Fringe Rewatch: 1.17 Perspective


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

  • 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! :o 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. :P 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?”

“Yes”

  • 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)

Useful Links

Next rewatch episode – 1.18 “Midnight” – TBA.

Comments

  1. Anjali says

    This was my favorite episode from season 1! Brilliant performances from all three cast members.. especially Anna.

    The whole roof-top scene with Nick and Olivia along with the hotel room scene was very well directed.

    Do you believe her when she says “yes”?
    I feel her ‘yes’ was sort of her understanding that she’s now a convincing part of the ‘weird’ stuff that’s going on around her.

    “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?”
    hahaha….oh Roco.

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    • says

      “I feel her ‘yes’ was sort of her understanding that she’s now a convincing part of the ‘weird’ stuff that’s going on around her.”
      Anjali,

      I would agree with you. I also find it interesting that her response is almost automatic. She replies much more quickly that I would have expected her to reply.

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  2. FinChase says

    “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. ”

    I sometimes think there is some apprehension in Broyles’ question, as if he is wondering exactly how dangerous Dunham might someday become, and what he might have to do with her if she activated. Last winter I suggested that a really interesting cliffhanger might be if Olivia was drugged and incarcerated in that facility along with Nick Lane (and assumably Nancy Lewis) because Broyles and Nina Sharp decided she was too dangerous. I wonder how much Broyles really knows about Olivia’s past?

    I agree with you about the great showdown scene between Walter and Olivia in the hotel; it’s also one of my favorite scenes. I do think that until that moment, Walter had not remembered or connnected little Olive with the adult Olivia Dunham, although he must have known her full name at one time. There was this little moment, beautifully played by John Noble, where he says, “Oh my,” where the realization seemed to suddenly hit him.

    This episode is just about perfect. It’s a toss-up for between “Bad Dreams” and “Ability” as to which is my favorite; usually it’s whichever one I’m watching at the moment.

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    • says

      “I sometimes think there is some apprehension in Broyles’ question, as if he is wondering exactly how dangerous Dunham might someday become, and what he might have to do with her if she activated. Last winter I suggested that a really interesting cliffhanger might be if Olivia was drugged and incarcerated in that facility along with Nick Lane (and assumably Nancy Lewis) because Broyles and Nina Sharp decided she was too dangerous. I wonder how much Broyles really knows about Olivia’s past?”

      Interesting perspective. I can see that crossing Broyles’ mind on more than a few occasions. He has to think about the big picture, but what would happen if Dunham ever needed containing? I think we saw a taste of how invested he is in Dunham and Team in 2.12, but who knows what the future holds..

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  3. Alex says

    Possibly one of my favourite episodes of the entire show. My favourite subplot is Olivia’s past with Cortexiphan and her activation, so Ability, Jacksonville and Bad Dreams are top eps for me.

    best scene was definitely the hotel room confrontation, but I also loved the various dream sequences – the one with the stripper certainly wasn’t bad ; ) But in all seriousness, that hotel scene – wow! Love the shot right at the beginning where Olivia locks the door behind her and faces Walter, teeth bared – game on! Also when Walter touches her face and all three of them get reaction close-ups: brilliant stuff. Matched only by scenes like the confrontations in Jacksonville and the cafe scene in Road not Taken.

    Also, the talk with Nick was really interesting – so much insight into his and Liv’s daily routines and wardrobe, they were engineered soldiers. Also, it was hard initially to imagine Olivia as a child, but him calling her “Olive” was a really simple way of rekindling that innocence and showing clearly that she was a very different person then.

    Top notch episode! More like this in season 3 please!

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    • FinChase says

      The hotel scene is great. When she barks, “Walter!” to get him back on track, I think this is the first she’s even so much as raised her voice to him. The kid gloves are coming off, Walter.

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  4. jophan says

    This is the perfect episode, my absolute favorite. Tight plotting, wonderful characterization, excellent pacing, and plenty of answers reward the mythology fan. My only quibble is that the mother-and-baby scene goes on a bit too long, but hey, they need something they can cut eventually for syndication.

    For all Peter’s negativity in the beginning, he jumped to the right conclusion: that Olivia did not murder. He just didn’t have the imagination to suggest a cause for her experience.

    There’s an interesting bit as Dr. Miller brings up the alternate universe. Peter stares straight ahead, completely deadpan, while Olivia retracts her neck into her collar and turns toward him. Well, it’s not personal for him.

    I’m interested in your choice of screencap for the hotel room scene. Why did Walter cup Olivia’s face? It “creeped her out”, using Peter’s words, and she retreated in horror. That’s a gesture Peter uses fairly often, but I don’t recall Walter using it any other time. – Ah, I see you addressed this in your last re-watch. It fits as a point of realization for Olivia, that she knew Walter before: coming up in “The Road Not Traveled”, she forces him to acknowledge his participation in the trials despite his earlier denials.

    Still looking forward to an exploration of Peter’s ability. Does the calming touch fit in with his ability to read people?

    “is waking up really a choice, in the context of this story, or is it something that happens to everyone at some point”
    I think anyone can choose to stay asleep. Olivia tried to back away at first before jumping in after the first of many shocks. Peter’s been half-asleep for two years, interested but not committed, and presumably now has had the alarm really ring in his ear.

