Welcome to our review for episode 1 of Fringe season 3 – “Olivia”.
In this review we take a completely honest look at the good and not so good aspects of the episode. We find out what answers were provided and what mysteries remain unresolved. We take an in-depth look at the other aspects of the episode that made an impression on us, before rounding off the review with our final thoughts and episode rating.
- New Characters to Play With. The worlds of Fringe have opened up in more ways than one – we now have so many more interesting and relevant characters to explore these worlds through. Dr. Anderson helped set a tone of unease – outwardly pleasant, her mouth fixed in a perpetual smile, yet there’s something quite frightening about her. Henry I warmed to very quickly – he brought a lot of heart and truth, and I totally bought his motivation for helping Olivia. I never thought I’d ever be able to watch Brandon for more than 10 seconds at a time, but please give me more Brandonate! He may be gullible but displayed subtle nuances that make this version much more interesting to me than his double. Finally, Marilyn gave me enough in that scene with Olivia to leave me intrigued by a mother/daughter story that could potentially rival the father/son journey. Can we keep them? Please?
- Humor and Compassion. I enjoyed the camaraderie and banter between Lincoln Lee and Charlnate Francis, it gave me deeper understanding of who they are and why I should care about them. I was also touched by their compassion for Olivia. While the possibility that this is not their Olivia should have entered their minds, it was nice to see some warmth extended her way. Alternate Fringe Division are not as odd a family unit as their doubles on the other side, but they do have their own quirks that make me rather like them.
- Structure and Pacing: I thought the decision to focus the majority of the episode on the alternate universe was the right one. So much so that I’m not sure that switching back and forth between worlds in the same episode would have given us the necessary depth needed to explore the other side. As it was I was treated to a thoroughly satisfying journey through the eyes of two Olivias that took the story to some really fascinating places while asking many interesting questions. The pacing and plotting of the episode was also exceptional. Barely a single scene was wasted and every character expression, twitch, and flicker seemed to reveal something of note. I also appreciated the level of restraint that was employed with both the direction and musical composition – allowing the episode a level of authenticity.
- Concept Building: The episode built on the pre-existing themes of memory, duality and nature/nurture in clever and intriguing ways that kept me engaged and challenged throughout. I applaud the fact that the show has added further depth and resonance to some already fantastic concepts, while literally and figuratively taking them into new dimensions. The decision to fuse Altlivia’s memories into Olivia was inspired and lends the story open to even richer possibilities.
- Investment in the Alternate Universe: One of my hopes for this season was for the other side and its residents to be embellished and realized into entities in their own right. I’m not as interested in a clichéd portrayal of the ‘bad guys’, because it would do disservice to the world of the show and the reality it strives to reflect. I wanted something that felt real – a world filled with people who have their own complexities, a world I could relate to on some level. I was thrilled to find myself genuinely caring for the characters in the alternate universe. For the most part, I found them to be believable within their settings, many of them just caught up in something that they have little control over – even Walternate (a figure who I just cannot hate) seemed driven by something that I cold tap into.
- Mythology Through Character: I found both extremely satisfying.
- Olivia’s Escape. So, Walternate has a high priority prisoner, someone who can move through universes, no-less – and he has what, 3 maybe 4 guards on patrol – and none on the door where Olivia was being treated? No wild dogs? No rabid Wolverines? No Molebabies waiting to pounce? And what do his Stormtroopers do as Olivia is making a break for the elevator? (an elevator, that for whatever reason, wasn’t put on lockdown) – they shoot at her with bullets. Really guys, you want to kill your best hope of winning this war? Have a word, Walternate! While I accept that Olivia had to escape at some point, I found Walternate’s security measures to be unbecoming of someone in his position.
- Some Contrivances. I thought Olivia should have at least expressed some expectation that the opera house would be heavily patrolled. More to the point, I was surprised that Walternate didn’t have the authorities on high-alert, informing them that Olivia/Altlivia needed to be taken into custody. I guess he didn’t want to make her assimilation public in case the treatment worked, but after apprehending Team Cortexiphan last season I expected better.
