Wednesday, 24 November 2010

'FRINGE' 3.7 - "The Abducted"

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

We're back "over there" this week, for a surprisingly simple storyline that left room for a bigger subplot with self-aware Olivia (Anna Torv), as she renewed her efforts to get back to her own dimension without arousing suspicion. It was a perfectly reasonable and entertaining hour, with uncommonly good use of Broyles (Lance Reddick), if largely disposable because of the freak-of-the-week bedrock.

A serial kidnapper known as The Candyman has resurfaced, abducting a boy called Max (Michael Strusievici) from his bedroom, in a particularly unnerving sequence that played on the childhood fear of a "monster in the closet". Is it coincidence that this episode's director, Chuck Russell (The Mask, Eraser), once helmed A Nightmare On Elm Street 3, which starred another boogieman who targets kids in Freddy Krueger? Perhaps so, but it was nevertheless a fun echo in subject matter, although The Candyman wasn't developed enough to make him a truly iconic once-off villain for the series. Fringe could do with its own Eugene Victor Tooms cult, don't you think?

What made this story interesting was discovering that one of The Candyman's original victims was Broyles's son Christopher (Curtis Harris), who, like all the other children, was returned alive but suffering from ill health with bizarre puncture marks on the back of his neck. Christopher isn't expected to live to his eighteenth birthday as a result of The Candyman's experimentation, which only makes Broyles more determined to catch the felon and prevent another family going through the same heartache. Olivia offers a fresh perspective on the case, after noting a discrepancy in Christopher's statement that there were two kidnappers, which forms the basis of a theory that The Candyman is extracting "youth" from his young victims via their pituitary glands, and using it to rejuvenate his aged appearance. There weren't two kidnappers, but The Candyman's changed physique would have made it appear that way.

It remains a pleasure to watch the alt-Earth dynamic of Fringe Division, which seems to benefit Olivia's character in particular. Torv just looks a lot happier in the central role, playing a more upbeat and plucky version of Olivia. I find myself hoping her inserted memories of Fauxlivia's life and personality will stick, as it would be a real shame to go back to how Olivia was in season 1 and 2. I know many people found Olivia just as compelling in the previous seasons, just in a more reserved way, but I think we can all agree Torv looks more engaged with the material because of season 3's creative quirk's given her better material.

"The Abducted" was likely a simple story because the important moments were the garnishing setup for the future. Broyles (who knows Olivia isn't his Olivia) nevertheless trusted her when she requested to re-interview his fragile son, and became the first person to realize she's aware of her true identity again. Even better, as a courtesy because of her help in capturing The Candyman, he's willing to turn a blind eye to that fact. How long for is anyone's guess, but we seem to be moving towards a point when both dimensions realize their "enemy" is nothing of the sort. There's a chance for inter-dimensional harmony, perhaps even solutions to each universe's problems, if they can get over their prejudices and meet on the common ground.

The subplot had Olivia eliciting the help of caring cabbie Henry (Andre Royo), to help get her close to the State of Liberty on a boat he borrows from his cousin, enabling her to sneak into the Department of Defense on Liberty Island and restage Walternate's (John Noble) experiment that triggered a crossing to her native dimension. She succeeded, but the trip was once again very brief, and upon her return she was captured by Walternate.

The truly stimulating development came late, in the final scene, with Peter (Joshua Jackson) receiving a late-night phone call from a woman Olivia managed to get a message to before she vanished -- succinctly making it clear that he's currently sleeping with the "wrong" Olivia. I didn't really expect Fringe to reveal this so soon, and while it was disappointing Peter didn't come to the conclusion himself, without having the information dropped in his lap, I'm intrigued to see what he does next. I predict Peter will tell Broyles and together they'll keep tabs on Fauxlivia's movements, to see what she does. But surely he'll need Walter's help in mounting a rescue mission to the other side, effectively returning the favour from last season?

Overall, "The Abducted" was a solid episode with opportunities for Broyles to shine, although the A-story didn't really capitalize on its creepy beginnings. To compensate, we got unexpected development on the Olivia and Peter fronts, and that will hopefully push Fringe into a new phase come episode 8. I just hope the story continues to stretch into fascinating areas, and this change is well-timed to prevent season 3's gimmicks turning stale.

  • Anyone else think it stretched credibility to have Olivia invade the DoD single-handed, then somehow know how to exactly replicate the experiment Walternate performed on her? The security is a joke on the other side.
WRITERS: David Wilcox & Graham Roland
DIRECTOR: Chuck Russell
TRANSMISSION: 23 November 2010, Sky1/HD, 10PM