In this writer’s humble (and admittedly meaningless) opinion, Fringe is the best one-hour drama on television. The only show that can rival it in entertainment value, writing, and production values is The Vampire Diaries, another show that gets little respect because it found a home on a network that’s not one of the big three. Fringe has innovative story lines, a fantastic science fiction premise, a cast that deserves Emmy nominations in more than one category (but particularly for Anna Torv , who’s been portraying two subtly different women for weeks), and a committed team of writers that brings believable dialogue, evolving characters, and at least one shocking element guaranteed to make you gasp out loud. I recently wrote an article about network scheduling, and why the move to Friday nights could spell the beginning of the end for a show that deserves so much better.
I’m going to give a quick recap of the first half of season three:
Olivia (aired Sept 23, 2010): At the end of season two, Walter (John Noble), Peter (Joshua Jackson), and Broyles (Lance Reddick) returned from the alternate universe with the wrong Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv). Of course, the three men are oblivious to having been duped, and our Olivia is trapped and tortured by Walternate on the other side. Most of the episode took place in the alternate world as we learned more about their crazy tight security, and Walternate’s plans for Olivia. By the end of the episode his “treatments” began to work and she slowly began to believe she is the alternate Olivia. At the tail end of the night, Peter kisses the wrong Olivia and apparently can’t tell the difference.
Part Escher drawing, part Möbius strip, Fringe specializes in grand sci-fi conundrums like alternate universes, but in season three the series has become a study in psychological subtlety, exploring how minute variations in personal choice can change the course of a single life and by extension whole worlds.
Anna Torv – a name we’d heard hide nor hair of in the States just three short years ago. While yet to still become a household name among the broader population, she has made a significant impact in the world of science fiction entertainment.
Plucked from relative obscurity by a team which included J. J. Abrams – a man with an eye for starlets in the making, turning Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner into virtual overnight sensations – Torv was cast to play the now beloved Olivia Dunham on the FOX sci-fi hit Fringe. She didn’t have the smoothest of starts, however, with many believing the character too stiff, impenetrable and almost bored by the strange and unexplainable events she was called upon to investigate.
Fast forward to season three, Torv – along with the bulk of the cast – was given the especially trying challenge of portraying two different sides of her character. Of all the actors on the show, I believe Torv has made the most of this opportunity and set herself apart as the cream of a crop of dominant performers on one of the most inventively written series ever to find a spot on broadcast television – and for this, I believe she deserves a spot among the 2011 Emmy nominees.
Among her counterparts, John Noble – a brilliant actor himself, and an egregious oversight among the 2010 supporting actor nominees – is playing two very different sides of the same character, Walter Bishop. The same goes for Jasika Nicole’s Astrid. While a challenge for any actor to play dual roles on the same show, at least their characters personalities are diametrically opposed to one another.
Torv’s Olivia Dunham, on the other hand, requires a much more delicate touch. Both Olivia’s are very much alike in their personalities, with only subtle differences aside from their hair color. Torv straddles those variances with judicious skill, essentially having to play a third and even a fourth version of the character.
Third and fourth character, you ask? In a sense, yes.
The brilliant, tortured and somewhat reserved original Olivia, while captive in the alternate universe, was forcibly given Fauxlivia’s memories and gradually adopted that persona, burying original Olivia’s memories and personality in the process. The heartbreaking scene where she came face to face with the alt-world version of her mother, who had died in our world when Olivia was young, had a tremendous impact as the moment when Olivia tragically gives herself over to Fauxlivia’s mind completely. Even still, glimpses of Olivia would come out from time to time, as the story required, ultimately causing her to “awaken” and re-emerge as this world’s Olivia.
Fauxlivia, a bolder and more playful version of her this world self, having deceived her way to our universe with Peter and Walter, was now required to evade suspicion by posing as our world’s Olivia. There were moments, such as when she murdered the deaf man in “The Box,” where she broke back to her Fauxlivia persona, but had to quickly turn it back on when Peter arrived unexpectedly, or when she failed to remember something that the real Olivia would have never forgotten.
Not only has Torv been required to play both Olivia and Fauxlivia, she has also had to manage Olivia transitioning to and from Fauxlivia, as well as Fauxlivia posing as Olivia.
A lesser actress would be hitting Fox up in advance to foot the bill for her post-season psychological treatment.
If this tedious character balance isn’t enough, add to it that she’s had to play victim, aggressor, counselor, temptress, murderer, and protector, running the gamut of almost every possible emotion in the process – not to mention spending countless hours filming scenes inside of a water tank. What other lead actress has had all this asked of her – within the span of 8 episodes, much less an entire season – and done so with such aplomb?
Here’s hoping that the Academy rises above their snobbery towards sci-fi television and rewards Torv next year for a truly outstanding performance.
“Fringe” has consistently been one of the most inventive shows on television, but they took things to a whole new level by taking things to a whole new universe and bringing the parallel world subplot to the forefront. This meant star Anna Torv faced a few new challenges: most notably creating a cracked mirror image of Special Agent Olivia Dunham who would engage in a romantic relationship with Peter Bishop while the real Olivia became a brainwashed P.O.W. “over there.” Oh, and smiling.
