Welcome to our review for episode 2 of Fringe season 3 – “The Box”.
In this review we don’t hold back – we give an honest opinion on the good and not so good aspects of the episode. We find out what answers were provided and what mysteries remain locked away. 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.
- Newton and Altlivia Dynamics. I loved the scenes between Altlivia and Newton, there were some real moments of gold between them, with Newton showing more compassion and foresight than the ‘human’ Altlivia, who pulls rank when she realizes that she might be slipping under the illusion of her new reality. What is particularly great about their dynamic is that it mirrors the rivalry that Newton has with Olivia. It’s an nice little parallel that invites us to ask further questions of the inherent nature of the two Olivias, and indeed, that of Newton. Are some people born to rub others up the wrong way? What is it about Newton’s ability to swiftly identify the ‘weaknesses’ of both Olivias like a shark to blood? Interesting stuff.
- The Mythology. Perhaps even more so than last week, I thought the mythology was engaging and gave me a lot to think about. I liked the use of the box as a metaphor and the ways in which it plays into the overarching story. The fact that we are not done with it by the end of the 42 minutes was cause enough for celebration for those jaded by the open/shut cases of the past.
- Context. After last week’s episode in the alternate universe it was good to touch base with those Over Here. While I did miss Olivia in this episode, I’m digging the ‘pendulum’ episode structure as it gives both universes more context in terms of the overall story.
- Anna Torv. I completely buy Altlivia as a character in her own right. John Noble has a serious contender this season.
- Guys, This Is Not Our Livia. Last week I was worried by what looked like the team being totally oblivious to the fact that Olivia is acting really really really different than normal. Sure, love can alter perception and escaping from the alt-reality could unlock previously dormant aspects of a person’s character, but for me, the team have to be really gullible to buy that this is their girl. I find this particularly hard to swallow since they actually know about the doubles on the other side. Had they not ventured there in the season 2 finale, I could perhaps accept their lack of awareness more, but Walter, Broyles, Astrid, and especially Boy Wonder, are completely unquestioning of the visible change that ‘Olivia’s has seemingly undergone. While might be a necessary contrivance, I think more could be done to ensure that the team don’t look like they left their brains in the alternate reality.
- The Altlivia/Peter situation. It’s funny how last week – an episode barely featuring Peter – I was closer to buying the idea of Peter and Olivia being together. The fact is, whenever I’m reminded of just how little romantic chemistry Peter has with either Olivia, the more I realize that while the ideas being implemented are resonating, the actual characterization of this ‘love’ just doesn’t hold weight. They are just not love material in my eyes. Go back to standing 4 paces behind Olivia and maybe help her turn a few out lights, Peter – that was a more believable relationship.
- Contrivances and Cut Corners. Why did Altlivia yelp “Petah!?” when she saw him through the spyhole? Why didn’t she pretend that she wasn’t in? (he even offered to come back later!). And then when she notices the pool of blood, why does she jump him like a wild mongoose? Did she expect to straddle the boy to sleep or something? But what I found really jarring is the fact that they didn’t show how, exactly, Altlivia managed to get Peter out of her apartment without him seeing the massive puddle of blood that seemed to be developing voyeur tendencies. Because, you know, it means that the entire scene was more about having them kiss for the faux tension, rather than follow through with the consequences of Altlivia’s skulduggery. It wasn’t quite a Charlie ‘Furnace of Death’ moment, but it brought it all flashing back with fire and brimstone. I also found it contrived that for some reason the box didn’t close when Peter retrieved it. What broke it exactly – Eric’s exploding head?
- For an installment about a mysterious box I found it ironic yet disappointing that one of the episode’s biggest reveals was ruined by the cat being let out of the Massive Dynamic bag several weeks before the episode aired. This ruined the Walter/Massive Dynamic reveal for me.
- Horrifying signs that Walter was becoming the caricature of old.