- No Out-livia? I have a very hard time believing that two supposed geniuses – plus Broyles and Astrid, who are no slouches in that department, could believe that Altlivia is their Olivia. From the glimpse we saw, I just don’t think Altlivia’s doing a particularly good job at concealing her ruse. Olivia may have been morphing into Altlivia on the other side, but blondie practically has a sticker on her forehead that reads: “Not Olivia, Stupid!“. For someone who unerringly captured Olivia in one word last season, Peter thinks this cheerful beam of light is the “haunted” one that he’s came back for? That’s right Peter, it must be the affect that you have on women. Pfft! I mean, you’re good, but you’re not that good. Hopefully future episodes will give me more reason to buy into Altlivia’s cover but at the moment this is a major contrivance that feels so out of whack with the rest of the story.
- The kiss. Look, I have nothing against tongue hockey and I recommend it to everyone as a healthy and rewarding sport, but there was something just too awkward about seeing Peter plant one on Altliv. Maybe it’s because our girl is trapped on the other side, or perhaps it’s because it seemed like they were trying too hard to make a point. I felt that Peter was sticking his tongue down my throat – that’s how in my face it was! And I have a horrible feeling that this was the first of much more canoodling between these two. Maybe when we focus on that side things we will gain more context, but for me it was easily the worst moment of this episode.
- Unrealistic. Peter and Walter seemed way to friendly with one another considering the discoveries that were recently made. Perhaps being with ‘Olivia’ is covering over Peter’s resentment for now, but even so, I still find the whole ‘together again’ act problematic.
- What does Altlivia’s tattoo mean?
- What is Altlivia’s exact mission?
- Why doesn’t Walternate want to fill Broyles in on his plans for the two Olivias?
- Unless I missed something, Lincoln implies that the events in this episode take place 2 days after Olivia was captured and 3 days after he got Clarked. (if that’s the case then add ‘Charlie’s full head of hair’, that he seems to have magically acquired in that time, to the contrivances above).
- Walternate doesn’t know how Olivia is able to move through universes. This suggests that they don’t have Cortexiphan, or a similar drug, in the alternate universe, and offers more insight into why he went down the shapeshifter route.
- Lincoln Lee can remain out of the hyperbaric chamber for 8 hours at a time.
- As Bellie claimed last season, it appears as though Massive Dynamic do not exist on the other side.
- That opening scene brought into the open something I have been speculating about for some time now – the idea of constructing a fantasy so believable that it becomes reality to the person who created it:
“Olivia. What is happening to you, given the nature of your job – the upsetting events that you come in contact with on a regular basis, coupled with the injury to your head, it’s not surprising, your mind has created this…fantasy. A means of processing the trauma.”
- What intrigues me about this is whether the writers are double–bluffing us by taking one of the shows underlying themes and placing it out in the open in a way that negates the need to question the reality of certain events? Personally, I think it’s about levels. As Olivia tells Dr. Anderson, “this is not a fantasy”. And we can vouch for her because we’ve experienced what she’s experienced and travelled through universes with her. But that’s not to say there isn’t a question mark over the actual reality of what we’re seeing play out in both universes. Who’s to say that these events, these complicated and far-reaching events, are not the inner workings of something much deeper?
- Morality vs Necessity – what is acceptable in the most drastic of circumstances? These two warring concepts were examined early on when Brandonate informed Walternate that giving Olivia another dose of treatment (aka Altlivia’s memories) could kill her. Walternate’s response was resolute: “try again please”. But it was not a hateful response. I was relieved, but also intrigued because not only did he explain his reasoning to Brandonate, but on some level, I could understand it:
“You and I know something, that many lives and many more dollars have been spent to keep secret. That we..are..at war. At war with another universe, populated by creatures who damaged the very fabric of reality. All around us our world is under attack. Somehow this girl came here. Somehow she is equipped to move through universes. We need her to help us understand this skill. Because if we can do it..we can win this war. And if not..soon there will be nothing left to protect. *offers Brandonate a flicker of a smile* ..Let’s try again.”
- I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling not to see his point. I’m struggling not to see his motivation. That doesn’t mean I agree with what he’s doing, or his methods – far, far from it. But we are a complicated species and within what he says – and the way in which he says it – is something that lends itself to my sympathy. I would love to know what places John Noble goes to in his mind to convey moments like this.
