Fringe, “Marionette”

Last week, after Fringe‘s fantastic episode that felt like a mid-season finale that actually wasn’t a mid-season finale, I smarted off on Twitter about how this week’s episode would be a return to the episodes that we didn’t care as much about. Of course, I was being an asshole, because all Fringe episodes should be cared about. However, from reading comments and tweets, it seems like most people expected the same sort of letdown after the awesome eight-episode open to the season that really knocked it out of the park.

How naive we were.

“Marionette,” while something of a back-to-basics episode, is far from a step down from the previous eight. Instead, it’s the best kind of follow-up to a great run: One that doesn’t let those big moments or reveals go away. With Olivia back home, she tries to not let the traumatic experience of being trapped in an alternate universe prison for two months get to her. Unfortunately, that plan doesn’t go very well, especially when it comes to her personal life. Instead of letting any secrets build up between them to create some sense of dramatic, but unneeded tension, the series’ writers smartly recognized that it was just better for Peter to lay it all out on the table in this episode. And though some of the writing is slightly overheated and obvious, good lord are Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson simply marvelous in this episode.

I also said this last night on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating: Anna Torv will never be nominated for an Emmy and she’ll probably slide out of my top six by the time next July rolls around, but my lord has she been fantastic in every single scene this season. While she was obviously at the top of her game while playing all the different sides to two different versions of the same person, I think this was actually her best performance of the season. It was probably a challenge to slide back into playing only one Olivia and trying to find some comfortable ground, just as it was for the actual character, but she’s unbelievable in a number of scenes in “Marionette.” Just fantastic.

I don’t think the series needed to keep Peter’s relationship with Fauxlivia a secret because they’ve already laid such nice groundwork for Peter and Olivia’s relationship that the tension should be better with the truth out there and this episode proves that. The episode smartly reminds Olivia and we viewers at home of a few things, most notably that Peter came back from his real home because he was ready to start a relationship with Olivia. Fringe completely earned that moment back in season two and I think they were smart to bring it up because it gives Peter at least some self-respect in this horrible, horrible situation. I think a number of fans were wondering how/why Peter couldn’t tell that Fauxlivia wasn’t his Olivia, especially because he’s supposed to have such street smarts, but “Marionette” tries its best to make us feel at least somewhat sympathetic towards Peter’s circumstances.

Circumstances he presents to Olivia fairly early on in the episode in probably my favorite scene of the season. The blocking and the camera work are spectacular in this scene because it continues to focus on Olivia’s face as Peter lays out the situation to her off-screen so that we can see the exact moment that it clicks that Peter had a sexual/romantic relationship with Fauxlivia. Olivia goes from hurt and confused to completely broken, I mean she is just shattered and if you go back to the episode you can see exactly when that happens. It’s rough to watch, but damn is it fine work.

And it’s like that information is a virus slowly making its way through Olivia’s brain. She pretends to be okay with it even though she’s obviously not, she starts to take it out on Peter during the case and when she’s at home, it’s a simply suffocating experience. She doesn’t want to wear her own clothes, live in that apartment and especially sleep in that bed where presumably the man she loves had sex with her alternate universe Doppelganger.

By the time the case is over, Olivia’s had enough. She’s heard Peter’s pleas about how the only reason he forgave the changes is because he just hoped that it was because she was in love with him (more or less) and she’s heard Astrid’s pleas for Peter about how his feelings for Fauxlivia were still based in an undying connection to Olivia. But that doesn’t matter because she realizes that if Peter really loved her, really knew her, he’d known that something was up and more importantly, would have done something about it. As she says, Fauxlivia has stolen everything from her. She has no identity and no one to turn to.

And all Peter can say is “I’m sorry” to no one.

Damn.

I don’t think Fringe is going to be too interested in the romantic melodrama of Peter and Olivia moving forward at least in the sense that it won’t consume multiple episodes moving forward. I think the series made a genius move by pulling the trigger on their attraction early enough that now we really want to see them get together instead of holding out until season four or something and then it feeling more like a letdown or something.

Nevertheless, I think this episode did a fantastic job of letting us feel sorry for both Peter and Olivia. Peter obviously screwed up, but letting some small changes go in hopes of being happy with the woman you love isn’t the worst thing in the world. Well, in this case, it kind of is, but love/sex makes people forgive. For Olivia, it’s going to be a long journey back and I can’t wait to see it unfold in the future.

Oh yeah, the case! This was one of those Fringe cases that isn’t particularly good in its development, but it’s just so damn creepy that you can’t help but love it. The scene with the creepy dude raising the zombie Frankenstein ballerina and making her dance using all sorts of levers and pulleys was DEFINITELY one of the three creepiest things I have ever seen on television. So major win there as well. This is the last Fringe until the 2011 move to Fridays, but I’m not too concerned. I’ll be back and I know all of the series’ other fans probably will be too.

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