- Not enough tension amongst our team considering they know that the end of the world could be around the corner. It’s somewhat surprising that they’d be bothering with a case that they didn’t already know, or believe, to be related to the alternate universe. They lucked out this time because the alternate universe drama came to them (thanks Newton!), but if a Molebaby turned up would it be really wise to deploy time and resources, Broyles?
- Where and when does the Doomsday machine come from? Why does it have component pieces buried Over Here?
- Why did Walternate want Peter to find the Doomsday component part?
- What ‘work’ does Walternate want Altlivia to do on Walter?
- Newton has been ‘Over Here’ since Altlivia was in high school – up to 18 years ago (approx). While Newton’s arrival may have been a measure of retaliation by Walternate, it should be noted that, if Rebecca Kibner is to be believed, people from the other side were spotted Over Here as early as 1979 (approx).
- Newton likes music – He grooves to Bono, but prefers music from his own side. Bono is not a famous music artist Over There.
- Walter, Peter and Altlivia have been back for two days. This suggests that the events Over Here are indeed happening parallel to the events Over There. The previous episode implied that Olivia had been captured 2 days ago.
- The frequency from the opened box emitted an ultra sonic wave that induced a vegetative trance to those in its vicinity.
- An episode about a desirable object buried underground and no Molebaby? What kind of madness is this!
- With this episode being titled “The Box”, it’s not surprising that there were some obvious analogies to other box stories, including Pandora’s Box and “The Box” (movie). What I took away from this is that on a larger level the box represents choice and mankind’s curiosity causing people doing things that they shouldn’t. This idea has several layers which bleed over into the episode. It all plays into the idea of not crossing the line – a prominent theme of what I believe to be Walter’s sad regression.
- I thought it was a fitting analogy for the wide-spread devastation that Walter’s one act of opening the box, AKA kidnapping Peter, had on an entire world. For me, this leads onto the notion of consequence and the idea that every self-interested or negative action has an almost self-initiated ‘Payback Machine’ which hurts not just the wrong-doer, but society at large. The implication being that it is this negative cycle which determines the fate of humanity. People blame God or bad luck, but what if all the ills in the world(s) are a direct consequence of our collective bad choices, perpetuated by more bad choices?
- Again, we can see this in our story, with Walter disregarding the ‘rules’ of the universe by crossing the void to kidnap Peter – an act which brought him self loathing and the loathing of those around him. An act which has brought an entire universe to the brink of destruction. An act which activated the icy hand of revenge through Walternate’s attempts to destroy Walter’s world – a bad choice propagated by a bad choice.
- So if you take this viewpoint it you could say that it’s left to the younger generation, armed with wisdom, to be different. To make the right and moral choices, to break the cycle. This is partly why I was so disappointed last season when Olivia decided to collude with Walter by lying to Peter. Not just because it harmed the integrity of her character, but because it was the wrong thing to do. It was a lie driven by self-interest. And guess what, this bad choice led to Peter going to the other side, which led to Olivia getting trapped there – boxed in by the memories of another. Of course, there are many other spiritual or metaphorical ways that you can look at it, but I found it interesting to approach it from this standpoint.
- What is interesting now, is the fact that Peter wants to understand the device so that he can use it for good. This represents the ‘hope’ that remains in Pandora’s box. But to heal both worlds, will ‘the line’ have to be crossed once more? And if the box, on a broader scale, represents the secrets of the universe – this would suggest that whoever designed the ‘laws’ wanted realities to be separate for a reason. Is this all a test for humanity?
- The Newton/Altlivia scenes were great. We got some good answers and some really interesting character insights. And while Altlivia’s tattoo will no longer be a problem as far as any neck massages from Peter goes, does this mean that the tattoo itself was never really all that important? Personally, I still think that the symbol has meaning that will surface at some point.
