Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fringe - "Entrada"

Peter (Joshua Jackson) sees a suspicious glow coming from the police van.
Photo Credit: FOX
Review by Paul Steven Brown

Season 3 - Episode 8

"Entrada" is an extremely satisfying conclusion to the most entertaining and ambitious story arc so far on 'Fringe'. The key to this success is due to the show writers finally going full-tilt boogie and embracing the madcap sci-fi core of the series and giving it a huge long kiss on the mouth. You can't half-ass a show like this, which was the problem 'Fringe' had during season two. There were way too many standalone episodes in an attempt to lure in new viewers or folks that normally watch shows with big mythologies. Science fiction is still a hard sell to a mainstream audience and no matter how good this type of show is, there is a large percentage of folks that will never give a show like 'Fringe' the time of day.

While the ratings for 'Fringe' are a little more than half of what they were during the first season, they have been fairly consistent and averaging around 5 million viewers a week. Keep in mind, that this show airs in one of the toughest slots on one of the busiest nights on television. 'Fringe' goes up against 'The Office' (around 7 million watchers), 'Grey's Anatomy' (about 11.5 million) and 'CSI' (about 14 million) every week, but maintains a core following. In fact, the ratings took a slight up tick this week, about a quarter million viewers, and were better than the past three episodes.

Unfortunately, FOX has decided to move 'Fringe' to Friday night starting in January (the network needs to make room for the slow death that is 'American Idol'). In the past few years, this has been where sci-fi shows on the network have gone to die. Most recently it was the burial place for cult favorites 'Dollhouse' and 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' (I'm still sore over the loss of that last series). It's also the night where 'The X-Files' cut it's teeth and went on to be a huge sensation, albeit on that really overstayed it's welcome. FOX is hoping that loyal 'Fringe' viewers will follow the show to Friday, where the show's 5 million average would be a big improvement for the network in that ghost town of a time slot.

As for "Entrada", we finally get to see Peter Bishop act smart again. Peter is supposed to be brilliant and savvy, but for the sake of this arc, he has had to be oblivious to the fact that the woman he's been sleeping with is not the Olivia Dunham from our world. Still, love and sex can cause folks to make excuses for their partner's strange behavior, so I'm going to write it up as a situation where the heart (and groin) won out over the brain. He did get a chance to redeem his smarts by being the one that figured out that Fauxlivia's hostage was a shapeshifter.

One of the things that really like about Joshua Jackson's portrayal of Peter is that he can go from warm and friendly to kind of freaking scary. That charming grin can quickly disintegrate and he can hit you with a pretty intense stare. After finding out the truth about Fauxlivia, Peter was all about the game face. It was in full effect when he confronted the newly apprehended Fauxlivia told him that the assignment turned into something more. "That would be so much easier to believe if you weren't in handcuffs right now." Nice.

I can't help but think that Fauxlivia was telling the truth. She did take those photo booth pictures with her. With the death of Alt-Broyles (I'm going to miss his awesome tight, black t-shirts), there's going to have to be someone "over there" that will have some sympathy for the plight of billions of people in our universe. I half expected her to start listening to a U2 CD, which would have been an indication that she found somethings that she really enjoyed on our side, besides easily accessible coffee and Peter Bishop.

From what is gleamed from Fauxlivia's brief reunion with Lincoln Lee, her co-workers, including Asperger's Astrid (wonderfully played in this episode by Jasika Nicole) and Not-Dead Charlie, seem to believe that she's the same Agent Dunham that they've been working with over the past seven episodes. I certainly hope we get to see Lincoln and Charlie again. We've yet to meet our universe's Lincoln Lee and I willing to bet that he pops up sometime before season three is through.

Our Olivia's return via the deprivation tank in the Harvard lab (conveniently available in both universes) was a wonderful call back to the beginnings of the series. It was also a reminder of how much has changed since the days of John Scott's ghost haunting Olivia's memories. Another nice touch was Astrid's dropping of the glass beakers upon seeing our heroine crawl out of the tank, which recalled Olivia's dropping of the snow globe during one of her failed crossings.

So what now. We get one more episode until 'Fringe' goes away until January 28th. While it looks to be another Monster of the Week episode, I certainly that will only be the familiar skeleton upon which a more enticing frame is hung. Now that Olivia is back, there's is a ton of fallout, both personal and plot-wise to be addressed. Hopefully, next week's episode will act as a sort of epilogue to what was a truly fantastic string of episodes.

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