Fringe Rewatch – 1.17 Bad Dreams

Fringe rewatch - Bad Dreams

Synopsis: As a suicide incident occurs at New York’s iconic Grand Central station, Agent Dunham simultaneously witnesses the event while asleep and dreaming in Boston. Rattled by the extraordinary and coincidental circumstances, Olivia, Peter and Walter investigate further, but keep coming up empty-handed. As these violent occurrences continue and worsen, Olivia is sent into an unthinkable direction and shocking details emerge about the ZFT manuscript, the highly experimental drug Cortexiphan and Olivia’s childhood.

Below the jump I share my new observations and perspectives, and take a quick look at the unresolved and closed mysteries from “Bad Dreams”.

New Observations & Perspectives

What do you mean I never smile!!? Take that back or else!1.) Olivia was comfortable telling Peter about her nightmare, but not Broyles. Perhaps she didn’t want to appear mentally unstable in front of her boss. The last thing she needed was him doubting her judgement all the trust they’d built up.

2.) Walter says that mankind’s biggest ambition is the ability to kill with thought. Interesting, perhaps this is one of the few ways to kill the Observers, seeing as they are empaths and Lane is essentially a reverse empath? Perhaps whoever reactivated Lane’s ability wanted to use him to counteract the Observers and their policing?

3.) Olivia man-handling the restaurant owner: yet another moment where Olivia totally flips and does whatever the hell she wants in order to get answers. No wonder she started the fire when she was younger, with a temper like that..

4.) Broyles shows great compassion towards Olivia – a genuine moment of care for the intrepid agent. I got the sense, however, that Broyles was looking at Olivia through knowing eyes – almost as if he’s seen it all before with previous agents? The trappings of Cortexiphan. Who knows.

5.) Lane has a military insurance policy – someone obviously has a vested interest in him. They probably wont be happy that he’s locked away in a drug-induced coma. Makes me wonder whether Olivia has a similar ‘insurance policy’ – Bell or whoever must see her as an asset.

6.) I liked that Olivia was the one who figured out what was going on with Lane. Walter and Peter helped her to that truth, but in the end it was Olivia who put the final piece in the puzzle. For me this represented important character development because Lane is pretty central to her own mythology – it’s appropriate that Olivia, more than anyone else, should understand what Lane had been going through.

7.) Often overlooked but it’s worth mentioning that Lane’s ability could also make people happy, or excited. Essentially his own mood was the key.

8.) “What was written will come to pass”. The writing is literally on the wall – IMO the ZFT prophecies WILL happen, or have already happened.

9.) Those treated with Cortexiphan are seemingly immune to the abilities of other Cortexiphan kids. I find this to be one of the most useful pieces of information from the entire episode. I fully expect to see Cortexiphan kids on BOTH sides of the war in future seasons.

10.) Lane says that Olivia was “always the strong one”. I love this, because we can clearly see that in her life today – looking after her annoying sister, bringing the Bishops back together, backing her instincts, fighting her corner, unflinching in the line of fire. It goes to show that her childhood has shaped her into the person we see before us. As I mentioned earlier in the rewatch, she’s an FBI agent at the heart of these fringe cases, but I don’t think she had much choice in her path up to now – it’s just too coincidental to be coincidence – this is shown in full effect when her abilities help her to meet her ‘creator’ in the season finale.

11.) When Lane mentions wearing the “blacks and grays”, he gestures towards Olivia because he sees that she has also (subconsciously) followed the rules.

12.) According to Broyles’ report, Lane’s parents died years ago in a car accident. Hmm…

Unresolved Mysteries

fringebloggers_baddreams000041.) Who ‘reactivated’ Nick Lane – who is the man in the glasses who visited him in the mental hospital?

2.) Why were Lane and Olivia made to forget aspects from their past – specifically the clinical trials, and how does this reconcile with Olivia’s memories of her childhood? Are there any fabricated memories there?

3.) How did Walter know that Peter’s touch would calm Olivia down? Was this a normal friendship thing, or is there something more fringey to it? Methinks it’s the latter.

Closed Mysteries

1.) Lane killed people through his negative emotions – they literally “caught his mood”. Olivia saw herself killing these people because she has a bond with Lane from their time together in William Bell’s clinical trials. She was dreaming..translating Lane’s emotions.

