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Memory Lives On Forever: An Advance Review of the Third Season Premiere of Fringe

When we last saw Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), she had gotten left behind in the alternate universe while her place with her friends was co-opted by her dark-haired doppelganger and the extraordinary second season of FOX's Fringe ended with our Olivia a prisoner of the Department of Defense.

Season Three of Fringe begins not with one opener, but with two, as "Olivia" and next week's "The Box" pick up the pieces of where we left off, offering not so much a window into the lives of the Fringe Division members, but two distinct windows into "over there" and "over here."

The effect is as intoxicating as it is compelling, establishing from the start that we'll be tracking the goings on in both dimensions throughout the early part of the season. But rather than confuse the viewer, the season opener(s) offer the perfect jumping on point for new fans as well as the die-hards who are dying to know just what that final reveal means for Olivia, as well as for Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter Bishop (John Noble).

The producers have wisely stuck to the color palettes established last season to denote the place of origin: over there episodes are bursting with red, from the crimson-hued opening sequence to vermilion lens flares throughout the episode, whereas over here episodes use the blue that we've come to know and love throughout the series' run. Its effect anchors the action and relegates it to a particular sphere, reminding the viewers of just which dimension they're in and where the plot is unfolding.

And unfold it does. "Olivia" picks up some time in the future, as Olivia Dunham is continually interrogated by agents of Walternate, the Secretary of Defense, even as her caretakers believe her to be suffering a psychotic delusion. They maintain that she is the Olympic bronze metal competitive shooter Olivia Dunham; she maintains that she's from another world. What is a Fringe Division agent to do?

While I don't want to spoil the plot twists that lie ahead in tonight's episode, I will say that Olivia crosses paths with a cabbie played by The Wire's Andre Royo, who attempts to help Olivia... Help with what? Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? Royo is perfectly cast here as a sympathetic cabbie, even when faced with the danger trailing Olivia in the form of her alternate reality self's partners, Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) and Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo).

As Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello has already reported, Royo will be making a return appearance on Fringe down the line. Which is a very good thing as he's not only excellent here but might be a deus ex machina for Olivia as she finds herself plummeting deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole over there.

Likewise, Torv does a fantastic job of portraying two vastly different aspects of Olivia Dunham, two women connected by an invisible thread whose lives have turned out very differently. Or have they? What defines us? Our experiences or our innate characteristics?

Meanwhile, what's happening on the other side of the looking glass? Hmmm. I will say that we get a snippet of information in "Olivia" that displays the circumstances that Walter and Peter find themselves in when they return from their cross-time caper. But fans will have to wait until next week's "The Box" to really see the Bishops--and Astrid (Jasika Nicole)--in action, as it offers an episode wholly set on their side of the dimensional divide as Walter grapples with the death of William Bell and the aftermath of rescuing Peter once more.

As for what that episode entails, I'm sworn to secrecy, but I will say that Alternate-Olivia's plans become far more clear as she begins preparations and gets closer and closer to Peter Bishop. Let's just say that last season's creepy trans-dimensional typewriter makes an appearance, an innocuous box is far deadlier than it appears, wood floors are hard to clean, testaments are made, and all tattoos can be temporary... All this, plus an eleventh hour plot twist that both makes sense entirely and is also wholly surprising, one that could alter one of the foundations of the series itself.

Is that vague? You bet. But stick around for the superlative first two episodes of Fringe's third season and you'll be rewarded by some taut storytelling, intriguing plot twists, and an appearance by the much-missed Gene the Cow. What else do you really need to hear?

Season Three of Fringe begins tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on FOX.


wackiland said…
Yay! More Gene! Boo! Only half as much Peter!
bierce said…
The fall season has finally begun for me!
Anonymous said…
Master of the understatement you are! Wow! Was the plot twist you referred to what Bell had left to Walter!? Is there even more exciting twists?!

Hope you will keep blogging about Fringe!


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