Welcome to our rewatch for episode 17 of Fringe season 1 – “Bad Dreams”. Join us as we enter minds and gather new perspectives on our journey back to the other side.
We have renamed this episode: Perspective.
Newly Observed Perspectives
- Olivia’s sleeping problems continue. After repeated disturbances to her internal foundation, she’s struggling to separate dreams from reality. Or rather, her place in that reality.
- What caused Olivia’s empathetic bond with Nick Lane to wake up? We can point to her trials with Jones, or Nick’s increasing troubles (activation). Both likely answers. But I continue to wonder how much of what we see is Olivia subconsciously creating or shaping her path? The Bishops, The mind-sharing, The fear, the sleepless nights – it can all be viewed as the necessary tools to prepare and lead Olivia to the alternate universe. And perhaps beyond.
- This episode contains elements that make me further question the reality of Alistair Peck and the whole white tulip thing. I’ll probably expand on this more when we get to that episode, but let’s just say, the sender of Walter’s ‘forgiveness’ might be someone closer to home.
- By the way, is this the first Fringe episode, that we know of, to start out in a dream? (Technically it was reality, but Olivia experienced it as a dream).
- “I’m surprised at you Peter. Agent Dunham is your friend, you trust her. She says she killed that girl and you’re so presumptuous to believe her only when she says what you want to hear.” It’s really interesting to see Walter criticize Peter’s lack of faith in Olivia. It’s almost as though he’s returning the favor from earlier in the season when Dunham tried to get Peter to trust Walter. What does this say about Olivia and Walter? Alternatively, what does this say about Peter? Is he the voice of reason, or the one holding everybody back? Is Walter right about him? Does he only believe in something when it tallies with his own beliefs?
- Walter sneaks in another interesting little snipe: “Your mother was always a bit like that” Ouch, Walter! Perhaps we can see a bit of this fickle outlook in Elizabeth’s willingness to keep Peter until guilt got the better of her. It’s suggested that she blamed Walter for what he did – yet, as we saw in “Peter“, she couldn’t help herself when the opportunity was right there in her face. She was the driving force behind Walter’s decision not to return Peter. Although I certainly don’t single Elizabeth out for blame – Walter not only did the deed, but I strongly suspect that he knew Elizabeth wouldn’t let him take Peter back. A blameless crime which backfired. Badly.
- “NO-SLEEP”. The sleep/dream references that we’ve been tracking are obviously all over this episode. But the sleeping pill box is one of the visual references that also implies staying awake.
- “Petah..what is happening to me?”. Dunhamnator Dunhamelts into Peter’s arms. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful to have Peter on hand as he catches our falling warrior.
- Olivia picks up the broken cup handle as she begins to get a grip on the mystery (and the restaurant owner’s neck – yikes, Livvy!).
- “What if you weren’t dreaming about yourself, but you were dreaming about him. Mr. Un-sub”. Nice double-meaning there, with Nick being the unidentified subject and Olivia’s subconscious latching onto Nick’s emotions as they bubble to the surface.
- I think it’s worth questioning every dream that we see in this show. As we’ve previously talked about, I also think it might be useful to question the ‘reality’ of both universes in Fringe.
- The following quote ties in to what I suggested earlier about Olivia’s inner mind projecting reality:
“These things that we see every day, these things that we investigate. They’re happening to me”.
- Are these things happening to Olivia? Is she making them happen?
- “Dunham..take care of yourself”. You’re a sweetheart, Broyles. And his shoulders rise and then drop with concern as she leaves the room.
- There’s no getting away from this subtle theme of reality happening to someone. It seems innocuous enough at first, but think about it for a moment as Peter delivers one of his most heartfelt lines:
“Maybe I never gave it enough thought, what Walter went through. I only ever saw it from my own perspective. His being crazy is something that he did to us. To my mother and me. It wasn’t something that happened to him.”
- It’s a monumental admission, or rather, realization, from Peter. Through Olivia’s ordeal (and reconnecting with Walter), he’s able to see that Walter didn’t want things to turn out this way. Sure, there were choices along the way – decisions that were made to shape, bend, shatter and mend reality. But at the end of the day, you can only fully understand another person if you’re prepared to see through their eyes.
- I feel sorry for Peter. After Walter left the family home, he held on to so much bitterness because he believed that Walter was in control, when in fact he began to lose his grip the moment he saved Peter’s life. It’s that cycle again, so prominent in Fringe. But it’s good to see Peter beginning to break this one by shifting his perspective.