2.) The fact that we, the audience, saw Olivia at the scene of the crimes is just creative license – a way of bringing us into the mystery whilst illustrating how Olivia perceived the events.

Best Moment: As Walter explains to Olivia that Cortexiphan is rooted in her past, he can’t help but tenderly stroke her cheek – a reflex action with echoes from the past. This is the moment Olivia realises that Walter is also central to her history – coincidence no more. Perhaps the best darn moment of the whole season.

Best Performer: Anna Torv (honorable mentions to John Noble and the dude who plays Nick Lane).

Retrospective Rating: 9/10

Our original “Bad Dreams” posts can be found here.

Next Episode Rewatch: “Midnight”.


  1. gillybee says

    Great review as always D-Roc this was my stand out episode of the season, the hotel scene was so powerful and that touch of the cheek was just so creepy. Hats off to Torv and Noble who where at the peak of the acting powers.
    From the Road not Taken isn’t the man with the glass the lawyer Issac Winters? especially since Nick’s picture is on the wall in the warehouse that Harris went to.

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  2. mlj102 says

    First things first:

    “Olivia man-handling the restaurant owner: yet another moment where Olivia totally flips and does whatever the hell she wants in order to get answers. No wonder she started the fire when she was younger, with a temper like that.”

    You did that just to get a reaction from me, didn’t you? Either way, I’ll give you one! Seriously, you can’t blame her for that one. She hadn’t slept well in who knows how long – everyone gets short tempered and irritable when they’re tired. It was a natural response. Then factor in the nature of what’s been happening to her and it becomes even more understandable that she did what she did. And, for the final straw, you’ve got the restaurant owner himself – he was a jerk! All he cared about was that he was losing business. That guy wasn’t going to give her any straight answer if she just politely asked. The way I see it, she lost patience, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing or an unexpected thing, given the situation. I mean, considering all that she’d been through in this episode, it would have been completely unbelievable if she had remained professional and seemingly indifferent – if she hadn’t lost it at some point. It makes her a real person, not “cold” or “heartless” or “short tempered”.

    Moving on. As usual, you make a lot of really good points. I especially liked the one where you pointed out that the Cortexiphan kids seem to be rather immune to the other kids’ abilities. I agree, that fact is sure to be important in upcoming events and in the war and such.

    Regarding Olivia’s memories of her childhood: I believe that the cortexiphan trials only took place when they were young kids (around three years old: Nina specifically mentioned that Bell abandoned his cortexiphan research in 1983. Sure, that could be false information, but what would be the point in that?). So if that’s the case, she likely only lost memories from that time period in her life. But anything after that she could still remember. That’s my opinion, anyway.

    As for Peter comforting Olivia by touching her, the commentary for this episode gave some good insight into that. They (I can’t remember who exactly it is) talked about how it was like an ability he had, to soothe her with his touch, and that it was a sort of insight into his character. They also said that it’s likely an unconscious thing for him. They left off with a cryptic remark of it promising something for future episodes. So based on all that, I definitely think it’s safe to conclude that there’s something important going on there and that we can expect for it to come up again later on. I, for one, can’t wait for that to be explained more.

    Other things I noticed:

    I think there’s a lot to be learned from Nick Lane in what the Cortexiphan kids are like before and after being activated. It seems as though the act of being activated simply serves to increase the ability – which makes it almost out of control – but that before that, the ability is still there, just dormant and in a less potent stage. With Nick, it seems he was always hyper emotive and able to influence people with his emotions, but it was after he was activated that that escalated to actually pushing people to do the things he was feeling (This also seems to be the case for the fire starting girls: the apartment showed evidence of prior fires, but they obviously survived, so it must’ve been relatively mild and in control. It wasn’t until after they were activated that they couldn’t control the ability). If that’s the case, I’m curious what exactly Olivia’s ability is and how it will be heightened after being activated (though I know many people believe she’s already been activated). You also have to wonder what exactly is done to activate a person. I know that some people believe that taking the tests is what activates you, in which case Olivia would already be activated. But if that were the case, I would imagine she would be causing more noticeable things to happen and things would be out of her control.

    There was yet another mention of Peter’s mother in this episode when Walter was chastising Peter for being “presumptuous” and only wanting to believe Olivia when she said things he wanted to hear, and that his mother was like that. I’m excited to have all these small mentions of her come together and make more sense when we find out more about Peter’s past and who his mother is.