- I’ve always found Newton and the shapeshifters engaging. It’s interesting that the show has decided to keep us guessing as to whether Newton himself is a shapeshifter or a human. I’ve said a lot about that already, but I continue to be fascinated by this guy. He’s always been Mr. Cool, but he was even looser in this episode. It’s was interesting to find out that he likes music, even if the music Over Here isn’t exactly to his high standards. It makes me wonder why that is – is it a prejudice on his part, or just personal taste? He’s very ‘patriotic’, and I think this bothers Altlivia to a degree. In her arrogance she seems to view him as an underling – a second class citizen, perhaps due to him being a shapeshifter, maybe due to the mercury in his blood, or possibly because she doesn’t like the way he undermines her. Let’s not forget that in her world, she’s a hero.
Altlivia: “Well, he’s easy on the eyes”
Newton: “Careful. Their side may be alluring, but don’t be taken in by it – they started the war..remember?“
- Newton latches onto Altlivia’s comment and possibly takes it out of context. Is this because he senses that she’s falling for Peter, or the Over Here world in general? Has Newton fallen fate of the Over Here allure himself, or does he know people/shapeshifters who have? Perhaps even more interestingly – is there really such a pull which causes people from the other side to gravitate towards the Over Here world?
- A random thought. A very common occurrence is nature is the spiral. Does this spiral represent an even bigger spiral which joins the Multiverse, intrinsically luring other universes into one another – in a spiritual sense of not a real one?
- That said, the idea of something ‘on the other side’ being exotic is not a new one. So while I’m intrigued by the possible underlying context, I’m also happy to take Newton’s words of advice at face value.
- I’m also intrigued by Newton’s patriotism because it’s something that several of us picked up on last season, particularly in the episode “Grey Matters”. He says that the Over Here world are the evil-doers, the deceivers – the force of his words hit their mark. What interests me is whether he genuinely believes in what he is saying? Is Newton programmed to take this hard-line viewpoint? Or is he basing his views on his own experience and outlook?
- In regards to Newton’s human, or otherwise, status – if a shapeshifter or hybrid, can experience what it’s like to be human? If they can truly know and show compassion, does that make then human? That said, being human depends on what our definition of human is. Another way to examine what it means to be human is to look at the soul – does Newton have a soul? Was he given one by Walternate? Is it our place to give entities souls?
- Going back to Newton’s line, I love how he says “remember?”, as if Altlivia has forgotten what side she’s fighting for. This also plays into the memory issues that Olivia is currently struggling with on the other side. I’ve always wondered what makes Newton so grounded – is it his memories that have kept his perspective intact after all these years on ‘foreign’ soil?
- And should we be worried by his rather blinkered outlook? Because, as much as I swoon over The Newt, I do have some concerns about his red and blue distinction between Over Here and Over There. From my perspective, it’s not an us vs them war – it’s never that simple, or at least it shouldn’t be. What we are seeing is not only a self-manifested war, but mankind fighting against themselves on every level or metaphor you want to imagine, top to bottom.
- I just find these little glimmers into Newton interesting as they help build up a picture of his perspective on life. It’s clear that human or not, he also has shades of duality. He’s fiercely loyal – at least on the surface, but as we witnessed last season, he’s often far more compassionate than the human characters on the show. There is one moment that brought this idea back to the forefront – it came as Altlivia asked whether he used his own men (shapeshifters) for the box retrieval job. Newton says:
“No, I don’t want to burn my resources”
- Newton didn’t want to send his own men to their death. He hired Over Here humans instead, knowing that they would open the box and die. This is useful to me because I previously commented on the lack of camaraderie amongst the shapeshifters – when one of them dies there’s no closing of the eyelids, let alone an RIP testimonial. However, what Newton (who seems to be different from his men in this regard) displays here is a sense of compassion – at least to his own ‘kind’. Maybe you could argue that it was a strategic decision because Walternate can only send over so many shapeshifters. But I prefer to look at it the other way and speculate that Newton is not without the ability to access a core part of what it means to be human. Of course, I’m saying all of this while at the same time Newton essentially killed a bunch of Over Here people, so you’ll have to take that with a pinch of salt. But that said, he is a soldier – and he displayed more courtesy to Eric than Altlivia did when she assassinated Box Man.
