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Fringe: Marionette

“She’s taken everything.”

I wondered last week why the Fringe powers that be didn’t use the last episode—specifically, Olivia’s return—as the mid-season finale. It was exhilarating, fast-paced, and nicely concluded one phase of the longer story about the two worlds. Now that I’ve seen “Marionette,” I understand.

If this episode were the first episode of the second half of the season, it would have felt underwhelming. Freak of the Week, personal conversations, but no huge mythology episodes. As an emotionally charged denouement to last week’s high octane plot developments, though, it works perfectly. Last week, Olivia came home. This week, she found out what we’ve known for a while: home doesn’t mean what it used to.

The obvious parallel this week is between Olivia and the marionette. The Puppetmaster wanted to replace his lost friend with one of equal mass and identical makeup—her skin, her organs, her whole physical self. He found, though, that what he expected her to be wasn’t really her. She was somehow different, and he knew just from looking at her.

But I would argue that Olivia is in the same situation as the Puppetmaster: she came home, stared her world in the face, and had to undergo the horrible process of realizing that even though home looked just the same, had all the same features and people and cups of coffee, it wasn’t the world she had left. Her world, and Peter, is fundamentally different inside.

Unlike the Puppetmaster, Peter didn’t see the difference in Fauxlivia’s eyes. Or, he saw the difference and liked what he saw: he preferred the “quicker with a smile, less intense” Olivia. And now he’s coming to terms with the fact that he now has a faulty replacement, and that what he is left with isn’t as good as what has left.

Olivia, too, is starting to reinterpret her world. When she mentioned Fauxlivia’s friends and loved ones, she seemed a little wistful. For a while, at least, that was her life, before the Olivia-memories came back. Olivia’s conversation with Astrid, which is the most personal one that I can recall them having, may be Olivia’s attempts to build strong friendships Over Here, but it also might be a sort of latent character tic from her Fauxlivia days: accustomed to close friendships with her co-workers, she behaves differently with Astrid than she used to.

Olivia’s conversation with Broyles was equally touching, but in a different way. It’s almost as though Broyles felt like Olivia knew him better than she does, because she had interacted with his double. His question about alt-Broyles’s family and wife said so very much. What would that mean if he ever met them? Perhaps someday we shall see.

I’m sure some intrepid Wikipedia fiend has begun to catalog the allusions built into an episode like this, from Pygmalion to Frankenstein and beyond. I’ll leave that sort of treasure-hunting to hardier souls. I won’t even engage in my usual, inevitably erroneous, speculation about what comes next. Will we see more of Over There? Will Peter and Olivia become friends again? What about lovers? Where was Astrid off to in such a hurry? What did the Observer mean? Was he referring to Peter or Walter? Can a strawberry milkshake really make a bad day better?

For answer to those questions and more, we’ll have to wait until January. The next episode of Fringe is called “Firefly,” and it marks the first Fringe to air on a Friday. Before we get disillusioned about Fringe joining the ranks of that beloved show, Dollhouse, and Terminator: TSCC, let’s remember the most important lesson from Joss Whedon and Captain Mal: You can’t stop the signal!

The Standards We Generally Use Don’t Apply:

• Walter: “I’d forgotten that a couple of nights ago I’d used my cauterizer to remove an uncomfortable growth between my…”
Peter: “The less information, the better.”

• Walter: “By intimate, I mean sexual.”

• Walter: “Tell them to look under ‘Pet Projects.’” This line becomes even funnier in light of the later revelation that the revivification project was being done on Peter’s beloved cocker spaniel.

• Olivia: “It’s kind of disconcerting, knowing that somebody else has been living your life.”

• Walter: “Do you think possibly they replaced her with a robot?”

• Olivia: “He said that he looked into her eyes and he knew it wasn’t her…I understand the facts, and I know that she had reams of information about me, about my life, about the people that were close to me. I understand that if she slipped up she would have a completely reasonable explanation. And I guess that to have seen past that is perhaps asking a little bit too much. When I was over there, I thought about you, and you were just a figment of my imagination. But I held onto you. And it wasn’t it reasonable, it wasn’t logical, but I did it. So, why didn’t you?”

• I figured out the organ-transplant angle in about 5 seconds. Am I awesome? Yeah, awesome.