    I’ve really been trying to wrap my mind around some of the things Walter said in the hotel room and what the significance could be. Specifically, he said, “Perception is the key to transformation.” To which Peter explained, “Reality is both subjective and malleable. If you can dream a better world, you can make a better world.” The wording just strikes me as very specific and very important. I think it likely explains a lot of what’s going to happen later in the show. It seems like this concept is the whole foundation for what William Bell is trying to do, and maybe it’s the purpose of cortexiphan. Maybe William Bell thinks he can somehow create a better world by influencing the perception of the kids with cortexiphan. I still don’t understand how that would tie in with ZFT or this war or what not. Maybe I’m just going off the deep end.

    There were, of course, many references to dreams and sleep (with a title like Bad Dreams, I guess that’s kind of to be expected). The fact that it was through her dreams that she was able to see what Nick Lane was doing strikes me as significant. Then there’s the comment Peter made about dreaming a better world making a better world. Most significant, in my opinion is what Nick Lane said about “Sometimes what we wake up, it can’t be put back to sleep.” Very ominous, don’t you think?

    Another interesting thing I noticed from the commentary is that when Nick was getting his gun out from the drawer, the people in the commentary specifically mentioned that there was one of the boxes with the light test in there. I know there’s something there, but I hadn’t realized it was one of the boxes like Olivia had received. Interesting to know for sure about that. It also made me think about Ability and when Olivia passed the test. I’m curious as to why it was such a big deal for Jones that Olivia pass the test. He obviously went to great lengths for her to take and pass the test, yet it doesn’t seem like it was that important for the other people who took the test. And Jones seemed to be in such great awe and wonder when Olivia did manage to pass the test. I would think that if it was relatively common for the cortexiphan kids to take and pass the test, that it wouldn’t be that big a deal for him. So what’s so special about Olivia taking and passing the test? Perhaps the other kids tried to take the test but couldn’t pass it? I don’t know. Or maybe Olivia was the first one to take and pass the test, proving that the cortexiphan trials did do something – if she was the first one, that could explain why it was so significant. Still, they made a big deal about Olivia being very rare and valuable to Jones, so I get the impression that she’s not your average cortexiphan kid. Perhaps her response to the cortexiphan was uncommonly profound and important.

    I thought that there was an interesting contrast shown between when Peter reached out and touched Olivia’s cheek to comfort her at the hospital and when Walter attempted to do the same in the hotel room. I’m not saying it means anything, but I did find it interesting that they both happened in the same episode and that Olivia reacted very differently to both instances. If nothing else, it seemed to make the instance with Walter have even greater meaning and a more powerful impact. We’d seen earlier with Peter that she could respond to the comforting touch, but in this instance, she was so bothered by what she was learning about Walter and what he’d done to her, that she literally brushed it away. I thought that was a neat effect.

    I love the character interactions in this entire episode. First off, it provided a great development in the friendship between Peter and Olivia – the way she trusted him, and confided in him and relied on him throughout the whole episode, and how, in turn, he tried to comfort her and reassure her that she couldn’t possibly be responsible, and he accompanied her even though it wasn’t necessary and even though he didn’t believe that it was anything more than a dream – on both sides it seems like it’s a big step from where they were in the pilot. And there was a great progression over the course of the episode as he came to trust more in what was happening to her. Experiences like that can’t help but strengthen the bond between people and I really liked the way the events of the episode strengthened their friendship. Then there was Olivia and Broyles, which you already mentioned. Sure, she was reluctant to confide in him at first (for fear of sounding crazy) but when she did, he had her back. That too shows how far they have come since the pilot. And then there was Walter – he just accepted everything as if it was the most common thing ever and they merely needed to find the appropriate cause. So typical of him, but also great to have him supportive and devoted to finding the cause of what was happening.

    Anna Torv once again delivered a fantastic performance in this episode. I’ve praised her performance many times over and I imagine I will only continue to do so. What struck me in this episode was the subtle moments, the times when she wasn’t necessarily the focus of the camera, but was off to the side, or back in the background, yet she still conveyed the emotion – the distress and the exhaustion. It was so very believable. She appropriately conveyed the feelings that would be expected from no longer merely investigating strange cases, but finding yourself an active participant in them. I felt like I could feel what she was feeling. It’s acting like that that makes these episodes so incredible!

