'Fringe' season premiere review: 'She's our Olivia now'

Grace be unto you and peace, Fringe admirers, Cortexi-fans, and Frewbies; the third season of the great parallel-universe saga has finally made itself manifest. The episode entitled “Olivia” was both superb and surprising. After last season’s slam-bang, two-part “Over There” finale, I expected the producers to do one of two things: offer either another sinuous sensory overload to match that finale, or a let’s-build-our-base, Beginner’s Guide to Fringe catch-up episode.

Instead, we got something different: a beautifully emotional hour with suspense, humor, and kissing. And 98 percent of it took place Over There, in the world where our Olivia is being held captive by Walternate and his minions. (I’m going to pause here to savor the first time in months that I’ve typed out the term “Walternate.” It feels mighty right.)

The night began with Olivia interviewed by an alt-world therapist who met with clinical skepticism our hero’s flat insistence that she’s being held in the bloodred world against her will, steadfastly denying that her work partners are Charlie Francis and a quite badly burned Lincoln Lee. Observing (if you’ll excuse the expression) via hidden camera was Walternate, who informed an aide (whom we know on our side as the beloved, thick-tongued lab rat Brandon, considerably spiffed-up here) that the “dosing” of Olivia with “transfer[red] memories” from Alternative Olivia wasn’t proceeding fast enough to his liking. In as close as the episode came to a bit of catch-up exposition, Walternate said in that purring yet clipped tone John Noble employs so marvelously, “We are at war with creatures who’ve damaged the very fabric of reality…. [Olivia] is equipped to move through universes…. We need her to help us understand this skill…. If not, soon there’ll be nothing left.”

After that articulate throat-clearing, it was time for a little throat-punching — specifically, Olivia feigning physical distress to break out of the lab, fight off a succession of guards, and leaping into cold night water to the island of Manhattan, but not before looking over her shoulder to reveal that she’d been held captive inside nothing less than the Statue of Liberty. Olivia then jumped into the cab of a driver played by Andre Royo, known to all sentient humans as Bubbles from The Wire. Thus begins the best taxi-ride dialogue since Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann’s Collateral. Royo’s Henry Higgins (?) (Olivia as Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady?) thinks, initially, he’s dealing with a babbling nutcase with a big gun. He also remarks upon Olivia’s tattoo — that’s right, as a freebie with her memory transfers, she’s been given the same sort-of-star-shaped tat that Altivia has on the back of her neck. Olivia had Henry drive her to the theater where she last saw Walter, Peter, and her compatriots, only to discover the place is being glazed in amber, the alt-universe method for containing what its government terms a health risk. (That this is a controversial policy is confirmed by picketers outside the theater, carrying signs saying things like “Amber = Death.”)

Back at Fringe division, Colonel Broyles and an Agent Farnsworth sporting a black beret and camouflage fatigues are spinning out data and tracking Olivia; Lincoln and Charlie are dispatched to a gas station where Henry is filling up for the drive to Mom’s house in Tarrytown, N.Y. Olivia makes an explosive escape, adjusting her aim to miss Charlie and blow up a gas tank as a diversion. Couple things here: If Olivia is so invaluable to Walternate, why is everyone shooting at her? Do they all just have tranq guns? And while it’s nice that Olivia wasn’t shooting to kill Charlie, I’d say a gas explosion very near the poor, worm-riddled agent is quite life-threatening to Charlie, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, Olivia’s unerring aim is a giveaway.  The memory transference is taking hold, because as we see in a photograph, Altivia is nothing less than an Olympic-medal-winning shooter.

Olivia had Henry take her to 18th Street and 10th Avenue, the address she knows as the location of the Massive Dynamic offices, but here, the site is a park. And not just a park, but the “Martin Luther King/Eldridge Cleaver Memorial Park,” suggesting that MLK was not assassinated, and that there came to be a kinship between the nonviolent reverend and Cleaver, the Black Panther militant and author of Soul on Ice. When I saw Farnsworth’s beret-and-camo outfit, the first thing I thought of was the Panther uniform; I wonder if there’s a connection here.

Searching for another location for help and information, Olivia gave Henry the address of her mother, who died when Olivia was 14 but who’s alive in this universe. Amy Madigan made the most of a brief appearance, conveying her pleasure and anguish at seeing Olivia, and grappling with the cry “I’m not your daughter!” by soothingly responding, “Then how did you know to come here?” We also heard Olivia say “Frank” (Altivia’s boyfriend) when she meant to say “Peter” in talking to Henry.