- Of course, there’s an argument that Walter was/is in control and that everything that has happened is not without overarching intent. Whatever the case, it’s fitting that what we as the audience choose to believe depends upon our own perspective and what we’re willing to buy into.
- Peter continues to gain points with a well delivered moment of poignancy (although he’s being slightly insensitive to Olivia’s situation):
“It must be a terrible thing to not be able to trust your own mind”
- That hand of comfort that Peter puts on Olivia’s back is worth one thousand “Over There – Part 2″ kisses. Only whisper it, but..I actually like Peter in this episode – so much so that I’m wondering: where did it all go wrong, Boy Wonder, where did it all go wrong?
- Astrid reads from ZFT:
“There is a war coming. Not a war of hatred and anger – a battle for survival”
- For me, this episode is episode largely about perspective. And given where the story is now (season 3 about to begin), which universe do we support? Which characters do we champion? Have we already chosen due to our early perspective on “Over Here”? Is Walternate really the ‘big bad’, or is he a broken man reacting to something that happened to him?
- Perhaps another way to look at this (and I suspect we will as the season progresses) – did any of our characters, in both universes, really have a FAIR CHANCE?
- I’ve decided not to comment on the hotel room showdown between Olivia, Peter and Walter. I have much to say but not enough time. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite Fringe scenes of all time.
- It will be interesting to see whether the REM dream-viewing technique is used by characters to see what their alternates are up to. I suspect that the characters are so entangled with their doubles that such abilities are inherent, but, for the most part, dormant. Think: deja vu as an example of that power.
- We’ve mentioned this many times before but since Peter’s touch has such recent importance, I might as well quote: “Peter, help her. Help her calm down. Go ahead son”.
- The question has long moved beyond asking if Peter has a special ability. For me, it’s more about the hows and whys? Is it something rooted in his being, or something given to him by the Observers..or even Walternate, before he got kidnapped? That would certainly be an interesting reveal.
- “What was written will come to pass.” I also wonder if this is one of those ‘believe it and it will happen’ things, or whether Bell and Walter had actual proof that only one world would survive. In other words, is it a theory based on the repeating cycle of history, or did they acquire hindsight? I guess another possibility would be that they had ‘scientific proof’.
- I like how the showdown scene with Nick takes place above, on the rooftops. Other than being a nice visual setting, I feel that it illustrates Nick and Olivia’s subconscious elements rising to the surface. Contrast this with the earlier scene in the underground train station (with the balloon trying to get out), and you get the thematic intention. The other people on the roof double as infected innocents and mental projections – literally telling us how badly Nick’s mind wants to purge itself.
- The following quote has always been an interesting for so many reasons:
“He said he knew how to wake me up..I shouldn’t have listened to him, because sometimes what we wake up, can’t be put back to sleep.”
- On the surface, Nick may be talking about activation, but there are other connotations to what he’s saying. His words also echo Olivia’s from the pilot: “I just want to go back to before.” On some level, Olivia was OK with being asleep. She had found peace and happiness after a traumatic childhood resulted in forced or chosen deactivation.
- With that in mind, I have to wonder: is waking up really a choice, in the context of this story, or is it something that happens to everyone at some point, whether it be though memory, death, life, or travelling to an alternate universe? There are so many sleep references, that it’s worth asking: where is the top layer in the worlds of Fringe?
- When Olivia shoots Nick, she not only spares his life, she gives him a few months (or however long it was) with that well known Cortexiphan Kid, Sally Clark. Who can forget Sally? Certainly not Lincoln.
- I’ll just quote this scene because the very fact that Olivia asks this question speaks volumes for what the character is going through:
“He said that sometimes what we wake up can’t be put back to sleep. I wonder if he was right?”
“Are you alright, Dunham?”
- Do you believe her when she says “yes”? It’s interesting to consider the gap between Olivia’s breaking point and her true domain. Although she has such a broad spectrum of experiences and emotions, she is immensely capable. The leap between her extremes is both large and small. At least, that’s how I see the character.
- Once again Olivia’s reality is echoed through small clues:
“Aunt Liv? The stuff that they put in me isn’t dead anymore. It came back alive. Can that really happen”
“It’s just bad dreams baby girl…it’s just bad dreams”
Best retrospective performer: Anna Torv
Best retrospective moment: The Olivia/Walter/Peter showdown scene, but the entire episode is great.
Retrospective episode rating: 9/10 (holds up extremely well)
Next rewatch episode – 1.18 “Midnight” – TBA.