    Favorite Moment:

    There were so many moments in this episode that I absolutely loved. It’s hard to pick just one. Like you, I also found the hotel room scene to be extremely well done, incredibly significant, and truly classic. I also loved the various scenes in this episode where Walter was trying to figure out what was going on: from the opening scene with the Geiger counter and Astral projection and Pippin, to the next one where he was interrogating Olivia: “Do you have any reason to want her dead? Romantic rival, perhaps?” “I didn’t even know her!” “Then why did you kill her?” “I don’t know!”, to the whole “unsub” scene and him going back and forth between the video and his coffee, and finally when he found out Nick had been at a mental institution and he exclaimed “Well I’m not going there!” All those scenes were hilarious and really added extra layers to the episode. And aside from funny, the rooftop scene at the end was extremely well done. I personally found it to be very believable and gripping. There was a great tone and atmosphere in that scene and it’s extremely memorable. However, amidst all that, I really think that for my favorite scene, I’ll have to go with the opening scene when Ella is describing her upcoming vaccinations to Olivia. Thanks to that, gruesome is now one of my favorite words. Something about that was just so great!


    This episode had some really wonderful ones. When the third victim was killed, it was shown happening through the reflection in the large bathroom mirror. Then we also saw Nick Lane looking at himself in his round mirror. There was also a moment when Olivia and Peter were talking outside the restaurant and you could see their reflections in the large window rather clearly. Finally, though not necessarily reflections, the camera did some fancy fading and such in the final scene where Olivia and Broyles are looking in at Nick Lane. There are a couple instances where you clearly see two images of them standing there. And in that same scene there is a very clear reflection of Olivia and Broyles in the window as they are looking in on Nick.

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  3. FlashWriter says

    THIS was the one.

    While “Fringe” never did fit into any frame I ever knew of before, THIS WAS THE ONE. The one that connected everything we’ve seen up to this point together. It was the one that lifted this show from a really good TV series to something else. To Art. It was here where Olivia went from investigating something “out there” to something within herself.

    And just let me say that The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences now owes Anna Torv—owes her big time. Her performance simply blew me out of the room. The hotel scene alone should have earned a nomination. The stripper sequence—even in today’s definition as to what Standards and Practices accept—hit me with the dramatic impact of an H-Bomb.

    We first start with the script. Very, very tight. Every scene advanced the story, almost every scene was a “reveal” unto itself. Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I am Legend, Handcock to name just a few) may never achieve the notoriety of a Rod Serling but this guy is REALLY good. His dialogue is fantastic, his feel for how our characters would react to this type of situation, superb. There are scenes in this episode that I’ve watched multiple times and will, no doubt watch multiple times more.

    Which brings us to his Direction of the episode. Mr. Goldsman has a great storytelling style in the way he composes a scene. I love the way he starts several of the scenes by panning from the ceiling to the floor, (or the sky to the sidewalk). It gives a geography to the scene’s location. …And what he was able to capture from Anna, John, and Josh! My God.

    A few passing thoughts from some of the scenes:

    Everything that went on before was a great setup, but in the hospital scene, I realized in the rewatch that Olivia was actually investigating herself. SHE was the suspect! She was trying to confirm or deny her placement at the stabbing. The scene outside the hospital room: “Peter. What is happening to me?” just tore my guts out and Peter’s reaction was to try to calm her, to try to get her mental guts crammed back inside of her head. The fact that Olivia turned to him for strength, and Peter’s reaction, for me, was the most up-front illustration that what has evolved here is a kind of “family”. Yes, yes, we all were thinking “family” by this time, but it was here, right here, where we actually see it up front.

    (An aside here to Roco: I am so with MLJ here about the restaurant scene. There was no temper here, it was just plain desperation that drove her to rough-up that restaurant owner. She felt that her brains were turning to mush, something so strange was going on inside her head and she was willing to go to just about any length to get to the bottom of it. She was tired, caffeined up and not thinking like we know Olivia usually thinks. End of lecture.)

