Thursday, November 04, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 5, "Amber 31422"

And we're BACK from the baseball hiatus with a somewhat impromptu episode (had the World Series gone to seven games, tonight's episode would have been pre-empted) that throws us right back into Alt World and helped me to clarify at least one thing about this still-young season.

Because, for the most part, I've been totally in love with this season, both the Alt episodes and the Our World episodes. But while "Amber 31422" showcased a decently strong standalone storyline, it also brought to light my least favorite element of the season so far: Ghost Peter. Or Mind-Figment Peter -- however we're assessing him, he's the part of the show that has me thinking I've stumbled into an episode of Dexter where he's being lectured yet again by his long-winded ghost of a dad. (I like Dexter. I HATE those scenes.)

In this case, yes, Ghost Peter does lead Olivia down the primrose path to realizing that she doesn't belong in alt-world, but he does it via a lot of irritating exposition and underlining of the major points of Olivia's story so far. I'm of the belief that Anna Torv is doing a good enough job that she could let us know what Olivia's thinking without having GP essentially repeat it for us, and if that means Joshua Jackson takes an episode off, so be it. That said, it seems like we're moving ever closer to crossover, where our two seperate story paths will merge (let's hope very soon -- the baseball break has really made it seem like the show's been split in half longer than it actually has.

But now on to what I liked about this episode, including another reminder of how very much I am liking the chemistry of the Alt World fringe team. Liv, Charlie, and Lincoln make an excellent team -- more traditionally bantery in a way that makes me think they're being written to emulate some kind of CSI-squad, but the performances are so strong that it never feels generic. I'm dearly hoping the show finds a place for Charlie and Lincoln once the two-Olivias story gets resolved.

I'm also really digging how these episodes make use of Alt World's expanded (im)possibilities -- in this case, that anti-matter glowy ring thing (jargon!) -- to put a twist on well-worn TV tropes like a heist. I also admire the boldness of dealing with socio-political questions for a world the audience likely sees as less real. The murky ethics of amber quarantine were given a fairly three-dimensional treatment, from Walternate's most human scenes yet (he looked almost regretful for a second there) to the sad tale of the Brothers Ashmore.

Speaking of the Ashmores, I thought they did a great (if occasionally mumbly) job selling a story that often seemed unnecessarily complicated. But their last scene together was, I thought, well-played by the both of them.

Oh, and finally (FINALLY) the show decides to play the Rachel card, having Olivia realize that on the other side, her sister and niece are alive. Of course, her mother is dead on the other side, and unless the show is willing to promise me copious amounts of Ari Graynor this season, I'd just as soon we find a way to stick with the Amy Madigan we already have. (And, sadly, are under-utilizing.)

What else am I missing? What did you guys think? Am I being too hard on Ghost Peter? Would you best describe Alt-World Asterisk as autistic or a mentat? (What? They could have Dune in Alt World!) And wasn't I promised some Marshall Flinkman this week?

More Fringe on Low Res:
Fringe 3.1 "Olivia"
Fringe 3.2 "The Box"
Fringe 3.3 "The Plateau".
Fringe 3.4 "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"


Danny said...

The weird thing about Rachel is that MindFigment Peter told Olivia that Rachel is married and living in Chicago. I can't think of any reason that that would be the case, but it was so off the mark that it has to be intentional, so it will be interesting to see how that comes into play.

Joe Reid said...

It makes sense if Ari Graynor is too busy being underused in movies to make time to be underused on Fringe and thus they have to explain her absence once our Liv returns to Our World.

Danny said...

When Olivia left the real world for the Altverse last season, she was still living with Ella, right? I find it a little weird that the show would choose to have Rachel move to Chicago, marry someone new, and leave Ella with Olivia, and then introduce this plot information to us via Olivia's subconscious without having told us last season. This couldn't have happened AFTER last season since her subconscious wouldn't know about it. I'd be disappointed if that's the case, but I guess we will see!

Did very much like this ep.

JA said...

I'm sort of lukewarm towards this episode. As always there were bunches of little touches to love and Anna Torv is continuing to impress me with her crazy skills at playing two very different characters pretending to be the other different character with the cracks showing, but the whole "THE DUALITY OF TWINS!" thing as a reflection on Olivia's split nature felt redundant after the awesome way they'd just handled the same exact thing with the shape-shifters.

And I have to express sadness, it's a self-made rule, at any episode that doesn't give me a scene or just a moment of regular Walter and Aspirin talking or not talking and just being in the same room together.

The preview before the break was for all the upcoming episodes of the season, so Marshall Flinkman's showing up some time, but apparently not just yet.

Ghost Peter's annoying but I understand the narrative need for him so I mostly let it slide. It's a cheap way to work Olivia's shit out and I wish they'd come up with something less plodding, but I guess it gets the job done.

Tom said...

Figment Peter hasn't bothered me... I guess because they used the same narrative device when she had her ex-partner's memories in the first season.