- Walternate fails the morality test hands down – my investment is with Olivia, and seeing her shattered and bruised only strengthens that bond, but no-one says we can’t also feel a sense of agony for this complicated old wartime leader and his decaying world. I’m not quite torn because I never understood the us vs them ethos, but I find myself wishing that these two sides could sit down over a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich and talk things through – maybe put a few great minds together. Sadly, Peter didn’t think that was a viable option when he scuttled back to the world he had given the finger hours earlier.
- I liked this little line from Olivia:
“Is it dinner already?”
- The question of time, and how much of it has past since she was captured makes this a useful line. It also plays into her ability to adapt to new surroundings, while highlighting the displacement that one would most likely feel in a place like that. It’s also good to know that the Dunhamnator was at least being fed and watered on a regular basis.
- Olivia watches the keypad. Walternate’s Stormtrooper doesn’t know how badly he’s going to regret that moment.
- The treatment scene was hard to watch – seeing those needles going into Dunham was almost as horrific as that spinal tap from Mitchell Loeb. During our rewatch, I mentioned Olivia’s capability in these situations, and although it took her a lot longer this time to escape, it’s interesting to once again see just how deceptive Dunham can be. Though I’d prefer to say that Brandonate was just a bit gullible. But hey, at least he showed some humanity, and those little flickers are worth noting on a character level.
- Olivia jabs Brandonate with a dose of the treatment – does that mean he now has a little Altliv inside him, so to speak? Should I expect him to dye his hair red in the upcoming episodes?
- We learned that Altlivia is an expert markswoman, but like Olivia, she seems to be a born survivor:
“I think from what I know of Olivia Dunham, she’s the one person I know of who could survive.”
- And isn’t that interesting, to consider what this survival driven by? Are people really born survivors or is it something we learn out of necessity? Both alternatives pose interesting questions of both Olivias, and people in general.
- The more we find out about Altlivia, the more we discover that she is exceptional at what she does. Like, truly exceptional. What I’m intrigued by are her flaws, her insecurities, the aspects of her character that she would like to be different. The story is now set up to really give us these insights (through both Olivias) to better understand what it truly means to be Olivia Dunham. For me, that’s a lot of what this season is about – exploring the question of how far human beings are defined by their experiences and whether we are who we are for a reason, or if there is a choice in the matter.
- Threatening Henry’s family was a bit mean, Livvy! I realize she was in a tight spot, and I realize it may not have completely been her talking, but if we’re going to pull the Walternates of this world up for their unsanitary acts, I think it’s only fair that we pull Olivia up for this, however badly she needed to get away.
- I mentioned that Olivia can be very deceptive when she wants to be, but she can also be extremely convincing when telling the truth. We recently saw an example of this when she persuaded Peter to come back to the other side with her, and I could swear the following quote is the moment when Henry starts to believe that Olivia is the real deal:
“I’m not who they say I am!”
- He saw something in her face. Or perhaps he felt something. It’s later revealed that he can relate to Olivia due to his own personal experiences in the past, and it’s this perspective that narrows the gap between them. Like-minds gravitate towards one other and want to help each other understand their difficulties. I feel that this is what we see in this episode between my new new favourite duo, Olivia and Henry. They should have a spin-off – ‘He drives the taxi. She kicks the ass.’
- How did Olivia plan on getting home? Did she really think she was just going to stroll into the opera house and imagine her way back to Kansas? While that’s not out of the question – I guess going back would require a similar method (and less energy due to the open crack) as getting there, I’m surprised that she didn’t seem to consider that it would be heavily patrolled by Walternate’s Stormtroopers, or already quarantined. This was a bit of a contrivance but I’m willing to let it slide because at least they had Olivia address the issue.
- The Amber lockdown was an insightful moment though – the CGI could have been better but they did a good job considering they have a TV budget to play with. But more than that it was a nice little glimpse into the politics and nuances of this world. The anti-amber demonstration is an idea that I found very easy to buy into. Moments like this really help to illustrate that no matter the universe, humans share so many of the same characteristics. At the end of the day it really is about human nature and realizing that the dividing line between people – be they separated by oceans, borders or universes – really is quite small.