“The treatments are working,” Walternate said, viewing everything via omniscient technology, to Brandon, who said, “No, it was the adrenaline [of Olivia’s escape] that triggered” the implanted memories: “She’s our Olivia now,” he said, chillingly.

A bit later, Colonel Broyles asked Walternate the questions we’ve all been asking during the Fringe hiatus: “Why is she our Olivia Dunham? Why is it necessary?… You’re embedding one of them on my team and you’ve embedded my agent with them.” But with an imperious flick of the wrist, Walternate said to Broyles and us, “You’ll know soon enough.”

I think we pretty much know already: An Olivia whose body possesses all the Cortexiphan-aided abilities that she has, and an altered mind that thinks like a loyal Altivia, is a prize indeed. A super-soldier, in sci-fi and comic-book terms.

And then came the episode’s coda, as we switched for the first time back to our world. There, Peter gave a statement to a government smuggie, whose primary response after hearing Peter’s extraordinary tale of uni-hopping was “Why did you come back?” We know the answer to that: Walter; Olivia.

There was a lovely scene between Olivia (really Altivia) and Walter, who are waiting outside for Peter. Walter is chomping on Oreos. Altivia notices Walter’s shoes — Wallabees — and asks, “Are you bringing them back?”

“Where did they go?” said Walter, startled. It was a wonderful mixture of old, befuddled Walter and new, alert-to-universe-travel Walter, and he genuinely didn’t know which way Altivia’s question was pointed.

Peter emerged and kissed Ol/Altivia as the episode ends. Do you think he could tell the difference between the two women’s kisses, the firmness of their lips, the ardor in the pressure applied?

A great way to start the season, and next week: an episode set in our world. With an appearance by someone from a completely different universe: Howard Stern’s.

Some observations on the fringe of this episode:

• Security is tight-bordering-on-the-fascistic in the Alt-Universe. Not only does Henry ask Olivia for her “show me” ID before starting the meter, but the cab has (and presumably all cabs have) a built-in tracker. Big Brother Walternate is always watching.

• Disease/infection is widespread over there. Olivia warns Henry he needs to update his typhus shot, and there are always those jokes Charlie has to suffer about the worms inside him.
• The ad for the Glatterflug airline that appears during one of the taxi scenes is for the same airline whose 2008 flight 627 landed at Logan Airport with all its passengers dead in the pilot episode.
What did you think of the Fringe season premiere?

Follow: @kentucker


Comments (224 total) Add your comment
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  • toonaspie

    I was so depressed after watching this episode. I just hope Olivia isnt brainwashed for very long.

    • jw

      I had the same reaction. It was very distressing seeing our Olivia manipulated that way. I expect is wears off, though.

      Also, there are Glatterflug flights daily to the moon.

      • here at work

        I think Olivia is smarter than that, I kinda thought she turned herself in and was just “playing along” so she could find a way home.

    • tipsy

      Anna Torv brought her A-game into this. Amazing performance. I suspect that the taxi driver will be crucial in Olivia regaining her memories. He knows about Peter and obviously believes that what Olivia told him isn`t just loonie jibberish.

      • Lulu

        no doubt. Anna was amazing. I love the way the taxi driver waited for her to get picked up. They definitely haven’t seen the last of each other. Also: LOVED the entire “coda”. The exchange b/w Walter and Altlivia was so… perfect. And Peter has to have no idea, at least not from only having kissed the real Olivia once. If anything Alt will give it away, assuming they’re a “normal” couple already.

    • Kay

      Yeah, I kind of hated how she ended up getting brainwashed. I was hoping the cab guy was gonna end up helping her somehow.

      • trishka

        I agree with another poster – although she is obviously fractured, I think she is playing possum by the end of the episode to lull them into thinking the transformation has taken hold.

    • AmyB

      Just because she has access to AltOlvia’s memories doesn’t mean she is brainwashed. She could have reasoned if she plays along she would get farther working from the inside than running.

      • MC

        I agree with AmyB. I was really depressed that she was turning into altlivia, but then i thought that maybe she’s just realizing that she has access to these memories now, so she would be better able to deceive those in the alt world and play it up that she’s their olivia in order to come home. either way, i LOVE this show. probably my favorite on tv right now. i love that the writers and producers realize that it can’t always be peaches and cream and that we can’t always win. definitely excited for the rest of the season, just hope it doesn’t get cancelled due to low ratings.

