Welcome to our review for episode 3 of Fringe season 3 – “The Plateau”.
In this review 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.
- The Opening Scene has to be one of my favorites to date. It was intriguing, captivating and brilliantly orchestrated.
- The Antagonist. It’s not often that I point to the villain-of-the-week as being something to shout about, but Milo (Michael Eklund) was very good indeed. He had an interesting look and mannerisms that made the character authentic. I also appreciated the depth that his story was given through the addition Madeline (Kacey Rohl). While I wouldn’t say that Milo was quite as emotionally resonating as, say, Alistair Peck, he was far more realized than the woefully one dimensional, ‘The Artist’, that the Dunhamnator dispatched many moons ago. I wouldn’t mind seeing Milo again if there’s room, just keep him away from the pens.
- Structure. Any lingering doubts that the ‘mythalone’ hybrid was a sustainable storytelling structure were surely dismissed after this episode. A year or two ago this would have been a run of the mill standalone episode featuring molebabies (RIP) or some other nonsense. Today, I struggle see how the standalone could function in Fringe due to the expansion of the show’s wonderful mythology. As with this episode, we saw a fantastic fusion the two narrative styles, and it worked a treat. The key seems to be that by having the central characters (in this case Olivia) at the heart of the case, you get a much more involving and rewarding episode. By embracing the mythology towards the end of last season, Fringe is now a more layered experience.
- The Direction and Editing. Some of the decisions that were made to capture the subtle nuances of the characters and alternate universe was excellent. The editing was also refreshing and informative. Together they employed some visual techniques not often seen on Fringe. While it might have been considered risky, I thought it helped articulate the rather complicated mind of Milo, while also adding some style to supplement the narrative.
- The Musical Composition. Beautiful and haunting. It worked in harmony (no pun intended) with the acting and visuals. For an episode that delved deep into the minds of two complicated characters, the score burrowed its way into my mind in equal measure. At times, the action became part of the music, or maybe it was the other way around? More importantly, when is the soundtrack out?
- Anna Torv and the characterization of Olivia/Altlivia: The slipping and sliding, melting and melding from Altlivia into Olivia, and back again was a joy to watch. As were the moments of faint recognition – the cracks in the fabric of her false identity. As I said last week, John Noble has some serious competition this season.
- Walternate Token. After three episodes this season (two in the alterverse) I would have hoped for a bit more humanizing of Walternate by now. We got a flicker of it in this episode when he saw Peter’s clothes, and I appreciated that, but I’m eager to explore who this man is in a lot more depth. I hope we get the opportunity because it would be a shame if we’re coerced into ‘liking’ Walter just because Walternate is beginning to act like a token maniac.
- Speaking of which, where’s Eliznate these days? It would be nice to drop in on her at some point, perhaps finally giving us a scene between Walternate and his wife so we can learn more about the dynamics of their relationship. Who really wears the pants in that household? I’m sure they have many plans in that regard, but I can’t help but miss the opportunity so far. Let’s not be like Peter and only drop in just the once before high-tailing it out of Dodge. Her bacon sandwiches aren’t that bad.
- My Low: I thought that the motivation behind Milo’s killing spree lacked a bit of power. Sure, he didn’t want to come off the treatment, but with a mind as powerful as that couldn’t he devise a more effective way of keeping on the medication/not getting caught? Perhaps he didn’t care, maybe he thought he’d keep out-predicting people, but his plan just seemed to lack a bit of weight in my opinion. As for the research company. Really, guys? That’s all.
- After such an emotional encounter with Momma Dunham in the previous Over There episode, I was kinda hoping that we’d get a bit more of that action. All in good time, I’m sure, but it felt a bit disconnected as a result. Not by much and nothing to really complain about, but I noticed it.
- Overt exposition. A tad too much exposition. Walternate and Projection Peter being two of the main culprits. A necessary evil perhaps, but it doesn’t make it good.
- If and when Walternate finds out how Olivia moves between worlds, what will his next move be? Will he open up a Cortexiphan factory? Will he enhance human soldiers with this ability? Will he clone Olivia? Will he activate the weapon? Will he try to abduct Peter? What is the next phase in his web of webs?
- Walternate wants Olivia to submit willingly. To help them to understand how she is able to move between worlds. They are attempting to spark her ability so that they can figure out how she does it.
- Frank Stanton is a virologist. This presumably explains where he had to go in the season 2 finale.
- They have pigeons in the alternate universe, but pens are extremely rare in this day and age (since Altlivia was in pre-school).
