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Fringe s3E13 review


Cue red credits, cue Fauxlivia annnnd...[applause sign]...

Fauxlivia gets some shocking news in episode 13 of Fringe's third season

"The One About Immortality"

Welcome back to the happy happy world of Fauxlivia. It's a world threatening to end; a world without sheep (as it transpires); a world where those who love good coffee - and some of the other niceties of modern day life that we take for granted in our own universe - will have to console themselves by looking at the lovely retro airships that are now such a common mode of travel, or  taking a scenic trip to the top of the World Trade Center.

But that doesn't faze our happy-go-lucky girl about town, her equally chipper retinue of guy-buddies and admirers or her devoted boyfriend; who, this week, is ready to pop the question. And if she can get to the bottom of a nasty bout of carnivorous beetles that are eating their way out of a series of human hosts, hell, she might even take that walk down the aisle. Life is good; life is smiley smiley smiley happy warmfuzzy cuddlechuckley good. Rachel Karen Green and Rhoda Morgenstern Gerard are positive depressives by comparison to Fauxlivia, for whom the glass is not only full, but overflowing.

I'm just ribbin' ya Anna Torv. This fine actress has managed to create two very distinct and separate characters who have arrived at different emotional configurations from the same starting point. And if the differences between them aren't subtle, neither are the factors in their lives that made them different, so no pointing to Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers and saying 'That's how it's done', because this is not the same set-up, and Fauxlivia is oddly compelling company.

Apart from anything else, Jesus, but she moans a hell of a lot less than Our Olivia, and even if she is a bit phoney baloney sometimes, one kinda gets the feeling that she is listening as hard to her own PR as anyone else is. In any case, a lot of 'Immortality' is successfully spent getting us to like Fauxlivia, the villainess of the piece for the first half of season three, and immersing us in an alternate world 'monster of the week' story about insects carrying the solution to Avian Flu (which decimated millions in the Other Universe) who no longer have any native sheep to live in. This prompts one mad scientist to incubate them in humans, the means (and they are very harsh means indeed) justifying the end for the human race.

At this point we have to mention that Fringe, any episode of which has more echoes and sub-echoes than the Grand Canyon, moves us over to the whacky world of Walternate to emphasise that the evil bastard draws the line at continuing his fatal campaign of secret scientific experiments when it appears that using children as subjects may be the only way  to synthesize Our Olivia's ability to travel between worlds without harm.

It's not like we're suddenly being told that Walternate is now cuddly too, since he's working his way through a series of innocent (and in one case, teenage) test subjects like Rambo in pursuit of getting His Peter back, but he definitely has more conscience than he was showing back in the days of the Fauxlivia away-mission. As if we didn't get that he's not all bad, there's the lovely and apparently ageless Joan Chen on hand as Walternate's woman, to tell him (and us) what a great guy he is when he's riven between his desire to be back with his son and the high price for it that would potentially make him the worst father-model in the Other World.

Speaking of parenthood...

Oh dear. Not only is Fauxlivia kidding herself about not loving Peter after her deceptive sojourn with him, but he apparently got her knocked up too. Not looking good there, Fauxlivia, since your boyfriend was away in Texas long enough to not possibly be the father. Cancel the caterers!

'Immortality' comes as a codicil to the events at the conclusion of the previous episode, wherein we discovered that whichever 'Livia Peter chooses is going to get the crown, the bouquet...and her entire universe not destroyed. And right now these two kids are pining for each other. It's important for the continuing tension of season three that we like the Other-Worlders a bit more, because presumably one entire set of characters are going to have to bite the dust by the finale (or be seriously menaced with the prospect). If the Other Guys are just a bunch of torturing, police-state-style villains, that dichotomy isn't going to wring much pleasurable anxiety out of us. And if we are nurturing any fears - or hopes - that Fringe S4, should it ever come, might be set in the alternate universe, then doing another 'monster of the week' episode from there can only amplify that thought for fans.

One thing Fringe still shares with The X-Files is its unwillingness to usually have any monsters bigger than microbes or insects, and there's no change in that regard this week. Just one time, it would have been nice to see Mulder/Scully Olivia/Peter face off against a nine-foot beast. Such creatures aren't cheap, though, and once you give that to an audience, could you ever really go back to bugs again...?

Alternate-Astrid is not only less happy in the Other Universe, she's also considerably dumber - but at least she's not alone. Can you imagine someone in the CIA advising FEMA that the best way to find the identity of the ghastly flesh-eating bug is to broadcast an appeal on network TV? All I can assume is that the media is under even more rigid governmental restraint Over There than it is Over Here, because such a broadcast would have our own world in a state of media-encouraged panic. Why the hell does FEMA want to know about this bug...?

Anyway, the by-now hackneyed nature of the bug-of-the-week plot did no real harm to this episode, which - in common with most closed-off stories of Fringe S3 - really only cares about developing the soap story arc. It's a bit much to expect us to reverse our feelings about the Other Fringe Guys in just one episode, but then this is a season where the planning went...strange.


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