Welcome to the FB review of the Fringe season 2 episode 16 – “Olivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver“. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.
- Overarching mythology. It was great to see the central storyline continue in what could easily have been a typical procedural installment. Unlike last season’s “Inner Child”, for example, the B-story was actually tied to the main story, helping to advance Olivia’s journey in the process. The episode also featured that much needed thing called ‘continuity’, picking up nicely from where the previous episode left off and delivering numerous callbacks to past events and characters. If this is an example of the “mythalones“, then with 5-8 episodes of this ilk per season (alongside the myth-heavy) the producers may just have found their formula.
- Sam Weiss. If Fringe lives through its characters and mythology then it needs intriguing recurring characters to help them on their journey. Sam Weiss is the embodiment of intriguing so I was more than pleased to see him return. I love the fact that Olivia addressed his absence, saying: “It’s been a while”. Indeed, Dunham, indeed! It’s frustrating when an interesting character is introduced and then disappears for ages without any mention of them. This was particularly the case with Sam because the writers did some really interesting things with him earlier in the season. He delivered more cryptic tidbits in this episode to raise his stock further, and I for one hope we don’t have to wait another 12+ episodes to see him again. I mean, he’s Olivia’s drinking buddy now and you can’t tell me she wont be having another drink for that long. Any excuse for the Weiss one is most welcome.
- Head Game. It was fascinating to get inside the heads of Olivia and Walter. We got to see their dirty secret play out in compelling fashion, with Olivia ultimately being the one choosing to bury the truth from Peter while Walter grew a backbone. I just loved this. It touches on some of our discussions on the morality of the situation while giving us another aspect to deal with – the fact that Olivia, as much as she wants to do the “right thing”, doesn’t want to lose Peter for her own sake. Selfish? Perhaps, but I find that to be a very believable motivation and it’s miles better than a bubblegum romance between Olivia and Peter – this is a very murky yet very understandable human action. (even though I’m not entirely happy with how shady Olivia now looks in light of Walter’s timely change of heart). Once again we are seeing the consequences take center stage and through that we get to know the characters a little bit more. We are left to interpret their struggles, considerations and subsequent decisions, and I find this really interesting.
- The Context of “Goodness”. The idea that Olivia is a “good person” was an interesting nugget. Yes, it was a bit forced, but since it came from Sam I’ll accept that he has a good grasp of human nature. Plus, thinking about it, I also believe that Olivia is essentially good (being a victim and protector she’s certainly not portrayed as a “bad” person). On it’s own, this statement from the writers on Olivia’s character (as I consider it to be) is interesting because it adds another dimension to her struggle and ultimate choice in the episode. But we also get the rather bold statement that Walter is a “great man” – giving us contrasting notions on the idea of ‘good’. Is it possible for Olivia and Walter to both represent ‘good’? Of course, it’s all about perspective and that perspective is based upon a person’s world view. While I can accept the evidence on Olivia being a good person, I find it far more difficult to reason that Walter is a great man – even in scientific terms. As Carla said in 2.15 “Peter”; science cannot be pursued without morality. Walter has not only let himself down as a human being, but his science was immoral to say the least. However, by the end of this episode Olivia seems to move further away from her ‘good center’, while Walter makes a choice which is truly “great”. It’s wonderful to explore these shifting character motivations and to witness the way these triggers are directly influenced by the choices and actions of other people. I can’t help think that Walter’s mindset was propelled somewhat by Olivia becoming complicit in his dirty lie, and that Olivia’s good intent was bent by Walter’s notion that some truths are better left untold. Fantastic stuff and long may it continue (not the lie, necessarily, but the character focus).
- Day 3. One of my ongoing gripes with the format of this show is that everything is always wrapped up in the space of 24 hours. A spaceship could land on Fringe Division HQ and the whole thing would be gift wrapped and solved by the end of ‘day 1′. Therefore, I was really pleased that this episode took place over 3 days in the world of the show! I also thought it worked pretty well as it gave writers room to tell a convincing emotional story without having to worry about cramming everything into 24 hours. In my opinion, it’s more difficult to deliver those broad emotional strokes as effectively when a character’s mindset doesn’t have the time to change realistically (2.15 “Peter” was another good example of making an episode span several days, if not weeks, even though it wasn’t explicitly illustrated).
- Nina. Red Hair. Olivia. In the same room. Twisty. One-up. Punchline. What more do you want?
- Walter’s arrival at the idea that James Heath was exchanging energy with his victims to delay the progression of his own illness was a bit of a reach. He was right, of course, but he seemed to pluck the idea out of thin air. I can accept this story contrivance but it did take me out of the episode for a bit.
- The thing about what Walter and Olivia had “discussed”. It looks like after the lights went out on 2.15 “Peter” there was an extra scene where Olivia took another swig of her booze and agreed that they shouldn’t tell Peter the truth. Fair enough, but I got the impression from Walter’s “I always knew that one day I would pay the price for my deception” talk that he was definitely going to tell Peter soon. Which is why it was strange to see him begin this episode, seemingly, without the same intent. Perhaps they didn’t iron out the time-frame, but Walter could have provided a bit more clarification on exactly what was agreed off camera in last week’s episode. Again, not a major quibble as it can work itself out, it’s just that I found it distracting, in this instance, having to second guess what I thought was already established.