- Avocados may also be rare in the alternate universe.
- Altlivia didn’t have a close relationship with her sister R@chelnate before she died.
- Milo was treated with drugs that made him a super ‘genius’, able to trigger series of events in such a way that he could manipulate their outcomes based on the probability of peoples actions.
- Milo was unable to manipulate Olivia’s death because he didn’t factor in that she’s not from that universe – if she had been she would most likely have stopped for the oxygen dispenser and that predictable action would have led her into Milo’s death-trap. Instead, she kept running like Kate, and Milo didn’t predict that.
- Olivia’s ‘visions’ of Walter and Peter were actually representations of her subconscious, indicating that the ‘real’ Olivia is still fighting to hold on to her identity, despite Walternate’s plan to flood her with her alternate’s memories.
- I thought it was great the way Milo‘s story supported and paralleled Olivia‘s. Both characters are lost in their own minds, struggling to maintain the connection to the ‘reality’. The way Milo saw the world also spoke to the show’s themes of the ‘road not taken‘ and the increasing integration between machine and human – the slightly more advanced alternate universe perhaps serving as a cautionary tale. I also found it interesting to compare Milo’s use of probability, to predict the choices that people make, to the Observers way of perceiving different paths. Very interesting stuff.
- I’m really enjoying Olivia, Charlnate and Lincoln. In fact I like this version of Charlie more than the original, who was a solid character, but not nearly as charismatic or interesting. Seeing these guys bounce off one another along with their moments of compassion gives me the connection to Over There that I was looking for. I like these people, and I like the fact that I can envisage both Charlnate and Lincoln taking care of Olivia if/when they find out that she’s not their Olivia.
- Speaking of signs, stand UP ‘Over There’ and give yourselves a giant chocolate-chipped cookie! Your boy Charlnate obviously has his spidey sense intact. He not only realized that something was off with Olivia, but he actually questioned her about it. This is more than can be said for the jokers Over Here, who seem blissfully unaware that their glitching Olivia is not their Olivia. I’ve heard many people claim that the audience has an advantage because we’ve known about the switch. For me that’s missing the point somewhat – of course we know about the switch, but even if we didn’t I can guarantee that I would have questioned why ‘Olivia’ was acting so out of character in the first two episodes (heck, I did it in “Jacksonville” and other episodes last season, so you bet your bottom dollar I would have in the first two episodes of this season), and I’m sure many other people would have too. While it’s cool to look for excuses for Peter and company, it doesn’t stop it from being a glaring contrivance, in my opinion (especially when you consider that in the past Peter has been the one to notice when Olivia’s not acting herself). So well done to Charlnate for being suspicious of an Olivia who actually has a more plausible excuse (‘mental breakdown’) for acting strange than Altlivia does.
- I love how protective Broylnate is of Altlivia. I’d really like to see more of his character and how he differs from Broyles, but it’s good to see these little glimpses of concern for his agents. I also find it interesting that he’s not totally on-board the good ship Walternate – he’s able to question the Silver Fox and his methods. There’s a conscientiousness in that. I also like the fact that he questioned the effectiveness of the treatment, implying that Olivia’s nature may override Altlivia’s memories:
Broylante: “You don’t know how this Olivia will respond in the field.”
Silver Fox: “We have no other choice”
- There’s always another choice, Walternate! C’mon, I thought you of ALL people would know that by now. Please don’t get ignorant on me after I’ve offered you my patience and understanding.
“She needs to be completely immersed in agent Dunham’s life”
- I get what he’s saying though, and the above quote illustrates something that is brought up later – that Walternate is still very much a scientist. You can take the Walter out of the Lab, but it seems that you can’t take the Lab out of the Walter. Ooh, I just stumbled upon another nature vs nurture question.
Silver Fox: “You don’t know what we have to gain”
Broylnate: “Which is what exactly?”
Silver Fox: “Sit down at your lovely desk. She can move between worlds. We have discovered some ways to cross over. But each comes with their own dangerous consequences, but she..she can cross without harm.”
- Firstly, I continue to be intrigued by the fact that Broylnate hadn’t been told about Olivia’s talent prior to this. Why had Walternate kept him out of the loop for so long – did he think he’d disagree with his methods? Also, that twitch that John Noble delivered was fantastic. I don’t think I’ve seen a better eye-twitch in all of television since 2009.
- The following was probably one of the most important exchanges of the episode:
Silver Fox: “Phillip, if we can learn what she knows..”
