Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fringe 3.01: Olivia

Tonight's season 3 premiere of Fringe was an exciting return to the show. Set almost entirely in the alternate world, our Olivia is trapped in a place where people believe she is mad because she's insisting she's not the person they think she is, but is in fact from another universe and just happens to look EXACTLY like the woman they're mistaking her for.

Walternate is pumping her with No-Livia's memories, however, in an attempt to try to make her second-guess her beliefs and start to fall in line with everyone else. However, there's a sinister reticence about his true reasons for doing it -- I think it's clear he's just using Olivia as a guinea pig so he can once again kidnap Peter but infuse some other memories into him and make him believe he belonged to Walternate all along, forgetting his life with Walter.

Anna Torv shows what a great actress she is by not only carrying the episode, but in the final scene, we see the subtle differences between No-Livia and our Olivia just in her gestures.

• That red Fringe opening they used in S2 to indicate what the Fringe intro would look like in the alternate world. Brilliant.
• Bubbles!!! Andre Royo, who played Henry the cabbie, was the drug-addicted Bubbles on The Wire, and put in one of the most heartwrenching performances of that show.
• The ad for Glatterflug, the company that offers daily flights to the moon.
• I love the mix of old and new -- they have flights to the moon, but they still have ancient bicycles and zeppelins.

Glyph (before each commercial break, there's a glyph that appears, and it corresponds with a letter of the alphabet, spelling out a five-letter word): This week's glyphs spelled out AMBER.

Did You Notice?:
• On top of Henry's cab there's an ad for DOGS; in this world the big musical isn't CATS. Ha!
• That amber quarantine reminds me of that first season episode where the guy on the bus put people in amber. I haven't watched that episode in ages, but I wonder if there was a suggestion in retrospect that he was from the alternate universe?
• When Alt-Astrid stands in front of that panel of numbers, she reminds me of a Cylon.
• Jedi mind tricks still exist in the alt-universe.
• The gas station was called Shexxon.

• How does Walternate plan to get Peter back? Is he planning to infuse memories into him? What memories? Since the other Peter died before Peter was kidnapped, there's no other Peter to give memories to... would they be manufactured?
• How will our Olivia ever return to herself? Could No-Livia's memories only be temporary?
• Did Bell only put Massive Dynamic in our universe?
• Where was the Observer? I looked everywhere for him and couldn't find him. I thought he passed Henry's cab at the very beginning but when I paused it, it wasn't him.
• Why... Glatterflug??

So what did you think? Did the episode live up to your expectations?


OldDarth said...

Anna Torv nailed it tonight. When she has something to do she really is fantastic.

Andre Royo was also good and looks like he will be back in future episodes. WooT!

With Olivia now swayed by Bolivia's memories what will drive her return to her proper home? Henry?

Marebabe said...

Good call on the amber quarantine looking like what happened on that bus in S1. How many other things will hark back to the first season as we go through S3 and beyond? Maybe Pattern events will turn out to be crossover events from an alternate universe.

yourblindspot said...

Good, good stuff tonight. Was a pretty slow burner, particularly for a season premiere, but a nice return nonetheless, delving deeper into the alternate universe and complicating Olivia's arc significantly. And I am the first to admit that Anna Torv is the aspect of the show about which I am usually the most ambivalent, but I thought she really nailed it here. Can't wait to see whether our brilliant heroes in the "real" world quickly suss out the embed, or if the writers decide to draw it out and have Twolivia gradually realize she's been misled about their motivations so that she's discovered just about the time she really starts to sympathize...

A combination of my rusty high school German and a quick interweb search tells me 'glatterflug' translates as 'smooth flight.'

Josh said...

About the Amber. I think the idea there was that Massive Dynamic was experimenting with tech from the alt.

In the S2 Finale Bell explains that the whole purpose of MD was to prepare for the coming war.

Fred said...

This was a perfect episode of the doppelganger theme. Perfect in the sense that in most literature, the double is outside the protagonist, but here the double begins to invade the main character.

The notion of doubleness is a principal trope of J.J. Abrams. And the very idea of it is frightening--BSG took up this idea with sleeper-Cylons such as Sharon. Also there seems a sly reference to Blade Runner where implanted memories are placed in Rachael. Or even Total Recall.

And how the show ends, a great example of wish-fulfillment, getting back the mother that was dead, and all it takes is suspension of disbelief. Isn't that what Walter did when he kidnapped Peter?

Sarah said...

I was just nerdin' out the other day over that S1 "amber episode" when my husband and I were doing a re-watch. "Bugs trapped in amber" is a characterization of the way humans exist in time in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. In other words, they are stuck in time as opposed to "unstuck." How does this connect to last night's episode? I don't know--maybe it has something to do with Olivia's realization that she is stuck again (like she says when she is unsuccessfully looking for Massive Dynamics.)

Fred said...

Sarah: "Bugs stuck in amber" metaphorically equaling "Human stuck in time" is a reference to the idea that all times exist at this moment (i.e. the passage of time is an illusion). Commonly we tend to think of time as a "flow," so that we can think of where we are in the flow. But space-time undermines this very concept, because the first requires us to assume a God-like position to see all time, whereas the second places us within a frame relative to other observers. The eternalism, Vonnegut is talking about, is an idea developed by physicist David Deutsch, who supports seeing the flow of time as an illusion (we are at every moment in our time line).

But you pick out a very nice metaphor, of being "stuck." This has been used as an expression of our existential condition. Fringe's time traveller story illustrates this idea: in trying to rectify the death of his wife, he comes to realize he cannot change it, and so his only option of free will is to join her in death. In some sense once the time traveller has made his decision to return to his wife, he is frozen in time (bug in amber). But it is this moment that is all important, that gives meaning to his entire life, that he returned for the love of a single person.

But as you also note "stuck" can also mean caught outside oneself, outside one's world, a schizo existence (here we are ironically not "stuck in amber" but freed from it and wanting to get back into it). The irony of Olivia is she is unstuck from her own world, her own identity, but stuck in another world with an other identity that is not her own. In many ways this is Walter's own existence, and why he hangs onto Astrid and Peter so closely to help him navigate through a world that is really not familiar to him.

Sara said...

The Observer appeared when Olivia was at the park:

Batcabbage said...

I just finished a rewatch of all five seasons of The Wire, so it was great to see bubs in the first ten minutes of this episode. It was weird seeing him with all his teeth.

This was a great season opener, and it really got across (for me, anyway), that Olivia's situation in alt-verse is hopeless, and she has no way out. I was half expecting Spock to show up at some stage, but I'm sure he'll come across Olivia in alt-verse in a future episode. The only problem I had with the episode was that it only went for an hour, and that I want more right now. :)

Also, @Nik: I had no idea that the symbols were glyphs and make a word each episode! Thanks for that!

JS said...

I just finished watching S2 of Fringe so I could catch up with the rest of the world. The sequence when Olivia is being interviewed by the psychiatrist and escapes from the hospital is very reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, T2. The needle in the neck, the stealing of the keys, the elevator -- that was great. And the impossible jump into the river harkens back to so many escape scenes it doesn't need to be further examined.

I haven't seen the next episodes, but I am hoping No-livia will screw up and Peter will notice. she cannot suppress her personality for long.

It was an exciting premiere