Saturday, January 22, 2011
Fringe, Season 3, Episode 10: "The Firefly"
"Why would the observer do all this?"
That's the question at the center of all the Fringe episodes that deal with our pale-faced, cue-ball-headed friend, isn't it? Why's he always doing the creepy shit he does? I admit, with the overarching story having shifted to Alt World in the latter half of Season 2 and the first half of Season 3, I kind of lost track of the Observer's whole deal. The "previously on" segment caught me up on the highlights: he saved young Peter from falling through the ice, but in doing so he upset the natural order of things, and he made need to correct that (the assumption being that Peter would have to die).
This was a good Observer episode in that it transferred the bulk of the story's mystery and emotional content to Walter, which is a sweet spot for the show. The subplot with Christopher Lloyd was a strong one, mostly for Lloyd's scenes with Walter. It all threatened to seem too pat, Walter's saved son being responsible for Lloyd's lost son. But the presence of the Observer in that storyline tends to give some purpose to unlikely symmetry like that. And the scenes with Lloyd playing the piano in reverie were quite lovely. (That said, the thing with the poisoned milk seemed to come right out of nowhere, a final-act "gotcha" that I think the show has become too good for.)
Overall, though, I was just happy to once again spend some time with Walter and Peter and Olivia and Ashram. And I guess the Friday-night ratings stayed pretty steady from what they were on Thursdays, which is good news! Fox has said if it can pull its Thursday numbers on Fridays, it stands a good shot at renewal. Which, um, is EXACTLY what I said when everyone was freaking out about the move, so...
It seems weird to say, in an episode that was like 75% Walter, 20% Peter, and 5% everyone else, but my favorite moments in the episode were all Olivia moments. Her conversations with Peter -- while still nominally about Sad Romantic Longing (of which I'd grown tired in the last episode) -- felt less designed to stretch out some romantic payoff and more to emphasize Olivia's awkwardness in adjusting to her old life in its entirety. (To that end, can we get Ari Graynor back for an episode as her sister?) This all payed off in my favorite scene, when Olivia's ringing phone interrupted Walter's hypnosis experiment. The role reversal with Walter was so jarring -- how far Olivia is now from the cool, stoic agent she was before she left. She just doesn't quite fit in anymore.
The whole mission of the Observes feels awfully close to the upcoming Matt Damon movie The Adjustment Bureau. Down to the suits and fedoras. I wonder if the Fringe folk were inspired by Philip K. Dick directly.
It feels like the last two seasons in their entirety have been hanging on the precipice of Peter dying. At some point, we're going to stop believing that his life is in danger. Time to pull that trigger or not, show.
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?"
Fringe 3.5, "Amber 31422"
Fringe 3.6, "6995 kHz"
Fringe 3.7, "The Abducted"
Fringe 3.8, "Entrada"
Fringe 3.9, "Marionette"