Broylnate: “We can begin to defend ourselves”
- So Broylnate sincerely believes that this is a war of defence and not one of aggression. Intwisting! While we already had this impression, to actually hear Broylnate express his outlook is extremely useful, because it further helps us to understand that the other side aren’t necessarily the bad guys (or all working from the same sheet) – ‘they’ believe that they are at threat from Over Here’s brutality/recklessness. Of course, there’s also the question of whether Walternate is being entirely truthful about the extent of the threat, and more significantly, the policies that he is adopting to solve them. If his people falsely believe that they are fighting a ‘necessary’ war with little or no choice for alternative action, then there’s your season 3 or 4 finale.
- The thing is, while I’m sure that Walternate isn’t being entirely truthful about every little detail (he did ‘lie’ in his ZFT book, after all), we do have other points of reference as to the dire consequences that await the worlds. Bell and Nina (and possibly Walter) have at various stages all implied that only one world can survive. But it’s worth considering whether Walternate is jumping the gun somewhat in his bid to solve the situation by aggressive means. Of course, it’s now about preservation – the other side suffer every day with anomalies and rifts – their world is falling apart at the seams. So how could Broylnate or anyone at Fringe Division argue with Walternate’s plan, however unethical?
- They could. It wouldn’t be easy, but if it was discovered that Over Here have a better chance of survival, that too much damage had already bee inflicted upon the Over There universe, and that one world had to go for the other to survive, it’s possible that some people on that side would be willing to help preserve Over Here – the ultimate sacrifice in the war between worlds. But for this to happen, for the people Over There to to get anywhere near to that kind of thinking, they’d have to experience some sort of shift, be it spiritual or something momentous to cause them to believe that humanity on either side of the divide is all part of the same whole. So it wouldn’t be so much a sacrifice, but a way of doing the right thing on a universal scale.
- But how would an entire world come to that conclusion? Surely everyone would have to agree to diplomatic resolution. Truth is, it wouldn’t happen. Too many people see war as a necessary evil to be able break that cycle? How could they collectively agree that another world was worth more than theirs? It’s incredibly complicated, and that’s why no matter what his policies, Walternate will have his supporters who will advocate fighting to the death (not that he’s a man of war, oh no).
- Naturally, what I’d like to see happen is the powerful Walternate himself have a change of heart and do his best to find a more peaceful solution, because ultimately the fates of these two fragile worlds seemingly rest in the hands of so very few. This is why I was so disappointed in Walter’s crappy attitude in the last episode – the worlds need the best of him if they are to stand a chance. He doesn’t get to hide away in his hole. Not after what he helped bring about.
- And while I don’t approve of what Bellie did, a gatekeeper could come in handy in all of this. Failing that, I guess we could all pin our hopes on the Observers having the interests of both worlds at heart.
“And what if her new identity doesn’t hold?”
- Thank you for asking, Philnate!
“Then she’ll no longer be necessary”
- Walternate, you and I may well be on a collision course – I trust that you don’t mean what I think you mean!
- Good to see Lincoln Lee healing well. I’m looking forward to finding out more about him and his history. I liked how he brushed off his run in with ‘Olivia’ in the season 3 premiere and didn’t make her feel bad about it.
- I found the idea of Milo using pens to start chain reactions interesting because it amplifies some of the episode’s other themes. A chain reaction can be looked at as a trigger to a series of events – which brings science to mind when I think of this, particularly Walternate’s comment later in the episode about still being a scientist. He’s effectively dropped Olivia (his pen) into this big science experiment to initiate a series of events to help him find out how she travels between worlds. In many ways, this reflects Peter’s abduction – the so called ‘zero event’, which triggered everything that went before. But is Olivia mightier than Walternate’s sword? We’ll see.
- How does Walternate’s desire to find out how Olivia moves between worlds tally with his grand goal? I guess being able to move between worlds with the knowledge to control it would be very useful indeed. It would also enable him to abduct Peter back before the big red button is pushed. Maybe he’ll use it to pass through to a third universe as a fail-safe against both worlds being destroyed. Unlikely, but who knows.
- As an aside, how will the shapeshifters feel when/if they’re no longer needed by Walternate? Newton must surely be conscious of the fact that he and his boys might have an expiry date (in usefulness, if not lifespan). Perhaps I’m being unfair to Walternate – maybe he sees them as being just as human as he is and will always have a place for them by his side?
- Good old Frank. He cooks for Olivia, which is more than R@chel has ever done. Maybe the other side isn’t so bad after all, right Liv?
