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'Fringe' recap: Over Here

October 1, 2010 |  6:41 am

302_thebox_0423 Looks like "Fringe" didn’t do too well in the ratings last week. "Fringe" was so low on the list, it wasn’t even mentioned in The Times’ ratings roundup. Though it did beat out CW. (Take that "Nikita.") I hope this just means more people are watching "Fringe" online or TiVoing it for later. Based on the first two episodes, I’m ready to place my bet that Season 3 will be the best season of "Fringe" yet.

Last week, we got to see how Olivia is doing over there. Answer: not good. She was imprisoned and pumped full of her counterpart’s memories. She escaped, but all her attempts to get back to our universe turned into dead ends. In the end, she seemed to succumb to the new memories and return with "other side" Charlie Francis.

This week, we flip back to our universe. Or universe prime. Or the blue universe. Bluniverse. And it's just like coming home. The episode starts off with unknown men holding a suburban family hostage while they dig up a mysterious box in the basement. Ah, yes. The nice, comforting "what the heck is going on" opening. That's old-school "Fringe" topped off with the classic credit sequence. I'd almost started to miss it.

So, yeah. There’s a familiar-looking box that kills people when it is opened (except one guy who may or may not be dumb). Got it. But more important, how is Bolivia blending in to our side of the looking glass?

Pretty well, it seems. Not all on her own. Thomas Jerome Newton helps her out quite a bit. If you don’t remember, he's the leader of the shape-shifting, mercury-filled soldiers from the other side. Luckily, Newton has been gathering intelligence on our Olivia and the Bishops, and he has a book on pop culture that looks like he bought it from the discount rack at Barnes and Noble. I'm sure the smiley face and classic cars are really going to help Boliva blend in. I would have liked to see Bolivia's reaction immediately on arriving in our universe, what differences and similarities she noticed. But there's way too much else going on.

The Bishops continue to deal with the repercussions of their trip to the other universe. Walter mourns the passing of his friend, William Bell, by complaining about his generic obituary. One of the wealthiest, most mysterious men in the world dies and the headline is "William Bell, founder of Massive Dynamic, is dead." That’s a generic obituary.

Meanwhile, Peter discusses the doomsday device Walternate built on the other side. Walternate is missing a few pieces; the most important is the weapon's power source, which happens to be Peter. And if Peter wasn't torn enough about his real father's machine, Walter adds fuel to the fire with a little story of how Oppenhiemer was convinced to build the atomic bomb for America before the Nazis built theirs and ended up killing countless people in the blink of an eye.

In improvisational theater, they have what's called the Harold. In a rough nutshell, a Harold is a performance piece that commonly has three separate story lines working off a central theme. When done well, all three story lines merge together by the end. "Fringe" worked just like a Harold, weaving Bolivia's, Walter's and Peter’s stories together, all with the theme of "the Box."

For Bolivia, "the Box" is part of her mission. Those random guys digging in the opening worked for Newton under Bolivia's orders. Unfortunately, one of the two guys Newton hired decided to bring his cousin, who proved immune to its effects. (Did you realize before Bolivia that the cousin was deaf? I figured it out when he was reading her lips. Something about how his cousin said he was "not dumb" stuck out to me).

For Peter, "the Box" is a piece of his father’s doomsday device. Peter turned his back on the alternate universe, still not comfortable with his past. He won't even listen to Walter's apology/reasoning for what he did. Plus, now he's dealing with a more dancing /kissing Olivia. There were some questions in the comments last week about whether Peter knows Olivia is actually Bolivia. I'd say when a hot blond wants to jump you, a "new look at life" since coming back from the other side is as good of a reason as any. Sounds great.

For Walter, "the Box" is a safe deposit box. Walter is involved with the hunt for the mysterious box, but his main focus is the reading of William Bell's will. Walter goes to Massive Dynamic to meet with Nina, hear Bell’s last thoughts and get their inheritance. Walter's includes a key to the safety deposit box and a note that says "DON’T BE AFRAID TO CROSS THE LINE." What a dangerous statement to say to Walter Bishop. "Only those who risk going too far can possibly know how far we can go." Kinda scary to hear him say that, and then giving him control of Massive Dynamic is like handing him a gun.

Everything comes to a climax in a dramatic subway scene. Walter's solution to defending against the ultrasonic death sound was pretty ingenious. (Though I almost wish they would have left out all music while Peter was deafened by the gunshot.) The exploding head was a nice touch, and the oncoming train was the perfect kicker. That slow sense of dread as Peter realized the tunnel was getting brighter. So good.

I hope more people were watching this episode for so many reasons: To see how good "Fringe" has become, to get addicted to the show and, most important, to see that they quoted my blog in the promo for next week. Thursday night has become "Fringe" night.

Groaner -– The humor of "Fringe" can be hit or miss. Nine times out of 10, Walter cracks me up. But that tenth time out of ten is a fart joke. Silent but deadly? "Fringe" made up for it with the massage parlor joke.

Astrid Action -– Astrid has become the Jiminy Cricket to Walter’s Pinocchio. I was afraid she was going to be stuck assisting in the lab or making grocery runs, but Astrid also got to be the angel sitting on Walter's shoulder, telling him what he should do. She urged Walter to tell Peter his side of the story, and she was the one Walter came to when he found out he now owns Massive Dynamic. I don’t think I could ask for more Astrid Action. Wait, I can. Give her her own episode!

Spot the Observer -– Had to look online again. If you look close, you can see him walking into the subway station as Newton is walking out. But more important, did you spot what they were working on in Massive Dynamic when Walter showed up for the reading of the will? Did Massive Dynamic invent the Federation transporter technology? Could have sworn that came from the Vulcans. Then again, who founded Massive Dynamic …

-- Andrew Hanson

"Fringe" recap: Over There

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Complete "Fringe" coverage on Show Tracker

Photo: Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv in "Fringe." Credit: Fox