Fringe season 3 episode 2 review: The Box

Billy opens the box and is deafened by the quality television it contains in this week’s episode of Fringe...

3.2 The Box

There’s a pattern to many new show seasons, where they jump back into the big story arc for the season opener, and then, having re-established connection with their fan base, they roll out a self-contained story for the second episode.

Thankfully, Fringe didn’t get that memo, and The Box moved the ‘battle of two universes’ plot on at pace, and began to explore how devious those planning against ours are.

The box in question is dug up by some disposable minions of Thomas Newton, and then it kills them and the nice homeowners whose cellar it’s buried in. The return to the scary start wasn’t a big surprise, but importantly, the tone of the show has now subtly altered for this viewer.

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We’re no longer casual observers, but now represent Walter, seeing things on the other side of his dimensional viewer, but beyond our ability to change them. We see all the details that they miss, but are unable to warn those at the heart of the action. The blood pooling under the door in Olivia’s apartment, the secret meetings between Altivia and Newton, and her visits to the trans-dimensional typewriter.

Peter is clearly confused by Altivia’s quick on and off switch, where one minute she’s jumping on him and the next she’s keener to get back to work. Surely he’s bright enough to realise something isn’t right here, but how long will it take for that particular penny to drop? That said, the whole issue of dealing with Walter, who wants him to better understand the choices that were made that brought him to this dimension, does serve as a distraction.

In the final analysis, this story used the box as a simple structure on which to start to display a complicated plan in which those from the other side have to manipulate the Fringe team into doing their bidding, and presumably build a device that will destroy this dimension. Onto this they’re starting to layer a more moral determination, where the other side has as much right to exist as this dimension and, in that respect, their actions aren’t entirely unjustified.

This was a direction that season three was promoted as taking, but it’s fascinating to see the train of crumbs that are being led in that direction.

Olivia apologises to the deaf man she shoots, and clearly her understanding of our dimension is altering her perception of what it is she’s fighting, and why.

It’s great to see a show that’s so tightly written and well performed, but they even manage to get a few genuinely funny moments in here, along with one decent shocker.

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Walter’s explanation of how sound from the box kills, using the Jan Hammer’s theme from Miami Vice, made me laugh for some time later. As did the revelation that U2 and Bono don’t exist in the other dimension.

If I’ve got a complaint, and I really haven’t, ‘the box’ itself was pretty underwhelming, looking like a rather flimsy rejected design for a first generation Xbox. But then, the plot required that the lid be broken, so it couldn’t be too substantial, I guess.

The confidence of the show’s writing team is shining through their scripts now, and a real sense of foreboding is being constructed. I just hope this keeps people watching, because I’m really enjoying the season so far.

Next week, the Fringe team encounter The Plateau, which title I’m optimistically assuming doesn’t suggest the story goes flat.  

Read our review of the season premiere, Olivia, here.