But with great risk comes great reward and Anna has delivered two tremendous performances this season — conjuring up a new character while still showing us even more colors in her original creation.
Tonight all the events of season three come to a head in 2010’s penultimate episode, which promises to — once again — be a game-changer. In anticipation of the stellar hour, we rang up Anna Torv to find out how she approached this daunting challenge, why she believes Peter is in big trouble and what she hopes 2011 brings.
PopWrap: What was your first thought when you heard about the plan for season three?
Anna Torv: Olivia is so repressed and tense – I mean, my god, must she carry the weight of everybody’s problems on her shoulders [laughs]. So I always used to joke, “when’s her care-free doppelganger coming in?” So obviously I was excited from the get go. I mean, when do you get a chance on television to sit down and create a different silhouette?
**SPOILERS COMING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE YET**
With its first-time-ever blue- and red-tinged opening credits, we knew from the start that this week’s Fringe, titled “Entrada,” was going to be the universe-melding adventure we’d been awaiting. The question was, how were the two Olivias going to get switched back to their rightful universes? The bigger questions — for the season, for the series, for us — were, Who can people trust, and how can people maintain hope in the face of seemingly inevitable disaster? (And I’m not talking about Fringe‘s imminent move to Friday nights.)
The hour picked up right where last week’s ended, with a replay of the scene of Peter in bed with Altivia, receiving a phone call from the souvenir-shop woman saying she had a message from Olivia, that she’s trapped in the other universe. The look on Josh Jackson’s face told you a lot, instantly: that Peter’s worst suspicions have been confirmed, that he has to fake it now with Altivia, that he has to do something quickly to help Olivia.
by Lynette Rice
It was arguably the best, most original episode of Fringe to date. Too bad so many of you missed it: Only 5.1 million people tuned into the Fox drama Thursday night, which was also down 5 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.8 rating/5 share) from its most recent airing on Nov. 18. If this genre series were on AMC (or featured zombies), the media world would be calling it a monster hit. Sadly, the threshold for success is far different on broadcast TV, so Fringe will always be viewed as a niche performer with a small but rabid fan base. Let’s hope it finds a far more comfortable home on Fridays where it’ll face less competition.
It has only been two weeks since the last “Fringe,” but it feels like forever. In the break, I traveled to Iowa, which is a lot like getting stuck in a parallel universe. Things are similar but not exactly the same. I was cut off from the people I’m used to seeing in my daily life. Everything is a little less Blue and a little more Red (though more in a sociopolitical way than actually colors). Luckily I made it back to Los Angeles just in time to see Olivia make it back to our universe.
“Entrada” picks up right where “Fringe” left us before going on Thanksgiving break. Peter received a midnight call from a Liberty Island cleaning woman who saw Olivia cross over into our world. The helpful custodial worker delivered Olivia’s message. She’s trapped on the other side. Peter gets this call while lying in bed with Bolivia, who has not only taken our Olivia’s place, but also apparently stolen all the blankets.
Peter may have been blinded to the fact that this isn’t his Olivia for the past eight episodes, but he more than makes up for it. He searches her belongings, checks her computer and tests her with a Greek quote. Bolivia knows she fails, so she forced Peter to drug himself before escaping into the night. Bam! All before the opening titles (an awesome mix of the Blue and Red). For a show I once complained didn’t “get to it fast enough,” “Fringe” hasn’t pulled any punches this season, especially as we come to the end of the Journey Home storyline.
Spoilers for last night’s episode of Fringe coming up
While it may not have been the high point that the emotional “Peter” from earlier this year was, “Entrada” was a pretty excellent action-focused episode, in which the dimensional swap between Fauxlivia and Realivia came to a head. In the process, it demonstrated that Fringe’s writers have made a compelling world out of Over There in a relative few episodes—and it was another example of what a strong series Fringe has become since its committed fully to its clash-of-the-universes storyline.
While I get the sense that some fans have been divided on the approach of switching between the two universes episode by episode this season, I for one have loved spending time in the parallel Land of Amber. (And I get the sense that Fringe’s writers have genuinely loved creating and populating it.) Still, it was probably about time to end the hunt-for-Olivia storyline and bring Realivia home.
And it was testament to the strength of the recent episodes that the event largely turned on the moving sacrifice of a character—Other Broyles—whom we’ve only very recently come to know. Even though this was a different man, with different experiences, from the Broyles we know, it was still thrilling to see him driven by conscience to Pulp Fiction Olivia with adrenaline and help her escape becoming a brain donor. (It was also a strikingly tender—if strikingly odd—moment seeing Broyles closing the eyes of his “own” corpse.)