- Finally, I did like how he went along with Altlivia’s power move. You can see that it burned him, but he knows that before all is said and done Altlivia will probably need him to take charge. And that handshake from Walternate last season now has even more power. I still want to know whether The Newt has dreams and aspirations of his own though.
- I don’t have too much to say on William Bell leaving Massive Dynamic for Walter. I think the possibilities are sensational (Walter reclaiming his ‘Prometheus’), but it was spoiled for me by one of the pre-season interviews that disregarding the principles of the Mystery Box, so the impact wasn’t nearly as huge as it should have been. I liked the scene between Nina and Walter though, and seeing her reaction to the gift that Bell left her was a rare humanizing moment. I’ve always thought of her as Bell’s right hand woman, so it was nice to see that he saw them as being one another’s right hands.
- Oh Walter:
“I’m trying to make chocolate milk. Or rather, I’m trying to make the cow make chocolate milk.”
- Speaking of wacky things, Walter’s return to Massive Dynamic momentarily reminded me of Charlie walking through Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory.
- I know that Walter was trying to distract himself with the cow – he’d rather ignore the very real threat of the Weapon because he doesn’t want more guilt or responsibility. But I’m sorry, Walter, as Peter later says, you have to take responsibility for your actions. Don’t bring Oppenheimer into this and start pointing fingers. It’s moments like these that make the distance between Walternate and Walter extremely small. In fact, that might be doing old Walternate a disservice! At least he doesn’t have to make fart jokes to make me feel sorry for him.
- I see nothing brave or admirable in Walter’s ‘ignore it’ stance. I’m not saying that he should “cross the line” and cause more devastation. Fact is, the line was crossed about 10 miles back. If he doesn’t try to find a peaceful solution to the problems he helped triggered then who will? From my perspective, Walter is continuing the cycle of ‘the box’ – he’s thinking about his own interests. He’s got ‘his’ boy and now wants to remain in his sheltered little box of a reality. As much as Boy Wonder is still wearing tights, he at least showed a bit of fortitude in this episode. Perhaps it goes back to curiosity, and perhaps he may be tempted to cross the line at some point, but at least he’s trying to clean up the mess that his fathers have made. Shame he didn’t do that on the other side, mind, but better late than never.
- Altlivia smiles and says “Hi!” to Astrid. Has Olivia ever said “Hi” to Astrid, let alone smiled at her? Poor Astrid, just when she thinks that Olivia is starting to like her.
- Nice ‘save’ Petah:
Altlivia: “What you didn’t like the red hair?”
Peter: “Well I’ve always preferred blondes. But you did make a very sexay redhead.”
*a bead of sweat forms on his forehead*
- That guy. Does he even know what he’s saying anymore? Seriously, how deep do you want your hole, Peter?
- “The more I think about being Over There, the less real it seems” – This ties into what I’ve been saying about the alternate reality being like a dream in it’s own right.
- Bell’s last will and testimony was a tender affair. I particularly liked the message that he left Walter as it serves as the ‘chapter of ethics’ to his ‘don’t be afraid to cross the line’ note:
“Walter, we gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom. By now I trust you have ample reserves of both. I hope you’ve forgiven me.”
- The distinction between (if not fusion of) knowledge and wisdom is an important one. Interesting that Bell hopes for Walter’s forgiveness, especially in light of Walter’s own struggles in that department. If there’s an afterlife in Fringe, I wonder where Bellie is? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reanimate as a robot or some other electrical device.
- I wondered whether Nina would be jealous by Walter’s acquiring of Massive Dynamic. She didn’t look angered, more unsure. Poor woman, instead of overseeing advancements in time-travel, she’ll be overseeing chocolate-making cows.
- Despite my dislike for Walter in this episode, I’m glad that he didn’t jump at the chance to ‘cross the line’ either.