- I don’t think Frank is with Altlivia for the money. He seems to really care for her. As suspected, Lincoln’s claim (season 2 finale) was seemingly out of jealousy. He obviously has feelings for Altlivia, having kissed her in past. It’s interesting to see that he doesn’t share Charlnate’s suspicion about Olivia. It plays into the idea that love alters perception. Lincoln is blinded, kinda like Peter on the other side, and wont allow himself to see things as they are. Charlnate on the other hand, is not impaired in this way (he has also experienced her deception in the season 2 finale, so that experience has heightened his outlook).
“For the record, you cannot tell those two apart”
- While their nature is most likely derived from the same stock, there are many noticeable differences – especially on Altlivia’s end. But I know what he means.
“Astrid, we see impossible everyday”
“You see improbable“
- Great stuff.
- Interesting how Altstrid was so certain that the chances of the accidents being intentionally caused by a pen was impossible, while the others who are not as ‘machine-ready’ were more open-minded. The suggestion seems to be that while machines offer humanity the next step on the ladder of knowledge, there are some limitations to these benefits. Machines are clinical, but they lack emotion and the ability to imagine. (except Bad Robot who gets very excited as he runs through that patch of grass).
- I wonder if being proven wrong will cause Altstrid to reassess the system – it has to at least cause the ‘Lookers’ to modify the boundaries of the possible.
- Alstrid is more animated than I expected her to be. She’s lost a bit of sheen, but I continue to be intrigued by the small undercurrent of emotion that she displays.
- In my review for “The Box” I spoke a lot about the way the episode lends itself as metaphor for the continuous cycle of repeated actions. This episode brings these ideas to the fore with Milo’s ability to predict what people will do:
“Your only action will be inaction. That’s your pattern. Ninety-seven percent of your actions prioritize relational bonds over other variables. Eight out of nine times you avoid making decisions that could result in a negative outcome.”
- Are people really that predictable. Yes, we can be. Which is interesting in itself because if we are so predictable are humans really free, or does freedom only come when we act outside of the system?
Madeline: “You didn’t expect that did you? Because you’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel emotions. You’ve forgotten us. Mom gave you this as a reminder. That you didn’t have to do more than you were able to. We loved you”
Milo: “That’s irrelevant now”
- Yikes. Milo has moved beyond human emotion, he doesn’t see the world in the same way or have the same connections as he used to. As much as his treatment has made him this way, he’s also chosen this path to an extent – you can see that because seeing the reminder affected him. Of course, this plays with what Olivia’s going through and the idea that she will have to make a choice – one based on emotion, on what she can’t see.
- I feel sorry for Milo. I hope that he remembers who he was and finds his way out of the sea of code that he is currently in. Much like Olivia, he will need to find that emotional core to escape.
- What I appreciated about Milo’s ability is that it’s actually quite believable. We all predict things correctly, perhaps more often than we realize. We might not break the probability down into code but there’s a kind of auto-pilot that does that for us, to a extent.
- In my episode review for “The Box”, I mentioned the possible significance of spirals and how they symbolize the pull. In this episode Astrid talks about the “infinite spiral”. Just a spooky little tidbit.
“His thoughts now can only be interpreted by a machine”
“So the machine is talking to him”
- It’s probably no coincidence that earlier in the episode Altstrid’s machine-human interface was unable to predict Milo’s actions, yet by the end of the episode ‘only a machine’ can understand his thoughts.
- The scene where Madeline touches Milo’s hand – and it appears that just for a brief moment he notices the emotional bond – before he continues doing his thing. Heart-breaking. Such a good little performance by both actors, wonderful music, and just fantastic shots to resonate the scene. These are just little things, but you can do so much without words, and this is a neat example. (Milo was muttering, but you get my point).
- I’m not feeling Brandonate as much as I did in the premiere. He seems to have lost something. I enjoyed what he did in that first episode so I was a little disappointed to not see those nuances carry through. I liked his discussion with Walternate though:
Lover Boy: “Do you miss it?
Silver Fox: “Miss what?”