    • Farida

      Leo You will want to make sure you are taking care of tghnis with your low back. I would suggest hitting the mwod to find tghnis that you can do to help with this situation.You will determine the number of repeats taking into account your ability to maintain proper mechanics for the time or distance. Maintaining proper mechanics will also help not to aggrivate your low back. Yes, stay with the prescribed distance or time on tempo/tt wods. You may want to enter a 5K or 10K as you are training for your marathon as a check in and it will allow you to see if any changes are needed to how you prepare on race day.

  • Duncan Houst

    OMG! If Fringe’s ratings continue to drop after this, I will lose my mind.

    • Bob

      Fantastic episode. I loved all of it, from the story to the interaction with Olvia and henry. It was all around awesome, no doubt

  • Kimberly

    Tonight’s episode BLEW MY MIND! It was everything the creators promised us – and more! Even though I’m a huge Peter/Jackson fan, I won’t mind him being featured predominantly in every other episode if they’re all as well-crafted as this one! Seriously, I can’t write about this without using exclamation points after every sentence!!

    • Shaun

      I had to read that twice… I was wondering what “Peter Jackson” had to do with any of this!

      Aside from John Noble being in Return of the King, I mean.

      • typeg98

        I think they meant that PETER Bishop is played by Josh JACKSON. Although, just like the did the joke that in the Alt-universe “Back to the Future” starred Eric Stoltz, maybe they can do a joke where LOTR was directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

    • PRbabe

      isn’t that nice, you actually WANT to see Peter underused, wasted, bashed, criticized all because Olivia is better than everyone else? I hate this show and I want it to be cancelled!

      • Silent Rage

        Go watch your Dawson’s Creek DVD’s while the rest of us enjoy GOOD storytelling.

      • Ashley

        Come on, that sounds bitter. Fringe is always interesting no matter who is in it

      • Em

        Beware: troll

      • Dicazi

        I want to see fascinating characters relling a great story. If that means one or two of them are absent an apisode or tow, that’s fine.

      • PRBabe

        Is that right Dicazi? Well don’t you dare complain that Peter didin’t have much to do, all right?

      • Dave

        I recognize PRBabe. Changed your name, did ya? Still a nutjob, though.

      • mike b

        if you hate this show than why did you bother to watch it. You must have watched it last year to see what happens in the first episode of season 3.If you don’t like this show then stay off of this blog and watch something else more to your mentality like the biggest loser.

      • Ripley

        Shut up PRBabe! Nobody likes you nor do they want to play with you. Stay out of the sandbox.

  • Shaun

    I mostly liked it, esp. Olivia’s “Great Escape,” (about time we see her fight like a trained agent!) but I was left feeling slightly underwhelmed by the end. I’m willing to go with the idea of transferred memories, but how would that suddenly make her an expert shot? I’m also unclear on how much time has passed. Lincoln has healed greatly, and Charlie has a full head of hair.

    Henry’s going to be back… That much is obvious. My guess is that his daughter is dead, or trapped in amber, and his past troubles had something to do with that. He’s going to be a valuable ally for Olivia. Speaking of, have the memories fully taken hold, or is she faking it since she knows she’s stuck?

    The ending, with Peter, Walter and BOliva, seemed tacked on. Was Peter’s testimony being taken seriously or not? It seemed too much like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also can’t believe Peter doesn’t know it’s not “his” Olivia. I guess he’ll have to learn that the hard way next week!

    • PRbabe

      Thanks Shaun, criticizing Peter. AS ALWAYS!

      • Manuel

        Hi Kaitlin, thank you for the quick reply.My back is better I just need to uerafcl with heavy lifting. Running and conditioning are fine as long as I spend plenty of overtime stretching out my quads, calves and hips.Could you recommend good reading to help me learn about better mechanics. I will be purchasing a pair of inov-8s soon to help.Thank youLeo

    • D

      re; how Lincoln has healed so fast and how they made Olivia an expert shot was explained a bit before, in the finale as Walter was healed by the advanced medical/healing capabilities “over there” and we’re assuming that if one is able to completely assimilate another version on oneself’s memories, that would include muscle memory and insticts/responses as well… just a guess so now Olivia is now Fauxlivia… but I’m going to guess that Olivia’s abilities will eventually allow her to separate between her memories and Fauxlivia’s hopefully without being split personaities…

    • Jay

      It’s not the first time Olivia has had to deal with someone else’s memories being put into her head (remember John Scott’s memories are in there as well from season one where she was thinking his memories were her memories). Her brain must be getting crowded.

