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Bad Dreams: Olivia Has Murder in Mind on "Fringe"

Memory is a funny thing.

Last night's episode of Fringe ("Bad Dreams"), written and directed by Akiva Goldsman, offered us some insight into just what might have happened to Olivia as a child, providing a past connection between her and Walter Bishop even as Olivia is drawn into an intense mental connection with a man she can't remember ever having met.

While it still involved a standalone investigation, this week's installment furthered the overarching mythology of the series as it relates to Olivia Dunham's childhood and her exposure to Cortexiphan, the abilities she seemingly displayed in "Ability," and the enigmatic Z.F.T. terrorist cell, which preaches about a coming war between Earth and the denizens of a parallel dimension.

Could it be that things are finally coming together now as the walls close in on Olivia? That the forces rallied around her--the Bishops, the Fringe Division, Massive Dynamics--are all aware of her own involvement in The Pattern?

Olivia. I'm glad that Olivia finally came clean about her belief that she was experimented on as a child and was given Cortexiphan. She's kept this a secret for so long now that I wasn't sure she was going to let Peter and Walter into her inner circle of trust for some time. I'm not sure why Olivia can't remember the experiments at all (nor why she was called "Olive" by the scientists) while reverse empath Nick Lane has a full knowledge of the time they shared together while undergoing the tests, paired together in a sort of buddy system. It's a rapport that continues to this day as Olivia is able to connect to Nick via her subconscious and, while dreaming, see through his eyes as his power forces those around him to feel the same anger, sadness, lust, or rage that he does. Olivia keeps dreaming that she is responsible for the deaths of several strangers when it fact it's Nick's ability that is causing people to commit suicide or murder their spouses and Olivia is experiencing an echo of Nick's movements.

So why can't Olivia remember? Was her memory erased so that she wouldn't recall what had been done to her? Like Nick, is she a sort of sleeper agent that needs to be "woken up" in order to regain her memories and consciously access her abilities? Nick tells her that he followed all of their instructions and his words make it clear that he has either read the Z.F.T. manifesto or has been indoctrinated into their belief system. He wears "the blacks and greys" (which I thought was odd when they showed Nick's closet) and waited for someone to make contact with him.

If Olivia was tested on as child, does it mean that the same thing happened to her sister Rachel (Ari Gaynor)? And just what does Rachel keep trying to tell Olivia? Also on my mind: did John Scott know about Olivia's past and was he trying to protect her? Could Nina Sharp also be acutely aware of Olivia's involvement with Walter Bishop and William Bell as a child? (Speaking of which, Sharp and Massive Dynamics have been awfully quiet these last few episodes.)

Peter. If Olivia was tested on, it seems clear that the implication is that Peter was likely experimented on as well in the same fashion. We know that Walter already used Peter in some sort of experiment as a child but I wonder if he was dosed--either with or without Walter's knowledge--with Cortexiphan as well. Could it explain Peter's innate ability to read people? Could he be manifesting a sort of low-grade telepathy?

Walter. Walter is now beginning to remember pieces of the Z.F.T. manifesto, indicating that he either wrote the manifesto himself or with William Bell. And Walter suspects that he was involved with experimenting on several children with his former partner William Bell and dosing them with the drug Cortexiphan. Hell, he even uncovers a video tape of subject "Olive" as a little girl, after some sort of incident goes horribly wrong. Just what is Olivia's power? Telekinesis, judging from the way she turned off the lights in "Ability"? Or something far more unsettling?

Astrid. I'm hoping that somehow, some way, Astrid is involved with Cortexiphan, Z.F.T., or something interesting as we're now only a few episodes away from the end of the first season and Astrid is just as much of a cipher as she was in the very first episode. There's been no character development whatsoever for her and I'm hoping before the curtain falls in a few episodes that Astrid is given something interesting, compelling, or memorable to do. Other than correct Walter for his misuse of her name, fetch coffee (with cinnamon!), or have the ability to speak Latin or whatever the team needs that week.

What did you think about this week's episode? Are you intrigued by the direction the series is going? What do you think about the prophesied war between parallel dimensions and how does this connect to The Pattern? Just what will Olivia discover next? Discuss.