Lover Boy: “Being a scientist”
Silver Fox: “I am still a scientist, Brandon. I just have a much larger laboratory”
- Chilling. Absolutely chilling. But fascinating. Absolutely fascinating! Firstly, I’m so glad that Brandonate’s little mind is curious enough to wonder whether Walternate misses science. Then to effectively have Walternate confirm that his role as Secretary of Defence is a means to a greater end, opens up a whole box of worms as far as I’m concerned. Walternate never hung up his lab coat, he just expanded his horizons and the worlds are his lab. If Walter felt insecure about visiting Bellie’s Massive Dynamic, he’s gonna wet himself with inferiority when he finds out that Walternate’s Lab is much, much bigger than his. 😉
- But it’s the mindset that terrifies me more than anything. As you know I’ve issued patience when judging Walternate. I have great difficulty slinging him to the lions when Walter is basically getting away with his immorality on the other side because he wears a grandpa hat, farts, and had the foresight to cut out the parts of himself that he didn’t like (what a hero, not). But I can’t let Walternate slide on this one. I’m not happy that he’s being presented as the clown villain, and I don’t agree with that choice, but he is clearly warped. He hasn’t just crossed the line, he has become the line – his own ethical barometer.
- While I can understand his desire to protect his world (and make no mistake, we’re talking about HUGE stakes here), it’s his words, his rhetoric, that is beginning to make me uncomfortable. And the fact that he seems to be enjoying it is extremely worrying me. I mean, is there a Walter in the multiverse that isn’t a crazy SOB? Seriously.
- I’m still holding out hope for him, but he needs to at least stop enjoying playing ‘god’ before I’m willing to break out my “Walternate Rulez” T-shirt.
- As for Olivia seeing Walter and Peter – I’m so glad they did this. It’s something I’ve been speaking about for a looong time – the idea that the subconscious mind can project itself onto reality. Arguably this is what Olivia experienced when she saw the Bishops. Her subconscious is trying to help her to remember who she is by manifesting in the form of Walter, and more significantly, Peter. The kiss was part of that recovery process – Olivia is essentially kissing herself which is both weird and totally awesome at the same time! What I particularly love about this is that there are so many levels to it. While I wont go into all of them here, it’s interesting to note that essentially ‘Olivia’ is emotionally invested in two men. Both of them are essentially echoes to her right now, she’s totally confused as to which one feels the most real. This isn’t a chick flick (although I sense there are some romantics in the writers room), it’s a really interesting exploration into love, choice and identity.
- It also emphasizes how much Peter and Walter have shaped Olivia. In the two or so years that they’ve known her (technically it’s been longer for Walter), they’ve left their imprint on her subconscious. She’s retained these fragments even though she’s been flooded with the memories and traits of someone else. It illustrates that the people who mean the most to us are always with us. It’s not just about memory though, in my opinion, it’s something deeper.
- And it’s not lost on me that once again in an episode that is Peter-lite, I find the idea of them being together more resonating. I also thought that the kiss had power, it felt sincere, and I didn’t lose my lunch. So there you have it, as long as Olivia’s kissing ‘Projection Peter’ then I’m good. 😉
- Another way to look at Olivia’s ‘vision’ is to wonder whether Walternate and Lover Boy had anything to do with it. We know that they want to ‘spark her’, and we know that the alternate universe ‘Bra & Panties Tank’ has been cracked open. Though to be honest, Olivia’s subconscious is strong enough to be pulling Olivia back to the surface on its own accord. The B&P Tank will probably come into play in later episodes.
Projection Peter: “You’re not from this world Olivia. You’re not her”
Olivia: “You’re not real”
Projection Peter: “Real is just a matter of perception. I am here, and I’m a part of you that you have to hold on to. You can’t forget who you are Olivia. You can’t forget where you’re from. You can’t forget this”
- Olivia totally looks like she’s been caught doing something that she shouldn’t be. Poor Frank. Sorry to tell you that your real girl is on the other side getting wild with Peter, but thanks for looking after our Dunhamnator.
I thought this was a wonderful episode that brought together themes of identity, memory, love, revenge, fate, choice and so much more. It was a melting pot of Fringey goodness, an intelligent leap into the deep end with a playfulness, verve, and creativity that has to be appreciated. The measure of this episode is that despite its strength, I feel that there’s a lot more to come.
As for the title, in some ways it’s fairly accurate in that Walternate wants Altlivia’s memories to become fixed inside Olivia, although as we know she’s still fighting away down there. As a bit of fun, I like to call this episode “The Plate-AU”, for obvious reasons.
Meanwhile, in a land where people don’t know their Olivias from their Altlivias..
Best Performer: Anna Torv
Best Line: “You can’t forget who you are” – The subconscious projection of ‘Peter’
Best Moment: Olivia seeing Walter and Peter – taps into so much of what I’m interested in.
Episode Rating 8.5/10