- There needed to be a bit more context as to his and Bell’s rotating views on the ethics of science, and thankfully this episode gave us a bit of that. It’s still not a perfect fit, given what we know, but this does help illustrate how the two men propelled each other forward into new territories of exploration. Walter’s initial measure and Bell’s early adventure flip-flopped to the point where they ended up with slightly different perspectives.
- As for Astrid’s litle pep talk – sorry, don’t buy it. Peter doesn’t ‘have’ to understand anything. It’s been two days. Having made the rather absurd decision to return, give the boy time and space. I’m surprised he can even stand to be in the same room as Walter, let alone understand why he did what he did. Astrid may be loyal (to Walter) but she’s clearly not seeing the bigger picture here. That said, this is the same girl who didn’t seem bothered for very long after he stabbed her in the neck.
- Just like Olivia in the previous episode, Altlivia talks to herself: “You have photographic memory, how am I going to do that?” I can’t recall Olivia speaking to herself before, so to have it effectively happen twice in the space of two episodes is an interesting narrative choice. It’s as though they are speaking to their collective iterations across the multiverse. It’s probably just to help viewers get their bearings.
- Now here’s my biggest problem with Walter in this episode. It comes in this conversation with Peter (I wont quote all of it, just the main part):
Walter: “When I saw that you were dying too, and that I was the only one who could save you..”
Peter: “You kidnapped me, Walter. You took me from my family, from my world.”
Walter: “I didn’t plan to..that was not my intention. I love you, Peter. And if I had to make the choice all over again, I am not sure that I’d be strong enough to act differently“
- During the summer (it might have been the rewatch), I said that Walter’s one redeeming factor may come if (or rather when) he is presented with a similar choice as the one he faced when he decided to kidnap Peter. So hearing him all but admit that he would probably do the same thing again, particularly in light of the box symbolism of this episode, I find that pretty disturbing, and it’s a huge blow to my ability to like the character. That being said, he does cite a lack of ‘strength’ and not wisdom as being his potential downfall, so I do still have some sympathy with him in that regard. I also accept the fact that he now knows that what he did was wrong. But ultimately it’s about choices, and today I am far from convinced that Walter would be able to break free of the cycle and make that change.
- Altlivia goes down a few pegs by killing Box Man. Newton shows some faux compassion, but on this occasion it seems he was more interested in pushing Altlivias buttons while perhaps making a deeper point. Altliv doesn’t let him down as she dispatches Box Man with a token “sorry” – which he couldn’t even hear, as if somehow that is going to save her from whatever consequence the universe will eventually send her way. I’ve spoken a lot about the nature and nurture of the two Olivias and the ways in which they are the same and different. This is one of the differences between them – we haven’t seen Olivia murder someone in such cold blood before, but like I’ve said in the past, Olivia can be wild when she wants to be. She’s Dunhamnated enough people in her time, including her step dad, and to a lesser degree, Walter. But is Olivia capable of Altlivia’s level of disconnect? I’d say yes – under the ‘right’ circumstances, but naturally..emotionally, it would be much harder for her to reach such extremes. With that in mind, it’s not about nurture vs nature – it’s more about degrees of both. And again, it comes back to choosing and breaking the cycle.
- And Peter – a booty call, really? Don’t pretend that you went to Dunham’s just to let off steam about Walter. I’ve got my eye on you, and truth be told, I don’t think you could handle the Dunhamnator.
- Peter issues perspective:
Altlivia: “We all know how hard this has been on your Peter.”
Peter: “No, you have no idea, I saw what Walter did. I saw the quarantine zones. I saw all the damage that he causes, he destroyed their world, My world.”
- Altlivia defends Walter – something Olivia herself would do. Of course, for Altlivia it’s all an act – or is it? I ask the question, but I think it might be a bit of both. She’s obviously there to do a mission and she doesn’t want her world destroyed and all, but as Newton hinted, there may be something about her perspective that’s not completely red. I actually think this would make for a rather balanced individual if she weren’t so murderous. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to take a step back to see where Peter and Altlivia’s viewpoints converge. I’d be interested in find out more about her outlook and what her attraction is with Over Here, if indeed there is one. And has she even met R@chel and Ella yet? Listen Altliv, the only thing you need to know about Olivia’s sister is that she can boil up a pot of water like a champ. I trust Newton has told you that?