• Olivia finding the MIT shirt in the washing machine nearly did me in.

• As did the guy with the missing eyes. Ugh!

• But Walter licking the fake cremains—not once but twice!—was delightful.

• I’ll give my entire kingdom and my horse to the first commenter who tells me where I’ve seen that house before, particularly the big stained glass staircase. It’s driving me crazy.

Four out of four revivified, beloved cocker spaniels. Woof!

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

8 comments:

  1. That entire scene where Olivia found the MIT shirt nearly broke my heart. Anna Torv doesn’t get nearly enough credit. She’s been terrific all season and this was her best performance by far.

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  2. I too found the laundry scene particularly effective. I don't think Peter was rethinking his love for the real Olivia so much as waiting for the other shoe to drop. He could sense things boiling, such as in that scene with the profiling, and he wanted Olivia to get her feelings out rather than slowly seep out in destructive passive-aggressiveness. He knew from the start there was no walking away peacefully from this ordeal.

    I was severely turned off by the puppet theatre scene, which served no purpose and seemed to contradict the villain's motivation (if he's the sort that values the girl's psyche enough to know she didn't come back quite herself, why are we getting a scene where he makes her move around "lovingly" with complete disregard to her mind?). The whole sequence felt like cheap grossness for the sake of grossness. No, sir, I did not like it.

    As for the new time slot, I'd like to remind worried Fringe fans everywhere that The X-Files strived and gained the momentum that turned it into a television juggernaut on Friday nights at that very time (and network). TV scheduling is no simple math, and there's plenty of reasons to stay hopeful, so let's just all spread the word to make sure everyone's watching when the time comes. Fringe Fan Force, uh, Fortify!

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  3. Dimitri,

    Without attempting to excuse the Puppetmaster's behavior, I think he thought he was just exercising her muscles. Obviously, it had greater emotional (creepy) significance, but that was what he was telling himself, which fits in with Walter's theory that he likes to think he's doing the right thing, as when he called 911.

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  4. You're right, Josie. He even says "I'm sorry, but I have to make your muscles strong" or something like that. And I thought that scene tremendously beautiful and creepy.

    But why did he remove that guy's whole eyes when all he needed were the cornea? And he nailed the guy's eyelids open!!!! That was the most Saw-like moment in Fringe for a while.

    I cried less in the laundry scene than when Olivia tells Broyles about her "friend" from Over There. I think I grew attacher to Alt-Broyles. In 2 eps they developed the character better than our Broyles in 2 seasons, as I see it.

    I hope the Friday time slot works. There's nothing I can do from here but support the "4F" warcry.

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  5. Can’t believe I missed this the first time but did anyone else find it strange that our Broyles was twice referred to as ‘Colonel Broyles’? At first I thought it was just a slip of the tongue but then it happened again.

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  6. When this episode aired, I saw it, and it was only the third episode of Fringe that I saw. And I hated it - it completely turned me off. This time, I still really hated the marionette surgery crap, but the more emotional side of it meant something to me, of course. Poor Olivia. I'm really rather ticked at Peter for deliberately not seeing the truth, because he most certainly suspected. It doesn't speak well of him, and I usually like Peter. It doesn't feel like Peter and Olivia can get past this one any time soon, and that's sad.

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  7. Nice to see some realistic fallout from the whole switcheroo. Of course Olivia and Peter need to be kept apart for the sake of tension, but the reasoning was obvious and understandable unlike most shows where it feels forced.

    I hope that future episodes will also delve into the fallout Over There with Fauxlivia and Fringe Division. Also I want to see Henry the cab driver again. He's a very fun supporting character.

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  8. I agree with Gus, that I got more worked up by Olivia's conversation with Broyles than by the laundry scene, but both were very moving. As was Olivia's conversation with Astrid. And the scene in which Peter told her the truth was quite strong. Anna Torv is fantastic.

    I'm very glad that we got this episode devoted to the fallout of Peter's actions. Clearly, I'm completely on Olivia's side here, as I absolutely thought he should have been more suspicious. I'm really rather ticked at him, too, Billie. And, while I can see the rationale Astrid presented, I still hope it takes awhile to resolve this "betrayal."

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