel that, when you get up off the sofa, you’ve not only been entertained and, at best, mentally stimulated, but you’ve also been assured that life goes on and the future is sustainable.
This positive, utopian, optimistic message is the one Fringe delivers; it’s just that it comes wrapped in a package that some people have too quickly pigeonholed as “dark,” “gritty,” “complicated,” and “it might make my head hurt.”
I’m not going to guilt-trip you and say that if you don’t watch Fringe, you’re helping to create an atmosphere in which daring new shows won’t make it onto future network schedules. Instead, I’ll be sad that you’re not sharing in what could be the best puzzle-pieced epic since Lost, and the best portrait of a fractious family since Frasier, or M*A*S*H. Because right now, Fringe is promising you nothing less than the world – two of ’em, in fact.
Why do you think Fringe isn’t more popular? Will you be watching it?
Since the moment that Olivia stepped into William Bell’s office at the end of season one, and toward the alternate universe, the Twin Towers looming on the cityscape, I have been smitten with that alternate universe on Fringe.
Needless to say, “Immortality” definitely blew my skirt up.
I feel almost guilty saying this, but I love Fauxlivia. Her openness, ability to express emotion, laugh and feel is so much richer than Olivia’s that I can’t help but fall under her spell. As Olivia said last week, she really is (to me) a better version of herself.
I can’t help but wonder if Anna Torv auditioned for both roles. During the first season, the one thing that kept me from being head over heels in love with Fringe was how droll a character was our Olivia. The difference in the characters is so complete that they must have known just how well she could pull this off, or she would never have been cast.
With alternate Broyles lost and considered dead, Lincoln Lee is promoted in his place.
That the promotion was from within such a tight knit group brings them even closer, as if there is nothing they can’t accomplish together. I’m wondering if Lincoln was promoted because he doesn’t have an alternate in our universe, and if this promotion means we might be running into him some time soon as I would love to see what he is up to over here.
Now that I think of it, I wonder if Olivia has had any desire to look up the names of the people she met over there to see their “over here” counterparts. I would, but maybe she’s trying so hard not to be reminded of her ordeal it hasn’t crossed her mind.
Back in the alternate universe, Fauxlivia reunites with her boyfriend Frank at the airport. Meanwhile, a grey-haired scientist, Dr Anton Silva, sits at the airport bar and switches his drink with a fellow patron. Having ingested Silva’s concoction, the seriously-ill patron stumbles to the toilet, but is eaten from the inside-out by flesh-eating bugs. Meanwhile, as she arrives home with Frank, Fauxlivia explains that Lincoln has been placed in charge of Fringe division in Colonel Broyles’s absence.
The next day, the Fringe team discover the airport victim’s corpse and recover one of the bugs. Fauxlivia and Charlie visit Foster, a female scientist with a crush on Charlie, and she identifies the bug as a skelter beetle, a parasitic creature that lives exclusively in sheep. Since sheep died out ten years ago in the alternate world, the beetles were believed to have died out with them. Elsewhere, Dr Silva conducts an experiment on one of the beetles he recovered from the airport victim’s corpse and is frustrated when he cannot synthesise a particular enzyme from the bug.
At Fringe headquarters, Lincoln recruits Frank to help out with the case. Frank confesses in confidence that he is planning to propose to Fauxlivia, but the loud-mouthed Lincoln instantly relays the news to her. Meanwhile, Fringe division puts out a public appeal for information on the bugs and receives a tip from an old colleague of Dr Silva, who reveals that the scientist was an expert on skelter beetles and has conducted experiments on them in the past. At a local café, Silva infects another innocent victim with the parasites and later collects the bugs from his corpse. When the Fringe team examine the remaining bugs sometime later, they notice that the beetles look different and have become larger.
Fringe spent this week in the Other Universe, in various ways trying to achieve, as the episode title had it, “Immortality.” It was a non-stop Faulivia-fest, and not one for anyone suffering from entomophobia. The hour confirmed — or perhaps I should say seemed to confirm — a few things many of you readers have been commenting upon. One thing’s for sure: Those Twin Peaks references you’ve been picking up on were certainly validated this week.
For the purposes of this recap, I’m going to refer to the Other Universe Olivia not as Faux-, Bo- or Alt- but just “Olivia,” since that what she is in this episode’s world. Her boyfriend’s back, she greeted him, home from Texas, at the Empire Docking Station. Pretty soon, the two of them, plus Lincoln Lee (put in charge because of the “missing” [we know “dead”] Broyles) and Charlie Francis, were plunged into a case involving corpses from which swarms of beetles had emerged. Yet another in the long line of Fringe‘s many dedicated but doomed scientists, this one Dr. Anton Silva (Alon Aboutboul) turned innocent citizens into hosts that would provide samples of the beetles he needed to complete an experiment that would bring him the glory he sought. Too bad that the human hosts died dreadful deaths (“spontaneous bug eruptions,” as Lincoln put it). Fringe Division had to figure out what was going on, as Charlie pulled a nice juicy beetle from the nostril of a corpse.