- As I mentioned earlier, I do like the fact that Peter is..wait for it..taking charge. It may be a season later than promised but it looks like he may be getting there. The idea of Peter fighting his ‘fate’ is a big concept that ties right into my slant on the box and what it represents on its deepest level. Can he alter his path, or has it been predetermined in some overarching way since birth, or before he was even conceived? Is fate-fighting a concept only realized in an alternate universe, where different choices culminate in different paths, or can this Peter become more than the machine that his future currently reflects?
Peter: “Am I supposed to destroy worlds too? Because I’ll be honest with you, I don’t want to turn out like Walter.”
- It’s moments like these when I think that Peter could make a late charge for my affections. He’s not quite lost that Plot Device Petah vibe, but he does display some admirable qualities when he can be bothered.
Altlivia: “Petah, the truth is, I’m scared too”
- LOL! So NOT scared. Peter really should have twigged at this point. I mean, when Olivia says she’s scared, she means it, because either Peter’s glimmering or a building is about to arrive from the alternate universe. All joking aside, this crystallizes one of the current differences between the two Dunhams – Olivia has a fervent fear center, while Altlivia doesn’t so much as bat her eyelids at the prospect of being quarantined – in fact it amuses her. Which is what you’d expect since her job and her world are kind of extreme like that.
- “The last few weeks have been hard on all of us” – Altlivia has done her research, thanks Newt.
- As for the device, why did Walternate want Peter to find it? Will its allure somehow enable him to control or influence Peter from the other side?
- Newton seems to know a thing or two about human nature, and even throws in a ‘mystery box’ reference (although obviously it pre-dates JJ. Abrams’ famed metaphor):
“It’s a box”
“What’s in it?”
“As with most things in life, the reality would pale in comparison with one’s imagination, and er, isn’t it better to wonder?”
- It’s interesting to note that Newton looks behind him as he walks away – he knows that the curious Eric will open the box and that it will kill him, and he seems to show just a hint of…pity.
- Exploding head! Ah, the pitfalls of too much curiosity and poor dental work.
- Considering the nature of her job back home and the importance of her mission Over Here, Altlivia risking life and limb to save Peter (aka keeping the mission on course) is not that surprising.
- Broyles’ reassuring words gives Walter the push he needed to head for the line – this time, hopefully, armed with wisdom and a moral compass. Better make it two.
- “Begin Work On Dr. Bishop”. Bloody hell Altliv, you gonna seduce him too? I’m surprised Walternate didn’t call him “That Kiddie Stealing Monster Under My Skin”. Gotta say, I continue to LOVE Altlivia’s now trademark ‘lookey up with glee and menace’ at the end of an episode. It almost rivals Olivia’s ‘lookey over the shoulder’ trait.
- I missed Olivia more in this episode than I did Walter and Peter in the previous episode. Interesting.
This was a good introduction to the current affairs of Over Here – a big step up from last season’s equivalent in both tone and relevance. I guess this one goes down as a ‘mythalone’, which continues to prove that this show needs more than standalone elements to make it tick.
For me this wasn’t as good as the great “Olivia”, and I’d very much like to have the two Bishops re-test for their IQ, because if they believe that they’re with Olivia then Over Here is in serious trouble.
Poor Olivia – leader, warrior, forged in the rings of Saturn, travelled the universe for her man..forgotten in both realities. If you don’t know her now Peter, you’ll never know her. But then, I always said you weren’t suited.
This episode was titled “The Box”, and you can’t argue with that. As an alternative, I’d call it: “The Cube”.
Meanwhile..in a reality far, far away..
Best Performer: Anna Torv
Best Line: “Isn’t it better to wonder?” – Newton
Best Moments: Newton questioning whether Altlivia is slipping under the influence of Over Here.
Episode Rating 8/10