Next week on Fringe ("Midnight"), the team investigates a case involving severely mutilated bodies drained of spinal cord fluid, leading them to a scientist with possible ties to the Z.F.T. bioterrorist cell; Olivia, Peter, and Walter go to desperate lengths to stop the killer.


AskRachel said…
I'm glad it's finally come out that Olivia was injected with Cortexiphan and I believe that Peter and her sister, Rachel, were too. Either that or they were both experimented on in some other way. Rachel is definitely hiding something from Olivia and I'm very curious to learn her secret!

And I would also love it if Astrid turned out to be a spy or something totally unexpected since, as your said, she still has no purpose on the show!
rockauteur said…
Who's the man with glasses that came to visit Nick to "wake him up?"

Where was Baldo in this episode? I didn't catch him.

Do you think Nina Sharpe was the woman's voice on the video tape of Olive in the end?
Tempest said…
Finally! Forward movement. Woo Hoo!

John Noble really does a great job with this role. Walter Bisop has the potential to be a complete hamfest for an actor. For instance, I loved how he played Walter's obsession cinammon coffee in this episode.
Jace Lacob said…

The Observer walked right across the foreground in the street! Not sure how you missed him this week! ;)
Page48 said…
What a relief to have an episode not involving the usual (yawn!) Monster Mash. And how about the fact that they actually dealt with the bigger story, which has been abandoned since February! I have an idea. DO THAT EVERY WEEK!

I find Walter's comedy schtick irritating as hell. I get that he's damaged goods, but when he get his Henny Youngman on, sheeesh! Humour is fine but Walter's nonsense belongs on the Comedy Channel. It's not enough that we have a weekly appearance from that bald comic book character? C'mon Walter, serious up a little.

Did I mention no disgusting autopsy this week? No larvae, no giant cold germs. See, it can be done.

What's Broyles's job, BTW? Do they pay him to do jack squat? I wanna be Broyles.

This was a pretty decent episode. I wish they would spend more time pursuing the plot and less time impressing me with scary monsters and super creeps.

Oh, and what do you suppose Olivia's niece was really injected with?
Merc13 said…
Wow, this was an incredibly great episode of television, period. Original and fascinating premise, grand execution.

And as such, the show deserves to be defended. Fringe gets scrutinized pretty heavily because of its pedigree, perhaps deservedly, but on an absolute level, it's probably the best of all the new shows I've seen. There's sophisticated history building behind the father-son relationship, as opposed to the pleasant but ultimately cliche T.V. relationships on "Chuck." (Sorry Jace, I know your a big fan). There's a deliberate and thoughtful build up with Olivia's arching story, instead of the illogical machinations of "Dollhouse." And the direction (fantastic opening scene, by the way) is ambitious, knowledgeable and effective, without the over-stylized pretentiousness of a show like "Sarah Connor Chronicles." Although I agree, the writers need to create foundations, not to mention develop, the 3 supporting characters, and quickly. But in the end, I don't care how much some people want to rant - this show deserves to get renewed.
Nicole said…
One of the best episodes so far. It's still gnawing at me - and I fear for Peter. I feel it will be so much worse for Peter.

I thought the moment where Walter had Peter help calm Olivia while she was in the disco-REM machine was meant to point to a similar connection between them as between Olivia and Nick.

The scene in the hotel where the Cortexiphan info came out was some AMAZING work by all involved. So much went on in the subtext of that scene - and the way Walter mirrored Peter by trying to touch Olivia's face was really quite cool.

I love how the writers are building this story and these complex relationships!

And if it were California instead of Florida, I would think that Olive and Nick might have had little Sydney Bristow as a classmate. ;)
CL said…
Above all else, I'm most interested in how close Peter and Olivia seem to be getting. And one glaring question: how did Walter know that Peter could calm Olivia down so easily? When he placed his hands in hers, her reaction was instant. Maybe Peter does have powers and he is (a) using them without realizing it, or (b) knows he has powers and is trying to keep it on the down low.

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