By Jeff Jensen
Updated November 18, 2010 at 10:10 PM EST
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Image Credit: Liane Hentscher/Fox

With Fringe closing in on a major turning point in its Crisis On Infinite Earths (Or Just Two) storyline, and with the J.J. Abrams sci-fi series signaling that it’s about to push into a new layer of mystery mythology (Who are “The First People?” Are they connected to The Observer? Is Sam Weiss one of them? I want to know!), tonight’s new episode lays the groundwork for the midseason denoument by showcasing Phillip Broyles. Not the “our world” Special Agent Broyles, the charismatic Don’t mess with me suit that leads the FBI’s hush-hush EWRT Fringe division hidden away in a Harvard laboratory. No, tonight we’re going “over there” and digging into Colonel Broyles, the charismatic, Don’t mess with me military man who leads the very public, EWRT Fringe division located at the base of the Statue of Liberty. (Note: EWRT = Emergency Weirdness Response Team. Every world needs one, including our own, especially given the baffling and threatening reality-eroding situation currently facing our culture.)

The episode, entitled “The Abducted,” offers a peek into Col. Broyles’ private life, and as such functions as a mirror world analog to last season’s Broyles-centric outing, “Earthling.” We’ll learn that Col. Broyles is married (“over here” he’s divorced) and that he has a child — a son, who has an unsettling backstory. Look for the drama to ratchet up his unique conflict with “over here” Olivia, who had been brainwashed into thinking she’s “over there” Olivia, although she now remembers she’s “over here” Olivia, but she isn’t telling anyone. Until now, Col. Broyles has viewed this mentally doctored Olivia duplicate as a necessary evil — a key element in Walternate’s mad quest to save the “over there” world from destruction. But in tonight’s story, Olivia will impact Col. Broyles’ life in such a way that will make him reconsider his dim view of her. How do I know this? Because Lance Reddick — the actor who plays Special Agent Broyles/Col. Broyles — told me so. “The attitude among the characters in the alternate universe is that the people ‘over here’ are bad,” says Reddick. Expaining the sitch from the perspective of Col. Broyles, Reddick continued: “They did this to us. They started this thing. They’re trying to destroy our world. As far as I’m concerned, Olivia is one of those people. She’s one of the bad people that wants to kill us and if there’s any chance she can regain her senses, she’s a threat, especially if she’s as formdiable as our Olivia. But something happens in this episode where things begin to change.”

Image Credit: Liane Hentscher/FoxReddick says he draws from an unlikely inspiration when it comes to playing Col. Broyles’ scenes with Olivia. In 2000, the actor — whose credits include Lost, The Wire, and Oz — appeared in a quickly-cancelled CBS drama called Falcone. The show was a spin-off of the acclaimed 1997 Al Pacino/Johnny Depp true life crime flick Donnie Brasco. While working on Falcone, Reddick met the real “Donnie Brasco,” aka Joe Pistone. “While I was doing that show,” says Reddick, “I was cast in Oz as an undercover cop. I asked Joe if there were any books he could suggest that I read for research, and he suggested three books — and one of them was his own. In the book, he talked about how while being undercover in the Mafia, he had to separate his personal feelings from his professional and moral sense of responsibility. There were certain guys he really couldn’t stand, but there were some people he genuinely liked, even though ultimately he had to bring them down. I think Col. Broyles feels the same way about Olivia. On various occasions, she has performed heroically to earn his respect, and in tonight’s episode, that appreciation — and the angst that goes with it — reaches a new level.”

Another intersting tidbit: Reddick told me is that when the producers of Fringe explained to him the parallel world premise, they told him that while the “over there” world is imperiled by an escalating number of Fringe events, the populace is, by and large, actually happier than the people “over here.” Something provocative for us in the audience to mull as we plunge deeper into a story about a culture grappling with the ramifications of catastrophe — and bracing for more. Finally, I asked Reddick if he wished his alterna-world Broyles had a clever-convoluted nickname like “Walternate” or “Fauxlivia” or “Bolivia.” He considered this question, then replied, “ I think Col. Broyles is distinct enough.” Not for me. From here on out, alterna-Phillip will be… Broyles McBrasco!

Just kidding. Colonel Broyles is distinct enough for me, too. Besides, I really don’t ever want to be on the wrong side of Reddick’s Don’t mess with me glare. Shudder. Looking forward to tonight’s episode — and Ken Tucker’s recap of the episode tomorrow here at

Check out Doc Jensen on Twitter: @EWDocJensen

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