Friday, October 01, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 2: "The Box"

For as exciting and intriguing as most of this episode was, I think I walked away from "The Box" feeling most impressed by its functionality and structure. This is an episode that managed to integrate a return to the "monster of the week" quasi-standalone element that Fringe is still built upon, an advancement of the Fauxlivia/sleeper agent storyline that's driving the show right now, and setting the stage for more season-long story drivers in both the Doomsday Device (one that looks like it's powered by Peter himself), as well as Walter inheriting Massive Dynamic. In many ways, it felt like an early-season episode of a Joss Whedon series, where you can see the building blocks clicking into place, and as excited as you are by what's unfolding right now, you've also got one eye trained on what's down the road.

That's not to shortchange the micro-story, which I found to be exciting (Fauxlivia pulling Peter out of the way of the train JUST IN TIME), clever (not to play the "I Called It"game, but yo, I totally called that guy being deaf), and appropriately gruesome (his HEAD, you guys! That little person's FUCKING HEAD WENT 'SPLODE!).

Here's the gist: Suave Brit other-sider Newton is back in the game and helping Fauxlivia (Alternalivia?) blend in with Our World and its particulars and culture ("Who's 'Bone-oh'?" she asks him, which can only mean that Alt World has no one to organize benefit concerts for those poor bastards sealed in amber). But they're also working on a secret such-and-such that involves the titular Box and the poor schmucks who unearth it, only to find their brains soon leaking out their facial orifices once it starts emitting a crackling noise. Blah, blah, science, blah blah ultrasonic frequencies, basically, this box emits a sound that breaks your brain (and 'SPLODES YOUR FACE) if you're exposed to it. Only one of the unearthers is a Deaf and thus immune from its effects. Lucky for Olivia and Newton, he brings the box right to them. Unfortunately for him, Fauxlivia is more hardened than even we realized, because she ices him, then gets all sexy in Peter's face to keep him from noticing the corpse in her bathroom.

I guess the romantic stuff between Peter and Olivia is supposed to be a crazy new thing now, but since it's Fauxlivia, it doesn't have as much of an Everything's Changed feel to it. Also? Now that we've gotten a taste of Dark Haired Olivia, doesn't Anna Torv look slightly ... wrong as a blonde? Also also, given how cognizant Peter was last season about the subtle differences between Olivia and her double, I'm a bit surprised he doesn't twig to something being off about her now.

Anyway, the Box. So Fringe Div is after it, and when Newton leaves it with a certain doomed little person in a subway station, they get called into action. But the doomed LP took it into the tunnel, meaning someone (Peter) is going to have to go find it. Without sufficient noise-cancelling equipment to keep his brain from getting braised, the workaround solution involves Fauxlivia firing her gun right next to Peter's ears, buying him a good three minutes or so of deafness (and probably a lifetime of asking people to answer that damn telephone). So Peter finds the Box, LP's head goes KERSPLATTY, and he recognizes the Box as being a part of the Doomsday Device. It's a pretty tense, suspenseful scene, though I do wish the domineering score had taken a backseat and allowed us to feel Peter's soundlessness.

So while Peter tries to disable the Box, Fringe Div realizes there's a train still running, and Faux has to book it down the tunnel (risking a 'sploded noggin of her own) in order to pull him out of the way of the train, mere seconds after he disabled the Box. It's interesting, in one episode, Fauxlivia both proved herself to be more cold-blooded than we thought (shooting the Deaf) and more attached to Our World than we thought (risking her brain to save Peter, but also defending Walter's Peter-napping actions to Peter, despite the fact that those actions did irreparable harm to her own world). Anna Torv continues to be the standout this season, playing both Livs with distinct complexity.

I also can't tell you how jazzed I am about Walter inheriting Massive Dynamic. Not only because it'll probably mean more Nina Sharp, but also because it opens a whole host of Fringe-y possibilities before the stories even started to get stale. We got some of Walter's trademark weirdnesses back this week, to blend in with his newfound dewey-eyed contrition. Trying to make the cow give chocolate milk was delightfully simple but perfect. And speaking of simple, I'll never get tired of him misidentifying his dear Astrid ("Aspirin"!).

Another winner of an episode, I'll say. And it looks like we're in Alt World next week. How eager are we for Livs to converge once again? And are we happy with the long-term storylines that have been set up, for this season and (perhaps) beyond?


JA said...

Dude you pin-pointed so much of what I loved about this week's episode I'm probably just gonna sounds like a parrot on your shoulder. Aspirin! Chocolate milk cows! You didn't mention that the dead nose-bleeding old lady was wearing one of those old lady track suits, so I'll add that to the mix.

I was literally - LITERALLY - in the middle of a sentence about how much I love this show because they only hired a little person because of what an extra dose of creepy it added to the shot of him bleeding out on the floor of a subway tunnel with white eyes WHEN THEY MADE HIS HEAD EXPLODE and I realized this show loves me back more than I could ever catch up to.

Walter now owning Massive Dynamic is THRILLING and I hope they use that to its full advantage and don't just let it slink off into the background. This should change a huge dynamic of the show and they have to let it.

And how good was Blair Brown in that will reading scene? We haven't gotten enough Nimoy on the show to really get attached to him - and they still haven't really let us know his angle - so it was entirely BB's reactions shots that had me tearing up there. And the insinuation of an Italian rendezvous! Scandalous!

I've loved Anna Torv from the start, I know a lot of people were put off by her coldness but I really dug it, but she really is churning it the fuck out as Fauxlivia. She is really selling that this woman is a completely different person to me.

And in summation, I don't know if I'm just coveting that shirt and those jeans he was wearing or what, but Pacey looked really fine in that scene in the subway. But I wish they'd kept the sound watery and muffled too. It start ed out that way and had the making of a classic scene but they should've the moment tight and focused on him. Still, exploding little person head.

goodoldparanoia said...

I never even paid attention to this one. I am so concerned on whether NipTuck is coming back or not, it's probably time for me to start checking new series. How about the new one with Steve BUscemi??Im a bit concerned since the Tim Roth one (lie to me) was so crappy..Will have to check this one

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Peter doesn't think something is up and would be disappointed if he didn't. There were scenes where he'd have this look like something just wasn't right. first two eps have totally rocked.

Jen in Boston said...

I know I'm way late on this - just catching up on the last couple of episodes - but I think Fauxlivia (which I totally prefer to the other name) tried in this episode to assuage any concerns Peter has about her "different" personality by saying she was really affected by seeing her alternate in the other universe. They set it up with the music convo at the bar and then had her address it head on while trying to distract him from the blood seeping from under bathroom door.

I am also so excited about Walter being in charge of MD. That is a brilliant way to open up the storyline possibilities. And maybe we'll see more of the dark haired lab guy - he always manages to make me giggle whenever he's in a scene.