Fringe became my replacement for Lost even before Lost ended. When I gave up hope that the truth about Lost would be even half as cool as the fan theories, I transferred all my theorizing nerd energy to Fringe and it actually exceeded my expectations. This spring when Lost was steadily traveling downhill to arrive at the most disappointing finale ever, Fringe was coming into its own, correcting some of the first season's missteps and establishing the mythology early on for the rest of the show (long may it run). The Season 2 finale, "Over There," was spectacular and raised the bar for Season 3 to an almost unreachable height. And while I had a few minor quibbles with last night's episode, overall I was very impressed. And I'm still too excited about the return of my new favorite show to get quibbly about it.
I was surprised and intrigued right away by the revelation that Walternate and his team were trying to convince our Olivia that she was the other Olivia. (On a side note, this show is hard to write about coherently. No name for the alternate characters is as good as Walternate, and it's tiresome to always have to say "the other Olivia." I think the writers call her BOlivia, which looks stupid to me, but I'll go with it for clarity's sake.) I expected them to interrogate her, torture her for information about Walter and Peter and our universe in general. I don't quite understand the motivation behind implanting her with BOlivia's memories, but it was chilling to watch the treatments take effect. She didn't just acquire BOlivia's memories, she acquired her skills and personality as well. Olivia could never have made that shot. Olivia would never have painted a room yellow. The question that remains is whether Olivia is still in there, aware of what's going on in her mind, able to compartmentalize her own memories and personality somewhere. I hope so. Anyway, it's nice that she got to see her dead mother before she was reclaimed.
I love the alternate universe. I love scanning the background for differences. I love that they have nanites and zeppelins and daily flights to the moon and that the script doesn't beat you over the head with them. You just catch a glimpse of a billboard for the hit musical Dogs or a snippet of a news bulletin on the radio that former President Kennedy is stepping down as ambassador to somewhere. I love the dark banter between the Fringe Division agents over there and what it reveals about what's normal for them. I love that Charlie's still alive and that Walter's the Secretary of Defense and that Astrid is an emotionless human calculator. And as much as I love it and as wonderfully disorienting as it is to be there, how much would it suck to live there? Bus and taxi drivers can't put their vehicles into gear until they've swiped the passengers' ID cards so they can be tracked: the government always knows where you are. The ID is called a Show-Me and (even though they ask for it with a redundantly polite "Can I see your Show-Me, please?") the association with "Show me your papers" is creepy.
Toward the end of the episode, though, I was getting antsy to return to our universe. Fun as it is to play spot-the-differences over there, Fringe isn't complete without our Walter and Peter, and they're over here. The tantalizing final scene was just enough and nicely established what was happening over here. The higher-ups aren't taking the team any more seriously than they have before, Walter's eating Oreos, Peter's kissing BOlivia and doesn't know she's not Olivia. That part made me really sad, actually - the real Olivia is trapped in the AU having her mind altered while the impostor is over here getting a new relationship that doesn't belong to her. Olivia sacrificed so much to get to the AU, rescue Peter and tell him how she felt, and he didn't even notice that it wasn't her who came back.
It should be noted here that Anna Torv is a much better actress than I originally gave her credit for. Her style takes a little getting used to, I think, but she has risen admirably to the challenge of playing essentially four characters at times (Olivia, BOlivia, Olivia-as-BOlivia, and BOlivia-as-Olivia). I thought John Noble was going to make her look bad because of how well he distinguishes Walter from Walternate - primarily with his posture, but also with his voice and his expressions. But Anna Torv does almost as much with nuances using just her eyes. As I said, it was chilling to watch Olivia slowly transforming into BOlivia against her will, but it was equally interesting to watch BOlivia consciously pretending to be Olivia. She just found out about this universe and she only had a brief encounter with Olivia on which to base her performance. She smiles a little too much. She's a little too bemused by Walter. I'm already a little disappointed in the other characters for not seeing it. She's going to slip up and get caught soon, or I will be most annoyed with not only the characters but the writers as well.