Above all, though, “Entrada” was a strongly paced hour that used tension well throughout, from Peter’s unmasking of Fauxlivia by using the Greek quotation to his identifying and shooting the shapeshifter “hostage” outside the ladies’ room after challenging “her” to recall her daughter’s name. It also gave us the requisite dose of tech fetish, as the Fringe crew finally discovered the Magic Typewriter (by means of the Telltale Pastry Fauxlivia had bought for Walter) and used its ribbon to find Fauxlivia’s rendezvous point. And while it wasn’t as Walter-centric as some outstanding Fringe episodes, it gave him an all-time classic line: “She tricked my son with her carnal manipulations and he fell right into her vagenda!”
I’ll miss Fauxlivia as undercover agent, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of her, and it’s good to have our Olivia back. All in all, a satisfying hour and a good demonstration of how Fringe—one of the most improved shows of the past season or so—has grown into one of TV’s most entertaining dramas.
by Jeff Jensen
“It’s all kicking into gear,” says Anna Torv about tonight’s pivotal episode of Fringe, entitled “Entrada,” in which the season’s epic tale of conflict between parallel worlds reaches a major turning point. Peter Bishop — shell-shocked by the revelation that he’s been sleeping with the “over there” enemy Olivia Dunham — is roused to mad-as-hell action, while the “over here” Olivia, currently trapped in the alt reality, makes her move to get back home. (To read EW critic/resident Fringe recapper Ken Tucker’s rave review of the episode, click here. And have you seen the movie-style trailer Fox produced to promote the ep? If not, see it here — and begin to dream about the potential for a Fringe feature film in the future.) Prepare for an episode that deviates from the season pattern of one episode largely set “over here” followed by one episode largely set “over there.” Says Torv: “It was the first time we were playing both worlds in the same episode. A lot back and forth, and a lot of let’s-get-cracking momentum.”
Torv has been given the challenge of not just playing two different Olivias this season, but playing one Olivia pretending to be the other Olivia and playing the other Olivia as someone who’s been brainwashed into thinking and acting as someone she’s not. (I would say she’s more than risen to the task — and I hope Emmy voters are taking note.) Torv says the work “has been fun” but that it hasn’t been easy, especially since she’s learning the story and her character(s) arc(s) as the scripts come in. “It’s not always easy to see where they’re pushing things,” she says. “I try not to get too frustrated that we don’t have the time of a feature film to sit down and plot out and plan out every beat of the character,” she says. ”I often rib myself: ‘Ah! I forgot about this! I could have that!’” One of the choices she made last season when the “two Olivias” idea was introduced was to create a different kind of physical demeanor for “over there” Olivia to help distinguish her from “over here” Olivia. Not just adopting a different hair color for Fauxlivia (brunette), but a different way of holding herself — “a different silhouette,” as she puts it. “She’s got a little firefighter, a little military in her.”
In “Entrada,” Peter will confront Fauxlivia about deceiving and seducing him. Assuming that Peter will be reunited with the real Olivia sooner than later, what will be the relationship between the two characters? I told Torv that I like the idea that these past few episodes were designed to basically satisfy the curiosity of what a Peter-Olivia romance would look like, but that their ultimate destiny is to not be together. “I think that would be kinda fun, too,” says Torv, adding that based on where the show is in its production cycle, she doesn’t yet know what lies ahead for the would-be lovers, “so I’m just speculating along with you and everyone else.” She says that from Olivia’s perspective, Peter’s romance with Fauxlivia should have troubling implications. “The thing for Olivia coming back, and learning what happened between Peter and the other Olivia, you’d think she’d have some questions. Who am I? How could you not see who she was or who I am? Does that mean I only exist to you in the external — what I look like? What about my spirit? To have someone fall for someone they only think is you — that’s hauntingly heartbreaking.”
Fringe recently introduced a new mythological idea that portends to open up a new chapter in its saga (Who are “The First People”?) and has now reached a crossroads in the parallel world storyline. Does that mean the show is about to leave the alternate reality concept behind? “I don’t think we’ll be throwing that away — we’ve invested too much in that, and one of our lead characters, Peter, actually comes from the Other side, and much about him remains unresolved,” says Torv. As for what lies ahead [SPOILER WARNING!], Torv hints that there’s more intrigue to come about the doomsday machine that Peter is linked to, and teases that everyone’s favorite band of bald-headed, hot sauce-swilling mimics will be returning to the saga. “I know The Observers pop back up, and we’re still trying to work out their function in the big picture of things. I don’t think we’ve seen much of The Observers ‘over there,’ have we? So I’m interested in seeing how all that interconnects.”
Next week’s episode will be the last Fringe outing of 2010. When the show returns early next year, it will air on Friday night. While the timeslot was the original home of The X-Files back in the day, it hasn’t been too kind to sci-fi series on Fox since the David Duchovny-Gillian Anderson show left the airwaves. (See: Firefly; Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.) Asked how she feels about the move to the so-called “death slot,” Torv pleads ignorance — but expresses confidence that Fringe will be fine. (A sentiment shared by the show’s producers.) ”I’m Australian, you know? I have no preconceived ideas about the network TV landscape in America,” says the 32-year-old Australian actress, for whom Fringe is her first U.S. work. “But I also think we have a solid, supportive fanbase that will continue supporting the show. I’m just excited we still get to make the show.”