Fringe: The Box

“Distraction.”

Nothing is what it appeared to be in this episode, and—as with last week—I’m not sure we have all the answers yet, either. Our Theme of the Week is distraction, but it’s distraction used for deception: not just the characters deceiving each other, but also the writers deceiving us.

Let’s take the opening scene as an example. A guy with a pickaxe, a family duct-taped and bound. The guy turns on the TV, presumably to cover the noise of the screams. But later events in the episode reveal that the pickaxe is for digging, the guy is actually a decent man who’s uncomfortable with what’s going on, and the TV was likely his way of trying to make the hostages feel comfortable (to distract them); being deaf, he might not have thought to cover the noise of anything with cartoons. Meanwhile, the two guys in the basement talk about the “dumb” cousin. “He’s not dumb,” says Guy #1. We assume that his intelligence is being discussed. But on second viewing, we can understand “dumb” in the older sense of mute, or even as a comment on Guy #2’s misunderstanding of the relationship between deafness and intelligence. We got distracted by our own expectations.

Why such a long commentary on the distractions and deceptions in the opener? Because the depth of that scene, the way that it bears re-watching, is indicative of how far Fringe has come, and why it has rocketed to the top of my must-watch list. This is elegant, almost novelistic writing that allows nuances to slowly emerge while still maintaining an interesting and complex mythology, and a strong episodic plot.

Fauxlivia distracted and deceived Peter. That’s no easy task—Peter prides himself on his ability to read people. (I swear he said as much in some episode, but I can’t remember which one. Help?) But Fauxlivia keeps distracting him: with the dancing, with the kissing, even the Patsy Cline. I think Peter’s had a few moments of tiny niggling doubt, but he’s ultimately too distracted by the hot blonde and the “ancient tech” that he’s trying to figure out.

As well as the McGuffin of the week, that eponymous box. It’s a scary piece of machinery, made even more scary by its possible role in the Big Scary Device (BSD). But how much of Fauxlivia’s and Gordon Ramsey Jr.’s plot was designed just to distract our team? For that matter, how much is the BSD just a distraction from Walternate’s vengeance? I kept thinking of Angel, Season Five: evil is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. And what about Walter’s inheritance? Will Massive Dynamics prove to be another distraction, or will it turn into some sort of Blackwater quasi-governmental private entity?

We won’t know the answer to that for a while, but we are getting to know more about Fauxlivia. She’s a lot like our Olivia, in a way: tough and smart and gutsy. But she’s really not very nice: whereas last week, Olivia wasn’t even willing to kill Lincoln Lee, Fauxlivia killed a man who came to surrender. She’s also mean to her underlings. But, hey, at least she has good taste in music.

At This Point, Would Anything Really Surprise You?:

• Did we know that the doomsday device was “ancient”? (And did anyone else think of Stargate Universe when Peter said that?)

The Third Man is also, in its own way, a movie about distraction.

• Walter singing. Always wonderful.

• Fart jokes? Less wonderful.

• I know that death isn’t funny, but I laughed when Olivia tried the “hide the corpse in the bathroom” trick. It was funny. (Perhaps I am a cold, cruel person.)

• I wish they hadn’t scored the deaf-Peter train scene. It would have been so much creepier if it were completely silent until Fauxlivia popped into frame at the same moment as the train.

• Remember how last season was just drowning in bridge imagery? The stopped subway, the tunnel: they’re like the evil twin of the bridges.

Quotes:

• Walter: “I’m trying to make chocolate milk. Or rather, I’m trying to make the cow make chocolate milk.” Don’t you need brown cows for that?

• Walter: “Nostradamus is said to have died standing up, but I doubt someone who could have predicted his own death wouldn’t have lain down.” That is impeccable logic.

• Walter: “Unless, of course, this buried treasure had legs of its own. Wouldn’t that be delightful?”

• Peter: “I know it wouldn’t take much. A few words, a hug, a couple of hands of Uno.”

• Walter: “I frequented a massage parlor just around the corner. I used to get off right here.”

Three and a half out of four buried treasure legs.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

7 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Great review, Josie. Fringe has gone from being a fun X-Files tribute act into one of the most amazing shows on television. And if the confidence that’s been on display in these first two episodes is any indication this could very well be the show’s best season yet.

I was disappointed that with everything else that was going on we didn’t get to see Rachel and Ella this week. One of the best scenes in ‘Olivia’ was our Olivia’s encounter with her mother and it would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t get to see the flip side to that scene, Flauxlivia reaction to seeing her dead sister alive again and meeting the niece she never knew. I expect there would be a monsoon of tears. Mostly mine.

jophan said...

I wonder if Fauxlivia has even spoken to Rachel yet. She may want to avoid that entanglement, and she wouldn't necessarily know they were living in the same city (until she got Newton's dossier).

If they'd been writing at this level at the beginning of the show, I don't think it could have been beaten. Too bad the timeslot is so awful.

Anonymous said...

Has Fauxlivia ever worn her hair in a pony tail - it seems lst season that happened every episode.

Newpinot said...

Hi, friends. Did you ever a glimpse .. watching the blueprints .... the human factor in the ultimate weapon .. of Luc Besson's The Fifth Element?? eh eh.
thanks to Josie for her outstanding reviews.

cheers
newpinot

Billie Doux said...

Anna Torv never impressed me before, but her work as Fauxlivia is good. It's fairly subtle but she is so obviously not the same person, and Peter should have seen it since he knows there are two of them.

This episode gave me a new TV rule: Whenever you're dragging a body across a living room floor, someone will knock at the door.

Patryk said...

A buried treasure with legs would be something right out of Pratchett's Discworld.

The Ultimate Weapon blueprint made me think, oh it's the Vitruvian Peter.

It's funny how two of the best shows on the big networks have a lead female who plays two roles. And both are so good that I never think to myself that I can't tell which of them i'm seeing.

Jess Lynde said...

I'm so irritated with Peter. As Billie says, it is so obvious that Olivia is not the same person, and since Peter is well aware of their recent jaunt to Over There, he should be as suspicious as all get out. I guess he's distracted by love or lust or whatever, but it is incredibly frustrating.

Not digging the blond bangs. I don't mind the bangs on redhead Olivia, but I prefer her bangs-free as a blond.