- I thought Olivia was a bit slow in realising that the connection between Heath’s victims was the Cortexiphan trials, especially after she somehow knew Timothy Ober’s middle name but couldn’t figure out how. Surely her first thought would be the Jacksonville trials? Minor story contrivance, I guess.
- Broyles’ Office. Dude needs an office, and not the make-shift hole he has now, but the super-cool one from season 1. You know, the one that wasn’t ashamed to have wide camera shots taken of it? Sure, it was a camera whore but it was one heck of an interior. Minor complaint, but the boss man deserves the best.
- Although we got some nice details on the Cortexiphan kids, it would have been a good opportunity to explore them in a bit more detail. Not a major complaint because I’m sure they’re saving this for later.
- Was Intrepus involved in Heath’s activation, at all, or was that just a nice reference?
- Who was behind Heath’s activation? Was it the same person pulling the strings behind the Nick Lane and Nancy Lewis activation, as Broyles suspects?
- Olivia moved around a lot, although we kinda knew that.
- Heath’s energy exchange could only work on other Cortexiphan children.
- Heath’s ‘activation’ failed, worsening his illness – an “unfortunate side effect”.
- According to Broyles, there are over 40 Cortexiphan kids still out there (Jacksonville and Ohio trials).
- As I watched the opening scene I thought how similar it was to another opening from last season – 1.06 “The Cure“, and would you know it, that episode was actually referenced through the Intrepus mention. I think it was the diner setting and the offer of soup that did it. I wonder if this was intentional on the part of the writing?
- Nice continuity in Heath and Miranda Greene, et al, having trouble remembering the other Cortexiphan kids/clinical trials, just as Olivia and Nick Lane have displayed. “I think they meant us to forget”. Does the fact that Greene remembered one boy – Lloyd Becker, suggest that she was paired with him in the buddy system, like how Olivia was paired with Nick Lane? I also found it strange how Olivia didn’t seem to remember any of the other kids, even after seeing the height chart in Jacksonville, yet Greene and Lane were able to remember at least one other child.
- Sam to Olivia:
“Can you pass me a nut”. (Olivia obliges)
- I just knew that Olivia would instinctively choose the right type of nut, echoing my belief that she has an innate ability to make the right choices (for the most part anyway). An more radical notion would be that on some level her choices become reality – causing whatever Weiss as fixing to require that kind of bolt. I think such a concept would come into play late in the series run, if at all.
- It was good to see Livvy smiling in this episode. Thanks Sam, you cryptic bugger, she needed that. I noticed that Olivia has now accepted Sam’s mystical ability, actively seeking him out at 6 AM in the morning and openly admitting that she’s there to find out what “happens next“. That’s nice character development as it shows that Olivia is moving past the doubt that she had when she first met the Weiss one.
- Some of Sam’s best lines:
“When you’ve been up all night, time is just a matter of semantics”
- In my view he’s basically saying that time is relative (perhaps even happening all at once). Although the alternate universe concept has taken center stage, I have long believed that time is also a big component of the Fringe mythology.
“What’s up Buttercup”
- There you go again, Sam, making people smile.
Olivia: “I always thought you’d make a better detective”
Sam: “I may not be the gumshoe you are but I’ve got some skills”
- What are Sam’s “skills” exactly? In this episode he came across as knowing yet seemed to imply that Olivia had superseded his level. I guess I’ll stick to my belief that he’s more of a guide or mentor than a Jedi. Still, fascinating character.
“I detected that you needed company”
- He may not have meant that literally, but I think he did. Say, you don’t have a magic window, do you, Sam?
“That would explain the uniform – bland clothes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a primary color. Because..it’s more than a job to you, you’re a soldier, protector”
- Sam’s so observant, he could be an audience member!
“You’re a good person. One of the few I know. If you agreed to keep this secret I’m sure you had a good reason”
- Sam’s deeeeep release of breath before he said that line was interesting. It was as though he was taking the weight of Olivia’s shoulders for her just by doing that. I also like the way he got her to directly think about WHY she was keeping the secret. Compare “good reason” with “good person” and I have to say, I’m not convinced by Olivia’s ultimate decision to conceal the truth. Sorry Liv, I have your back, but lying to Peter goes against your moral code, which probably makes her almost as culpable as Walter, because at least it wasn’t against Walter’s ethics to adhere to the boundaries of Mother Nature. It just feels a bit crappy that Olivia comes out of the episode with less dignity than Walter.
“When you open your mind to the impossible. Sometimes you find the truth”
- This is very similar to the line he said in 1.21 Unearthed: “Please allow me a moment to entertain my fantasies. They often lead to a truth”
“I was thinking of taking Peter there. He used to love salt water taffy as a child”
- Which Peter are you thinking of, Walter?