    • Em

      Could Peter prefer Fauxlivia? Do we know how long he was over there/what happened while he was there? I feel like that was left a little bit vague last season…

    • Arbaaz

      153 KB Swings Rx 65 Box Jumps Rx 75 Push Press, 70# on bar 61 Kcal on the C2SWIM: 4 x 200m2:19 2:20 2:18 2:10 (had iotpetimcon)Today was fun. My iotpetimcon in the pool was a fellow triathlete. I’ve been trying to convert him to CrossFit Endurance, but he’s new to triathlon and endurance altogether so he’s addicted to LSD right now. I killed him the pool I finished 50m ahead of him in 200m (50m pool). Still not a believer.^ HE’S MY MISSION.

    • Elmedina

      musicminds247May 28, 2011 People that are complaining about the price, larley haven’t done their research. For example, this week at HH Gregg you can get THIS TV, a 46 Samsung 3D LED, with a Samsung 3D Blu-Ray Player, 2 pairs of glasses, a WiFi connector for the TV, and all 4 Shrek movies on Blu-Ray 3D for only $1419! Now that’s a lot of dough but put into perspective of state of the art electronics, that’s a STEAL!

  • Britt

    I love Olivia’s escapes. First in season one and this episode. Her action sequences are fantastic.

  • Jay

    It was a great opening episode. My only concern is how far the season goes with the alt-olivia serving an espinage role in our world. The idea that she is sort of spying for the alt world will get in the way of the normal stand-alone episodes and such and it could get tired. I don’t want a whole season with both olivia’s just assuming each other’s roles. But yes, a great start.

    • D

      I’m wondering if it might turn out that Fauxlivia might come to feel something for Peter and living on “our side” that she might start sympathizing with our heroes….

      • Ashley

        I think AltOlivia will start feeling something for Peter and she might not want to live our universe and him.

      • Chappel

        I kind of seeing it heading that way, with Fauxlivia eventually sacrificing herself to save our dimension. It’s right out of the TV writer handbook.

      • Ashley

        I think it will be more interesting to see AltOlivia getting back to her universe and trying to live her old life after what she’s gone through in our universe, if she can adjust or if she misses the people she left behind

      • starina

        Heads up Ken Tucker… the moniker “Fauxlivia” is much better and smoother sounding than “Altivia”. Altivia sounds too much like that yogurt that regulates your bowels. That is all.

      • Em

        Agreed: Fauxlivia FTW. Altivia = “speeding of digestive system.” Thanks, Jamie Lee Curtis!

      • schmitty

        i think “olivielse” is better than both altivia and fauxlivia

      • saint of E. 69th st

        peter will get to have a three-way with both olivias and start a new religion where people from both universes can have “fun” with all kinds of kinky match-ups…

      • Dicazi

        I’ll take ANYTHING but Bolivia!

      • Ana

        c12cI just hope the fringe team has the nod from fox to make hontaer season and many more for the future to come, because fringe is the best show on tv .please, please, fox keep with fringe and don’t cancel the show, there will be alot of peed of people else.d12

  • Blue Sunflower

    Yeah, not watching. Couldn’t give a flying fig about Olivia. Maybe I’ll tune in next week instead.

    • samara

      No, what you’re going to do is come back with the same old blase “Fringe is not good enough for moi” act. Please get a life.

    • Silent Rage

      Blue Sunflower I’m willing to bet you’re one of those irritating women always asking “why’d they do that?” “what’s this mean” all because your silly as only watches episodes you deem worth your time…pathetic really.

      • barb

        Silent Rage – I think you meant “you’re” silly not “your” silly.

      • AB

        actually Barb, you’ve made yourself look like an @ss, which is what SR meant to say: your silly @ss

      • Silent Rage

        thanks AB…didn’t know if EW would edit out “@ss” or not so I went with “as”…over all it sounds about right lol.

    • aurelia

      Man, the creepy Peter fans are creepy this week. I mean, I love Peter, but I love the show; the Joshua Jackson cultists don’t even seem to watch “Fringe,” just look at his face when he’s onscreen and assume that, if it’s not, it’s a deliberate insult.

      • PRBabe

        Well, maybe if peter wasn’t so damn underused all the time, us Josh Jackson cultists wouldn’t be complaining. It doesn’t help that John and Anna are getting emmy buzz playing two different people while Josh won’t be in every other episode and will not have his own big moment, all people see him as is merely Pacey 2.0.

