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The Weight of a Secret: Truth and Clues on Fringe

"Some Pandora's boxes are better left unopened." - Olivia Dunham

Secrets are funny things.

On the one hand, secrets are admissions of sort to an inner circle of trust; knowledge is, after all, power and knowing a secret gives one enormous sway over another. But that's also a hefty responsibility to shoulder: to carry around the weight of knowledge, to feel the pressure from such an onus.

On this week's episode Fringe ("Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver."), Agent Olivia Dunham is feeling that weight digging into her subsconcious. In learning the truth about Peter, she's become, in a way, complicit in Walter's betrayal of Peter, agreeing to carry the guilt of what he's done to his son, to perpetuate the fraud that's been perpetuated for decades.

Despite Olivia's vast reserves of strength, it's proving to be a burden that she doesn't want to shoulder any longer. She heard Walter's shocking confession in last week's episode ("Peter"), but instead of granting her a sense of solidarity with Walter Bishop, it's resulting in a splintering of the makeshift family the Fringe Division has established.

It's also ripped her apart from Peter Bishop just as they were possibly about to embark on a romantic journey together. Which, to me anyway, is a good thing: I much prefer these two as spiritual kinsmen than lovers. They had their moment to connect in a romantic sense and they missed it, particularly after Olivia discovered the truth about Peter's identity.

That knowledge has pushed the two of them apart and has had Olivia behaving extremely aloof and shifty towards Peter. I was glad to see Peter attempt to address the sudden distance between them with the scene in the car, though he believed that the cause of it was their almost-kiss in Jacksonville. Given what Olivia knows, being around Peter is just too painful and too fraught with complication. But I was happy to see them acknowledge the fact that they've grown fond of the weird little family they've built together and neither one of them wants to jeopardize that: not Peter for the promise of a relationship with Olivia... or Olivia by attempting to tell Peter the truth.

While Olivia must come face to face with a bizarre mystery that connects to her own shadowy childhood, she's also attempting to come to grips with what Walter did to her as a child, a fact that's clouding her judgment when it comes to Peter as well. Her inability to sleep does point to the fact that she's ambivalent about what she should do regarding keeping this secret. Is it better to tell the truth for the sake of telling the truth? Or do some truths more hurtful than others?

Nina was right that Olivia didn't go to Massive Dynamic to demand information that she didn't have (and Nina was telling her truth based on that final scene between Nina and Broyles) nor did she go there to warn her that she was going to expose Walter's secret. No, she was there so that Nina could talk her out of it and therefore free her from the feelings of guilt she was experiencing in keeping the truth buried. After all, her job is to expose the truth, to punish the wicked, and to protect the innocent. In colluding with Walter to keep Peter's identity under wraps, she is failing her own basic calling.

Or at least that's what Olivia is wondering about. In reality, she'd be shattering Peter's world forever and that's not her right to do so. I loved the scene between Olivia and Walter as both of them revealed that they had each changed their mind about how to proceed: Olivia had understood that no good would come from telling Peter and Walter that he had to face up to the consequences of his action, no matter what the outcome. Peter has a right to know about his identity and Walter's efforts to take control of his secret and to share the truth with Peter is a remarkable tipping point for the character. The past, after all, never stays buried... So why not be the one to do the digging yourself?

I'm glad that the writers have kept Kevin Corrigan's Sam Weiss in the picture. It's nice to see Olivia have an outlet outside of the Fringe Division, particularly since the death of Charlie Francis, and Sam is a quirky and intriguing character. The little spark between them--their easy rapport and the fact that Sam turned up in the middle of the night with Clue--is a great change of pace for the series. I'm not sure where their storyline is going but I'm completely invested in their friendship and hope that Corrigan sticks around for a while.

Likewise, I'm also glad that Nina Sharp is being pulled further back into the main focus of the series. Nina's hung around for far too long on the, er, fringes of the series and was too often relegated to the periphery. Instead, she should be a valuable--if shifty--ally for the Fringe Division. The aforementioned scene with Broyles points to the team and Massive Dynamic working more closely together to track down the other cortexiphan trial subjects--and the man seeking to activate them--and I'm hoping that we see a lot more of Blair Brown's Nina in the weeks to come.

All in all, another fantastic episode of Fringe that featured a compelling mystery of the week (though I wish one of the team members had mentioned the fact that the killer's attacks were suddenly increasing at an alarming rate) as well as an installment that placed the focus on the relationships between the core characters and their backstories. My only complaint: that more people aren't watching this remarkable series.

Next week on Fringe ("White Tulip"), when passengers aboard a commuter train appear to have died a still death, it seems that a switch was flipped because all cell phones, mp3 players, laptops, batteries and bodies have been drained of power; Peter remains suspicious that something is amiss with Walter; the investigation leads the Fringe Division to Alistair Peck, a very powerful man who wields tremendous energy with severe consequences.

Comments

mck said…
Completely agree about Kevin Corrigan's Sam Weiss. I for one would like to see Peter and Olivia get together, but for now I'm happy to see where this friendship goes.

Really wish I could get more people to watch this show, but at least we're a go for season three. The show still has some kinks to fix though. I don't always find the standalone episodes entertaining and wish they could all have some kernel of a connection to the show's mythology. I know that's a lot to ask of a show that's struggling to bring in new viewers.
OldDarth said…
Good review.

Put me down for Olivia and Peter being together romanatically though. Two lonely people that would be so good for each other.
Unknown said…
Olivia & Peter becoming romantically involved would be a "jumped the shark" move to me. Surely the "Fringe" writers can be more creative than employing that old and tired answer to the question, "Now what do we do?"

However, teasing us with it (i.e. the almost kiss), and then using that to explain Peter's understanding of Olivia's distance from him after she learns he's from the other universe? Brilliant!

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