- We didn’t get much on Altstrid in this episode, but we got enough for now. She’s all about probability – imagine living life by numbers. Hmm, maybe she’s not so strange after all. I’m interested in the “11% chance” that Olivia would return to attack, and the possibility that in one universe out there she did just that. She rolled back to Liberty Island and let loose a can of whoop-ass on poor old Walternate, mounting him from behind and strangling him with his own tie, as he whispers with his final breath..“daughter?..”. Wait, what?
- Olivia tells Henry that Peter is her ‘someone’ – the reason she’s there. She described his as a ‘colleague’ to Dr. Anderson, for obvious (and not so obvious) reasons. I just like the idea that she chose to show a more truthful side of herself to someone she connected with.
- The most tragic scene of this episode for me came when Olivia broke down and cried in the toilet. This has to be one of the Dunhamnator’s lowest ebbs – it was so tragic that they couldn’t actually show her crying for fear that it would cause all the moisture in our bodies to come gushing out of our eye sockets, leaving us a sheath of our former selves. In all seriousness, it was extremely effective and the temptation must have been to show Olivia’s sobbing. (Or perhaps that wasn’t a hard decision, it would be interesting to find out on a DVD commentary or something).
- Is the first time that Olivia has cried since Walter closed the blinds on her? In trying to ascertain what tipped her over the edge, it was probably seeing the tattoo on her neck – a mark of intrusion. She must have felt violated, and perhaps worse, she must have felt like she no longer had her own identity. Coupled, of course, with everything else.
- Sally Clark really did a number on poor old Lincoln, didn’t she! Props to the special effects department.
- I also have a feeling that Lincoln might have a thing for Altlivia. He was so invested in helping her despite his condition, coupled with his snarky comment about Frank in the season finale. Speaking of Frank, he actually seems as though he genuinely cares for Altlivia, so perhaps Lincoln was wrong about him?
- When Olivia started blasting Stormtroopers from a thousand yards, I momentarily thought it might be her abilities kicking in, then I remembered Dr. Anderson’s photo of expert markswoman, Altlivia, and that Walternate’s plan was kicking in. (though technically you could argue that her emotions/ability helped transfer these memories).
- It makes me wonder who decided to spare Charlnate? Was it mostly Olivia or Altlivia? Who’s nature/nurture was most in control at that point?
- Olivia confirms that she’s not a hell of shot. While I think she’s still better than she gives herself credit for (I know a couple of shapeshifters who would agree), she has had a few hairy moments with Peter’s head. That boy is lucky to still be alive.
- Is there really only one person at Fringe Division who could make a shot like that? I mean, it was a cracking shot, but perhaps Broyles needs to get more of his troops in for a bit of extra target practice if no-one else is even capable of shooting straight.
- It’s quite fun spotting the differences between Olivia and Altlivia. It must be a blast for Anna Torv to play. It just begs the question, how would you potray a different version of yourself? It might not be that hard a question to answer since we all have different sides to characters – different shades and textures to our personalities depending on our mood, surroundings and needs. It’s funny because these are the kinds of things I hoped ‘Dollhouse’ would explore, and though it certainly did that to an extent, I’m connecting far more with the Fringe approach.
- For me, the most inspirational moment came in the scene between Olivia and Henry. I found the words and the delivery really powerful:
“A few years ago I was in a bad way. I couldn’t pull myself out. But inside I knew I was somebody else, and there was only one person who believed that. Jasmine. She saw the man I knew I was. She was the only one.”
- What I like about that is that we don’t even have to know what it has that Henry is specifically talking about. You can just connect with it because it translates to everyone who’s ever been doubted or written off when inside you know different. This is Henry relating to Olivia’s struggle to find herself. Jasmine and Henry also represent Olivia and Peter. Olivia sees who Peter really is, and Peter (when he can be bothered) understands Olivia better than most. I wish that the season two finale could have had this kind of resonance with me personally, because I can hook into this idea a lot better thanks to Henry. It’s not that the “you belong with me” moment is not without merit – it’s just about perspective, and the writers gave me enough in this episode to understand why I should want Olivia and Peter to get together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not buying a hat just yet, and hold on to your ‘something blue’, but I’m a strong believer in the idea that “sometimes you just gotta believe in what you can’t see.” I hope that somewhere inside, Olivia holds on to these words, because she’s going to need them if she’s to find her way out of Altlivia.
