Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Fringe" Review: "Alone in the World" (**1/2)

I've heard opinions all over the wall on the general direction of this new season of "Fringe", and I absolutely agree and disagree with them. Yes, the show has seemed almost aimless without Peter, but I think there's so much more purpose in that. Last season, Peter was the driving force in the war between universes, and now that the war is over and Peter is gone, what is the point? That's the question that a great deal of these characters are asking themselves in these first couple of episodes. They are in their lives, but with no purpose to them. Olivia's stepfather is dead, and that was so much of what was driving her. Her own preparation to never be a victim, should he ever come around again.

This week shifts focus to Walter most prevalently, and it raises something very interesting to me. If you're completely new to the series this season, Peter is the overarching mystery. In the first two episodes, Walter is clearly losing his mind quite entirely. He's seeing a strange man in the lab, and hearing voices that are taunting him. He has every reason to believe that it's a part of his psychosis, and watching him grapple with that lucid realization is absolutely heartbreaking. It's yet another moment when we're reminded of how robbed John Noble has been in the past, and continues to be now. He's one of the strongest working actors on television, and he's been ignored largely.

I'll continue to ignore the case of the week as long as I have to, because it is incredibly weak and schmaltzy. The moments outside that, focusing on Walter, are undeniably the strongest. Walter's breakdown in front of Broyles is one of those strong points of worry, but it builds up incalculably to that final scene between Walter and Olivia. I think that speaks volumes about the changed relationship between the two. They have a bond greater than they ever had in the first three seasons. Olivia is the child that Walter never had the opportunity to have, not to mention his support. And to Olivia, Walter is that father figure she's never had herself.

Don't get me wrong, because I have a strong love for Peter and Walter, but I think that the chemistry between Walter and Olivia is so much stronger here. It's such a beautiful relationship, and it could never have happened while Peter still existed. In any case, it's such a startling moment of horror, fragility, and then revelation, as Olivia reveals she's been seeing the same man in her dreams. In a completely new series, this would be a massive revelation, and should not be significantly downsized just because it isn't. After three episodes of laying the groundwork, we're now making significant headway.

Continuing on with Olivia, the fact that she's been seeing Peter in her dreams only reinforces that awkward moment when she reaches out to Lincoln in an act of support, but also as an attempt to receive support. The two of them have a solid relationship going on between them, but I have theories that a similar titillation is also rising for Olivia and Alt-Lincoln. Yes, I'm still holding onto that, because it's such a strong possibility. Fact of the matter is, Lincoln on our side isn't quite so familiar with Alt-Lincoln, so when that happens, and what happens with it, will be interesting to see transpire. And I think I'm correct in assuming the love triangle twixt Olivia-Peter-Fauxlivia has extended to bring in the two Lincolns. Hell, Alt-Lincoln was already a factor last season.

So... about that stupid case of the week. Oh, I know it drives forward those points on Walter and Olivia, but it's an adequate accompaniment to "6B" as far as overt sentimentality goes. Hell, the climax of both of those is exactly the same, and neither really works. The boy has a psychological attachment with a deadly virus, whom Walter affectionately names Gus, and all he has to do to survive is let go of it emotionally. Ignoring the obviously lacking storytelling factors there, I could've written that scene to be better. How? Have Walter tell Aaron that he's going to die, otherwise millions could die, bring back Walter's guilt for shattering the universe in order to save Peter, and have Aaron let go of Gus knowing that Walter won't leave him.

I'll give one huge appreciation to the score of this episode, and it's to Chris Tilton's credit that he's made himself known as more than just a Michael Giacchino sub-in. I imagine Tilton should have a strong career after this show is over. Other than that, not much to talk about. Noble is brilliant. Torv is brilliant. The other side was as absent as Peter this week, but appropriately so. It's not like they had a place in the story of this week. Here's hoping they have some sort of presence next week. Also, when will we see Kirk Acevedo again? I know that's a qualm from last week, but can "Prime Suspect" just be canceled already? Please!

SIDE NOTE: Is it a bit curious that they keep emphasizing the fact that we still haven't heard back on the "Human Shapeshifter" tech from the Pilo.... er... season premiere? What is Walternate up to over there?

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