- In previous episodes we learned that the Cortexiphan kids were designed to protect our world. In particular, we discover that Olivia’s protective nature is one of the attributes which set her apart, as mentioned by Nick lane in Bad Dreams – “you were always the strong one”. In this episode, we also discover that Greene “had a thing about protecting people who couldn’t protect themselves” and seemingly Lloyd Becker was in the army. This goes back to my thought about Olivia’s (and the other kids) path being somewhat fated. In my view it’s no accident that she’s an FBI agent working for Fringe Division. Clearly there is some innate force influencing their choices even though they are not completely aware of what it is that has made them this way. Another interesting aspect is the idea that (according to Walter) the Cortexiphan kids were not just enhanced by the trials, but that they were chosen because they had been “predisposed” to something. I REALLY want to know what that something is.
- The episode was marked by the fact that, in Olivia’s mind, even the prospect of a serial killer being on the loose took a back seat to the Peter secret. Here is a classic example:
Astrid: “There’s more than 50 Neil Wilson’s in the tri state area. Do you want me to run them down?”
Olivia: “Ah no, I’m pretty sure he gave her a fake name anyway”
- LOL! I don’t think I’ve ever heard Olivia basically say “nah, don’t bother” before. Astrid must have thought it was her Birthday. It just goes to show that our odd little family unit is becoming just as, if not more, important as protecting the universe.
“Walter, don’t mix up the spoons”
- Yeah, Walter. Be sure not to mix those SPOONS. You wouldn’t want to confuse the memory of one SPOON with that of another SPOON which you lost to illness many years ago, would you? *wink*
“If it were the other way around I would want him to tell me”
- That’s pretty much what I thought. Which is why her ultimate decision sticks in the throat somewhat. Seriously, Liv, it’s a slippery slope and I think it’s high time you got off Mount Walter.
- Is it just me, or did Olivia look like she was enjoying making Walter squirm just a little too much? And if looks could kill, someone would have to steal a replacement Walter from another universe. Yikes!
- I like that Broyles asked Olivia “what are you seeing?” instead of “what are you thinking”. Ties into the perception theme.
- I’m glad Olivia and Peter’s near kiss in Jacksonville was addressed, and I’m also glad that Peter agrees that it was “crazy”. Although “contrived” is probably the word he was looking for. I also liked how Peter’s talk about not wanting anything to jeopardize their ‘odd little family unit’ was a major contributing factor in Olivia making her decision to bury the truth from him.
- The energy exchange between Heath and his victims mirrored the mass for mass/energy concept explained in “Jacksonville”. This reminds me of season 1 where Fringe would spend a lot of time adding layers to the same concepts.
- Did Olivia always live in that apartment? And those boxes, they weren’t there in last week’s episode. And Where’s Ella and her mother? Do they even live in this Universe any more?
- I loved the fight scene between Olivia and Heath. The whole build up was great too, even if Olivia loses points for not sticking the guy up. Then, after hitting dude over the head with the lamp stand she really should have gone for the GUN and the OPEN doorway, away from immediate danger. I guess we wouldn’t have had the cute Candlestick reference or speed dial scene, but still, safety first.
- Heath saying: “I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to hurt anyone”, echoes Nick Lane: “I have to die or I will keep hurting people. We weren’t meant for this..”. All-round douchebag, Sanford Harris, hired Isaac Winters to activate Nancy Lewis and Nick Lane, but who activated James Heath? More to the point, who is the puppet master in all of this? I’m inclined to say Bell or even Nina, but they both have mitigating. So perhaps it’s someone unexpected like Olivia’s uncle, who would presumably have known about the clinical trails in J-Town.
“I think, had that man not come to see me, I would have died the way I was supposed to..and my sister would still be alive”
- Just an interesting line that was well delivered and nicely filmed.
- Good to know that Rachel is No.1 on Olivia’s speed dial. Personally, I’d put the Indian Takeout guy above her – I mean, what’s more useful, a good meal (to wash down the booze) or Rachel? Get it right, Livvy!
- Olivia is about to tell Peter the truth about his origins and then she looks at him; so content and, well, alive, and decides to just say “thanks for coming”. Which, to my mind, is Olivia saying: “thank you for coming to our universe and being by my side, I don’t know what I’d do without you” (you get the idea) – her final realisation that she couldn’t tell Peter the truth, not just for Walter’s sake, but for her own.
Walter: “..The truth is, I’ve done enough damage..and it’s time to start to put things right, whatever the consequences. And that starts with telling Peter the truth. I have to tell him who he really is”.
It’s a shame that Walter had to cause Olivia skew her morals before he reached his decision, but yeah, do the right thing Walt, and do it soon! In the meantime, I’ll be hiding behind the sofa when the Fringe hits the fan. Good luck!
Best Moment: Olivia telling Walter that she thinks they shouldn’t tell Peter the truth and Walter deciding not to accept her offer to keep Pandora’s box closed.
Best Performer: Anna Torv
If you enjoyed OITLWTR, you’ll like: “Of Human Action”, “The Road Not Taken”
Episode Rating: 8.5/10