- It’s also interesting to consider whether a part of Henry’s message hit home to the Altlivia part of Olivia (if you get me)? If Olivia can get where he’s coming from, surely it must be possible (especially under the circumstances) for those words to have meaning to something in Altlivia’s life? Perhaps in regards to her mother, or even Frank? It just makes me wonder what happened to make Altlivia the way that she is.
- From the looks of things we’ll be seeing Henry again – he’s intrigued and emotionally invested in Olivia. Join the club!
- Altlivia’s mom calls her Olivie. Olivia responds: “mom?” Again I ask, how much of this response is driven by Olivia and how much from ‘Altlivia’? It could be both, and in truth, I think it is, as we see fragments of Olivia reappear as she begins to freak out.
- It’s also interesting to look at that scene from Marilyn’s perspective – she has no idea this isn’t her daughter. But does it matter – the truth, that is? I ask because it also brings us back to the Walter/Peter storyline, and the foundations on which love and reality is built. From my point of view the truth does matter, but it takes different shapes when you begin to boil down the concept of reality. In truth, reality is just a perspective.
- Either way, Olivia needed that hug and she willingly accepted it. Who wouldn’t, in her shoes? I guess moments like this will only help her to understand Walter’s act of kidnapping Peter a little bit more. Or perhaps it wont – maybe she’ll further confirm to herself that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed – that however near you get to it, you musn’t cross certain boundaries? I like this idea because it shows that life isn’t red or blue, it’s everything in between.
- “Safe house” – I guess even Altlivia needs her sanctuary in times of distress. Nice little character nugget.
- It was easy to get lost in this episode – not in a confusing way, but in terms wanting to investigate the blurring realities. I totally bought Olivia and Altlivia as characters through this singular lens. What gives it more pop is the fact that this approach explored a different kind of duality from the one we saw in the season finale, when we met Altlivia for the first time. On both occasions the same actress is playing the two characters, but it’s the different approaches to the melding of realities that I found intriguing.
“The adrenaline triggered our Olivia’s B memory Lymphocytes. It carried the memories across the blood-brain barrier and successfully transferred the memories, which means for all intents and purposes…she is our Olivia now.”
- As I watched Olivia sitting in the car, I couldn’t help but wonder whether she is perhaps not as lost in there as they think? Could it be that Olivia is pulling the biggest ruse since Big Eddie pretended to exist? There’s that look in her eyes that makes me wonder. Then there’s Olivia’s ability to deceive that I mentioned earlier. Not to mention Lincoln’s earlier line: “She’s good at disguises”. Olivia…is that you?
- I respect Broylnate for telling Walternate that he needs to know what his plans are for Olivia and Altlivia. Like Broyles, he’s in the business of protecting his agents. Funnily enough, I thought this was one of Walternate’s more shady moments. He must have something to hide – something that Broyles obviously wouldn’t like if he knew.
- Oh, and Broylnate. Congrats on the office. Gotta tell you man, you don’t know how good you got it.
- I’m so glad that Congress Dude had trouble understanding why Peter came back from the alternate universe when he could have done something over there to prevent the war. That makes me feel a bit better knowing that someone in the show is questioning Peter’s premature hop-skip and jump.
I thought this was an excellent way to begin the next chapter in this story. It had almost everything you’d want from a premiere and delivered one or two more surprises along the way. I loved the characterizations, themes, mythology, and the way in which it opens the story up for so many exciting possibilities going forward.
This episode was titled “Olivia”, in truth, it could have been called “Olivias”, because we got to explore both in very interesting ways.
One final thought: Walternate may have won Olivia’s mind, but can he win her heart?
Best Performer: Anna Torv
Best Line: “Sometimes you got to believe in what you can’t see.” – Henry
Best Moments: Olivia’s gradual decent into Altlivia.
Episode Rating 9.5/10