***THIS ARTICLES CONTAIN SPOILERS, IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE YET, DON’T READ***
As if the two universes couldn’t be more complicated, the producers of the Fox series tell TVGuide.com exclusively that there will be much larger things to come. Will Walternate (John Noble) use Bolivia’s baby to lure Peter (Joshua Jackson) back to the alternate universe? The sinister answer may surprise you.
TVGuide.com: Why make Bolivia pregnant? Was this your way of humanizing the other universe?
J.H. Wyman: Yes. It’s what the alternate universe is doing and who they are really is why they’re human to us. There will be some much larger things to come, definitely.
TVGuide.com: It seems as though Walternate is going to use Bolivia’s pregnancy to get Peter back to the alternate universe.
Jeff Pinkner: Well, actually, I’m not sure that’s what’s going to happen. It’s implied that he’s going to use the baby to get Peter back, but I think that the baby will provide Walternate with a means to his end, but it’s not limited exclusively to getting Peter back.
TVGuide.com: Since the baby has the same DNA as Peter, does that mean it could be used to activate the machine?
Pinkner: That’s a possibility. So, as Joel said, it has been our intent from the beginning to complicate the viewers’ [main] interests. By exploring this alternate universe, we’re trying to, over time, allow people to realize that they’re not the bad guy. Walternate is the biggest victim in this entire saga. He had his son stolen from him.
FRINGE: WHY YOU CAN’T MISS TONIGHT’S EPISODE
To say that tonight’s episode of Fringe contains game-changing developments would be an offending understatement. The Peter-less episode, which takes place entirely “over there,” will show the alt-team working to crack a rather disgusting case about bugs; Walternate taking a major step in his campaign to be the most evil person in the world; a spark of a possible new romance; a proposal; and (most importantly) tonight’s episode directly addresses a major rumored plot twist that’s been floating around the fandom. All I can say is that what transpires will rock your world here and “over there.” (P.S. Please don’t cancel this show, TV Gods.)
“Fringe” (Fox, 9 p.m.) While so many dramatic series fall victim to the shortsighted will-they-or-won’t-they romantic entanglements, “Fringe” delivers a more complicated relationship between Walter and his son, Peter, who took a dark turn last week in the fight against the alterna-universe. And after solid performances in the ratings since its move to Friday, this underappreciated sci-fi thriller may finally get some much-deserved love.
Torv plays Olivia Dunham, a gorgeous blond who’s also an FBI agent for the Department of Homeland Security’s “Fringe” division. Ironically, she’s spent most of the third season of “Fringe” in an alternate Homeland, making her feel very insecure indeed. But that’s not a normal state for her. Contrary to the bubbly image of blonds, Olivia is a cool loner. She’s also a career gal who’s known she’s wanted to be an FBI agent since she was nine years old. Her special skills include telekinesis, pyrokinesis, near-indestructibility and now expert marksmanship. She does not take kindly to having boyfriends kiss girls who look exactly like her.
By: Matt Webb Mitovich
Fringe‘s move to Fridays, which takes hold on January 21, is looking more and more like a really terrific thing.
Not only has Fox been promoting the heck out of the time-slot change, but Fringe‘s new “under the radar” home apparently has opened the door for even freakier storytelling.
Noting that Fox “has always been pretty cool” about letting Fringe push the envelope, series creator J.J. Abrams tells TVLine that said envelope’s seams have achieved outrageous new levels of elasticity.
“When we made the move and [executive producers] Joe [Chappelle] and Jeff [Pinker] started pitching stuff, we thought, ‘Well, this will probably get a little pushback,’” Abrams shares. “But they [at Fox] were like, ‘OK, sounds good!’”
J.J. didn’t want to spoil what’s to come during the back half of this season by detailing any of the especially “out there” fare. Instead, he vaguely spoke of “visual things” that “if I had done in a film, the PG-13 rating would have been taken from us.”
Fox, however — as touted in the promos — apparently looks forward to its Fridays being freaky. “They have been amazingly and gloriously lenient in what were able to do,” Abrams reports. “It feels like unbridled, unhinged Fringe.”
Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly indicated as much speaking to the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Tuesday, saying the Fringe creative team should be feeling “really liberated” in its new time slot. “I think now they can say, ‘You know what? We are playing to our fans — [but are] happy to take anyone new that wants to get on board.”