  • Andrea

    I liked the episode, but I thought it was a little bit slow going at first. Other than the cab driver, I also thought it lacked the humor that Walter usually provides. I’m a bit worried that the episodes that take place on the Other Side will always seem a bit lacking. I am definitely looking forward to next week though.

    • Barb

      Gotta agree. I was losing interest / getting bored with the episode and the cab driver was the only spark in the show. Hopefully next week will pick up (at least our Walter is back on).

    • mood

      you gotta look for the humor….didn’t anyone notice the ad for the broadway play on the cab? DOGS classic

      • mood

        oops…..didn’t read far enough into the comments….sorry ’bout that. still…..dogs instead of cats is just classic

  • Kimberly

    Hence the forward slash :) My prediction is that Peter will learn about the change during the “couch seduction” scene next week; John Noble spoke about it in one of his interviews. Who knows though – this show keeps ya guessing!

  • darclyte

    I love how they let us know that the episode will be taking place “over there” by having the opening titles in red. So over there it’s “Dogs” on Broadway, not “Cats.” I wonder how they managed to keep the Statue of Liberty bronze and not oxidized? President Kennedy is still alive at 93. I didn’t quite catch what he was doing, but I thought that the broadcast on the radio said that he was retiring from the Supreme Court? Also, I wonder if Peter & Altvia are doing the deed? I’m thinking yes. Altvia sure takes “undercover” literally. How w-e-i-r-d will it be when Olivia finds out, and Peter finds out that it wasn’t Olivia. D’oh!

    • darclyte

      Oh, and I can’t wait for the next episode. Ack ack. Fly me with balloons…

    • TMB

      I think they said Kennedy was an ambassador…

      • darclyte

        Thanks!

    • darclyte

      Whoops, I meant keep the copper from oxidizing, and that maybe their statue is made with bronze. I kinda mashed that thought together.

      • Dicazi

        Copper can be sealed, or they regularly clean it. And bronze oxidies too.

      • darclyte

        Yeah it does, but not the same way and is easier to maintain.

    • JBL

      Dogs. Hilarious! Loved that. I always look around “over there” for subtle twisted differences.

      • Pop Culture Bystander

        My husband recognized the camo pattern in the uniforms in the beginning as one the Army considered and rejected a few years back. I love Fringe’s attention to that kind of detail.

      • thesilentobserver

        @Pop Culture Bystander – WOW. Really? That’s amazing. My love for Fringe (which is crazy already, I might add) just got doubled. :) <3

  • Anjali

    WHAT A FANTASTIC EPISODE!!

    Anna killed it tonight!!! Wonderful work!!!!

  • ziggy

    Amazing return to form. The unexpected emotion and action were great. Anna Torv can do anything! I ADORE the addition of Andre Royo to this show; he was captivating in this episode and I can see potential for developing his character…I look forward to more of him!

    • jet

      I liked how Andre talked about the hard times he had been through and how he overcame them. It made me think of Bubbles at the end of The Wire.

  • weremallard

    Okay, mostly I loved this episode. It was beautifully acted all around. But really- memory B cells? Really? I’m a Harvard medical sciences graduate student. I’m perfectly willing to be a free science consultant. I can’t be the only one.

    • Tarc

      Just go with it weremallard. If you worry about the scientific accuracy of *any* media, you’ll go nuts. heck, most article in the press where they actually interview the scientists themselves end up being complete nonsense. It’s what happens when the nation is 94% scientifically illiterate.

    • P Diddily

      With all of the CRAZY things that have happened on the show(alternate universes, time travel, teleportation, climbing through walls, etc.) memory transfer is where you draw the line of believability? Just watch the show and enjoy it and stop being such a doofus!

    • Dicazi

      Or they named something from this world something different over there.

    • Ne Oublie

      Oh weremallard! Just have fun and go with it.

  • CyrusV

    Ken, great review! Just an observation, but I think the crack Charlie made about worms refers to a past episode where (the original) Charlie got attacked by a hybrid monster and had to get treated for bleeding worms, or arachnids.

    • Xandria

      Charlie was impregnated by the monster larvae. I assumed they couldn’t figure out how to cure and put them in suspension or something instead.

    • Wilson

      Actually, while that DID happen, the Charlie from Over there was being treated for arachnids…Its in the first scene of “Over There, Part 1.”

  • Cy

    By the way…it was great to see Bubbles (from The Wire)

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