    The original lab scene where our gang began to discuss the theoretical underpinnings of what Olivia was experiencing, (I loved Walter’s lecture on man’s oldest dream) was hypnotizing. Peter’s continuing efforts to keep everything on an even keel, Astrid’s aside that she should have picked, “Great taste, less filling.” And Olivia…who looked so profoundly miserable during the whole sequence—she looked like it was difficult for her to even breathe.

    One scene led to another. One that not too many people have commented on was the one at St. Judes Mental Hospital:


    PETER (Voiceover)
    You know, until this year I’ve never actually been to a mental hospital.

    OLIVIA (Voiceover)
    Learn to like new things…


    Olivia sits next to Peter with her face buried in her hands.

    Maybe I never gave it enough thought, what Walter went through. I only saw it from my own perspective. His being crazy was something that he did TO us. To my mother and me. It wasn’t something that HAPPENED to him.

    OLIVIA (looking up and forcing a smile)
    Well, you were young.

    PETER (returning her smile with a weary one)
    …I’m not young anymore…(he pauses thoughtfully, then says) Must be a terrible thing, to not be able to trust your own mind.

    OLIVIA (who isn’t trusting her own mind these days whispers)

    Peter realizes what he said and pats Olivia on her shoulder to reassure her.


    In “The Equation”, Peter remarks that Walter was growing up. I daresay that Peter is showing that he’s doing the same thing in this scene.

    But here it is, right here, the almost invisible nuances in this scene illustrates how great this episode really is. The ohhh, soooo subtle things that Goldsman wrote and brought to fruition and captured on film.

    And then we get to the scene in Walter’s hotel room. The great Cortexiphan reveal, when Olivia first broaches the Cortexiphan question and Walter tries to deflect it. Olivia was having absolutely none of it.


    Look at the way she’s standing when she delivers the line. She’s ready for battle and both Walter (most especially Walter) and Peter know it.

    As the scene progresses, as they spiral closer and closer to the answer to the mystery, when the reality of what happened finally springs on Olivia as she looks closely into the face of the man who helped engineer it. Walter’s impulsive parental stroke on her cheek, the way she held up her hand and backed away from him. Turning away she combs back her hair with he fingers…she knows, she knows and yet she just can’t quite get her arms around it. Not yet…

    Oh man, I still get tears in my eyes when I even think of this scene. AND I ASK AGAIN: IF THIS DOESN’T EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION, THEN JUST WHAT IN HELL DOES?

    In every way that matters, to me, THIS was the finale. My thought after the credits rolled was…”Wow…you mean there’s really more to this season?”

    Anna Torv and Peter Jackson each won one more fanatical fan this night. They, along with John Noble were completely, utterly brilliant in this episode. Akiva Goldsman was a tour-de-force. Both the script (another one that should be taught in schools, I think) was sensational, and his direction was completely, off-the-charts awesome.

    And now I wait for the start of season 2. Only two more days left now. A mysterious force has hung “Fringe” posters on all the bulletin boards where I work. The clock ticks, ticks, ticks. Patience is what I need now. Yes, patience…

    Rewatch 10/10.

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    • FlashWriter says

      In the above entry, I notice that I’ve made an error when I wrote, “In “The Equation”, Peter remarks that Walter was growing up.” The episode I was actually refuring to was “There’s More Than One of Everything”. Apologies…

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    • says

      Which brings us to his Direction of the episode. Mr. Goldsman has a great storytelling style in the way he composes a scene. I love the way he starts several of the scenes by panning from the ceiling to the floor, (or the sky to the sidewalk). It gives a geography to the scene’s location.

      I also loved that – I’m glad you pointed it out.

      (An aside here to Roco: I am so with MLJ here about the restaurant scene. There was no temper here, it was just plain desperation that drove her to rough-up that restaurant owner. She felt that her brains were turning to mush, something so strange was going on inside her head and she was willing to go to just about any length to get to the bottom of it. She was tired, caffeined up and not thinking like we know Olivia usually thinks. End of lecture.)

      I agree that it was an act of desperation – outside of the restaurant was one of the most broken images of Olivia I have ever seen – she literally crumbled into Peter without any hesitation. That said, it was another indication of just how far she can go when she wants something. With all those powers she has, there might come a time when she has to be more responsible with her actions? I don’t think she’d intentionally hurt an “innocent”, but we’ve seen how out of control some of these abilities are before they have been nurtured.

      I wouldn’t change Olivia though.

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