    “Do you believe her when she says “yes”?”
    Not at all. There’s too much strain in her voice. I figure she thinks that if she’s emphatic enough, she can convince herself.

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    • Maggie says

      I think Walter does do that to her on at least one other occasion. maybe in one of the tank parts? …I seem to remember noticing that both Peter and Walter do it to her. heh.

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    • says

      “Still looking forward to an exploration of Peter’s ability. Does the calming touch fit in with his ability to read people?”

      I think it’s all connected.

      “Do you believe her when she says “yes”?”
      Not at all. There’s too much strain in her voice. I figure she thinks that if she’s emphatic enough, she can convince herself.”

      I agree that there is a bit of that going on. But I also feel that an certain strength is growing inside of her. She’s probably holding up better than she could have hoped. In ‘pre-pilot Olivia’ terms, she’s falling to pieces. But I think we’re also seeing a burgeoning Olivia – still falling to pieces, but somehow just coming into her domain. (to borrow a phrase from good old Bellie).

      As you say, though, there is some self doubt there.

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  5. LMH says

    “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?”

    This is particularly significant for Fringe in light of that highly suggestive Nick Lane quote from Over There Pt. 1 that “Fate is a tricky thing.”

    “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.”

    Perhaps what we are seeing when Liv “flashes over” to the other side in “The Road Not Taken.” I know it’s been debated here before and is still up in the air, but I’ll just reiterate the notion that Liv might have been seeing through Altivia’s eyes at that point (despite the fact that the Alternate Fringe Division in those visions doesn’t exactly jive with what we’ve been shown subsequently). She would’ve been “remote viewing” (through Altivia) the events Over There at the time of Boston’s quarantine. But all that is better left for the 1.19 rewatch.

    This is episode is really high up on my list. 9.9/10. This is one of those episodes that becomes better and better in retrospect as we move along through the story. My favorite from season one as well, followed by “Ability.” I agree with jopan it was beautifully written and executed.

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    • LMH says

      Agreed. I am just finishing my rewatch of this ep and as it began I thought, you know, I think this is an Akiva written/directed one isn’t it? That’s probably why it’s so good. Then his name came up. Yep, that’s it!

      I forgot to harp on how much I love the scene when lovable little Ella wakes up as Olivia comes home. “Aunt Liv, the stuff they put inside me isn’t dead anymore. Can that really happen?” That whole vaccination story point was genius, followed through to the end.

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  6. Elaine says

    “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?”

    I’m very confused by this statement one, because I simply don’t understand what you’re getting at. And two, you purposely decide to do this:

    “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’s mines, too…and it might singlehandedly be the most important scene of this brilliant episode. So what gives? I think I’ve watched this episode at least twenty times, and I never get bored with it. It wouldn’t have been more fitting as the show headed into the final leg of the season. If going into the tank during the pilot and coming out of it with remaining fragments of John Scott’s memories wasn’t enough to begin the slow shift in Olivia’s mind…then Jones entering her life and literally turning her upside down and tapping her spine along with forcing her to open her mind–then her shared telepathy with Nick Lane was the final stage in activing Olivia. I always assumed it was her ability to help Nancy Lewis set Harris on fire in ‘TRNT’, but it was this wonderfully written, acted and directed episode that really that had such a different pace and feel to it…it simply opened up this show to endless possibilities.

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  7. number six says

    This is a really good episode. Everyone was on top of their game and I think this was Anna Torv’s finest moments to date. And then there is the outstanding John Noble, of course. I am amazed at the range he shows here: funny, bright, compassionate, creepy,heartbreaking… That man can work wonders in one episode.

    I loved that Walter was so ready to believe in the “wondrous” possibility, that Olivia was able to kill in her dreams. This right here makes him one of the most compelling and layered characters ever. He obviously loves Olivia, just like he loves Astrid, which is as much as he can love anyone, that is not Peter. But there you have him, so in love with his theory and the possibilities, that he forgets he’s hurting Olivia. Because Olivia believes him and not Peter, who needs more evidence than pure speculation. She takes Walter’s side on this and prefers to believe she’s a murderer, until Peter is proven right.

    Peter: “If you can dream a better world, you can make a better world.” Walter: “Or perhaps travel between them.” Peter: “What did you just say?”
    Awesome, just awesome writing. Peter knows subconsciously that this is important for him.

    Nick: “Olive… you’ll wish you had… you’ll wish you’d kill me.”
    Don’t worry, Nick! She’ll sacrifice you to get to Peter soon enough.

    9/10

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  8. says

    That final exhange between Olivia and Ella always seemed spooky to me. How much does the little girl have in common with her aunt? We may find out.

    And I’d never thought of the possibility that the white tulip might have come from someone besides Peck. You blew my mind a little, Roco.

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  9. says

    You’re right; this episode holds up extremely well upon a re-watch — especially, always, Olivia and her anguish, but the family framing helps: I’m not a fan of children on tv, but one of my favourite elements of S1 of Fringe was Ella (the other one is Olivia’s *anger*, which sadly the writers discard in favour of oh-so-tragic Peter storylines).

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