Fringe season 3 episode 17 review: Stowaway

Billy raises his eyebrow skywards, but wonders if such long-lasting impressions of a famous sci-fi persona is Fringe's best way to go…

This review contains spoilers.

3.17 Stowaway

I like Fringe, exactly because it’s prepared to go places that other TV shows don’t even consider. There’s a nervous energy to the proceedings where almost anything can happen, and very often does.

Last season, with the musical episode, they probably went too far, and this season I’d support the view that Stowaway fell into the same bucket.

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The problem I had with it was that, while it was odd and funny to have Anna Torv doing Leonard Nimoy impressions, irrespective of how good she is at doing that, I found it became grinding as it continued for the entire story and possibly beyond.

It didn’t really help that the story was rather thin, and instead of coming to a solution or conclusion, it sort of ends of its own accord, without the Fringe division doing any more than getting Peter to make a cell phone call. I also found the idea that it takes time to locate a cell phone, and the phone has to be making a call, just plain stupid. It’s entirely possible to find a phone that’s not making a call, as it registers with the cell phone towers as it moves within range of them. So, why do we still get this seventies type of rubbish in TV shows?

But there was an interesting aspect to Stowaway that kept me watching, and it was the appearance of Seth Gabel as FBI agent, Lincoln Lee. What was odd about this is that, if Olivia’s body hadn’t been occupied by the persona of William Bell, she’d have recognised him from her time spent in the alternate dimension, where he’s part of the Fringe team there. I discounted the idea that this was the alternate Lincoln Lee, because he’d expect to be identified, presumably. If Fringe got a fourth season, was it the plan to have him join Fringe?

On the upside, there was also some nicely observed humour, the best of which bounced off William Bell’s obvious attraction to Astrid, and how she wasn’t really relaxed about that, given he was inside Olivia’s body. The odd interaction between Olivia/Bell and Walter was also an interesting insight into their previous working methodology, where they would discuss in all seriousness the possibility of transferring his soul into a cow.

As entertaining as this was, these turned out to be the highlights in what wasn’t a very enthralling narrative.

Anna Torv deserves a medal for executing this particular plan. I’m just not convinced it was a great use of her remarkably wide performance skills. Where it might have seemed a hoot in the writers’ room, it didn’t make for a very watchable Fringe story.

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But don’t get me wrong, I still love this show, and if it succumbs to Fox’s plan to have it end soon, I’ll still regret that for all the positive things it often brings us.

The next episode, a week from now, is an Altivia story set in the other dimension, and given how good some of the flipside stories have been. I’m really looking forward to that.

Read our review of episode 16, Os, here.

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