"Bad Dreams" (1.17)

Before discussion of this episode begins, I will do the usual and warn those who have never seen Fringe but would like to see it to not read any further, as this does contain spoilers. This episode certainly leaves viewers with a lot to think about. Why do Cortexiphan subjects wear blacks and grays in order to blend in? What was the extent of Walter's involvement in the Cortexiphan trials? Did he simply forget that Olivia was a subject, with the video reminding him? Who is activating the Cortexiphan subjects? Is it ZFT, and why? What exactly is Olivia's ability, and how has she been activated? I remember this episode being very highly anticipated. It was for me, anyway. I remember reading the very brief synopsis a few weeks before the episode aired, and when I read that people would be committing suicide against their will, I instantly thought of The Happening, and although the scene near the end of the episode involving the people on top of the roof is very reminiscent of The Happening, this episode is fortunately nothing like The Happening. My initial prediction regarding this episode, even before seeing the promo, was that it was going to be one of the very best episodes of the season, and then, after seeing the promo, I upgraded my estimation, saying that it would most likely be the best of the season at that point in the season. Unfortunately, it doesn't outdo "Ability," in my opinion, which I think is revolutionary. This one is really good, too, though, and it really impressed me, ultimately leading me to give it nine red balloons.

The first thought that goes through my mind when I watch this episode is why the bus station seems to be so empty. Perhaps, we are only seeing what is important since we are technically seeing Olivia's dream, and perhaps, in her dream, she only sees what is important. After Olivia has her "nightmare," Ella says that she is going to the doctor's office that day in order to receive a vaccination, which she mispronounces. I don't think that she is getting a vaccination in the traditional sense; I think that she is being given Cortexiphan, and the fact that, at the end of the episode, Ella says that the "stuff that they put in me isn't dead anymore," that "it came back alive" and the fact that Olivia replies by telling her that it's just "bad dreams" seriously helps support this theory. Anyway, I love how Walter is about to suggest astral projection as a possibility, and Astrid interrupts him, because she thinks that he is mispronouncing her name. I probably would have done the same, since he obviously has a tendency to mispronounce her name. It's also pretty funny when Walter bluntly asks Olivia, "Well, then, why did you kill her?" as if he knows as a fact that she did and that she did so willingly. Sometimes, I do have to wonder if he's just busting hump.

I immediately had a feeling that the restaurant scene was one of Olivia's "nightmares." It would be completely out of character for her to go eat at a restaurant all alone, especially with Rachel and Ella at home. Even if she is having a difficult time and therefore doesn't want to be around Rachel and Ella, I don't see her as the type to go eat at a restaurant all alone. In this episode, Peter suggests that Olivia is on Caffeine pills, something that she neither confirms nor denies, which leads me to believe that she does indeed take them, which would make sense. Something that we see repeatedly throughout this series is an apparent insomniac condition from which Olivia suffers, and despite her serious lack of sleep, she seems to function just fine, which could very well be because she takes Caffeine pills, which I suppose would help to a certain extent. There is a great deal of character development out of Olivia throughout this episode, as we see her in a serious state of emotional turmoil that we don't really see too much prior to this episode. I love the scene during which Olivia says to Peter, "Peter, what's happening to me?" and they hug. I also love the scene during which she totally and completely loses her cool with the man at the restaurant and grabs him, demanding to know if it was her that was sitting at the table at which she remembers sitting in her "nightmare."

It does annoy me, however, how the team comes across Nick Lane's identity. It just seems too convenient to me that the man at the restaurant would remember what some guy looked like sitting at any particular table at a particular point in time. I mean, surely, he sees hundreds of customers daily. Granted, Olivia was in his face demanding information, which has to be pretty scary, but it still seems like a pure example of Deus ex Machina to me, of which I am not always a very big fan. At any rate, as was previously stated, Olivia is breaking down in this episode, showing a very vulnerable side that we don't see before this episode, not since John Scott's death. Even so, though, I am very surprised that Broyles tells Olivia that she can take a break, because it's more important than ever that she be involved so that the team can figure out why she's having these "nightmares." I also really like how, in this episode, Peter is beginning to realize that what happened to Walter's mind is not necessarily his fault. However, it's odd how Walter insists that he didn't approve of the Cortexiphan trials, saying, "No, not me. William. We had quite a disagreement about it." However, at the end of "The Road Not Taken" (1.19) and in "Jacksonville" (2.14), Walter insists that they were trying to help Olivia, which strongly suggests that at the time, he was most likely completely on board. Either he didn't remember or he was trying to protect himself.

Walter also insists that the Cortexiphan trials involved keeping the children from feeling frightened or isolated, and I find this interesting, because that is the exact opposite of what we see in "Jacksonville" (2.14). In that episode, Olivia sees herself as a very young child, running through the forest all alone and scared to death. Anyway, the scene during which Olivia goes to a strip club did fool me the first time that I saw it, and then when she starts eyeballing the stripper and makes out with her, I was thinking, "What the hell is going on?" I love that scene, though, because Lady Gaga's "Starstruck" is playing at the club, and I love Lady Gaga; it was and still is very exciting to see Fringe and Lady Gaga combined. Something that makes me wonder, though, is whether not Nick was dating Sally yet, the Pyro from "Over There, Part 1" (2.21), since he goes to a strip club and then takes a girl home with him. Also, the machine to which Olivia is hooked up is flashing red and green lights, which obviously ties into the "red and green" motif that repeats throughout this entire series. This is also a memorable scene due to Olivia seeming to feel Nick's orgasm, which quite possibly could have been intended to boost ratings. Why, though, does Walter instruct Peter to hold Olivia's hand in order to calm her down? Is it just because Walter is such an Oliver, or is there more to it than that? Why does it seem to work? It really reminds me of Nina calming Walter down in "Of Human Action" (2.07).

There is a lot of red in this episode. As previously mentioned, there are the red lights on the machine to which Olivia is hooked up. There is also the red balloon which Olivia remembers being near the ceiling of the bus station. There is a bright red door in the episode and also a vividly red chess board. As I know that I have said before, the Cortexiphan trials remind me so much ofAlias's Project: Christmas, and the number "forty-seven" is inexplicably located on Nick's board, the one with all of the strange photographs, information, newspaper clippings and so forth. The board also features a very familiar message, "what was written will come to pass," which is what Loeb tells Olivia in "Ability" (1.14). What I find really odd about the rooftop scene, though, is why, after so many years, Nick would immediately recognize Olivia. Clearly, she looks nothing like she did when she was a child, but maybe, it has something to do with the mental connection that they share. He tells Olivia that "they're coming," which I'm guessing is in reference to the shapeshifters, and Olivia also sees a newspaper clipping in the portfolio that Charlie gives to her, a clipping with the headline, DOPPELGANGERS AMONG US, which must be a way to clue the viewers in to the shape shifters.

The Observer is very easy to spot in this episode, seeing as how he can be seen walking right in front of the building from which Nick Lane almost jumps. That makes a lot of sense, since this is obviously a significant event. I feel so sorry for Nick. Out of all of the confirmed Cortexiphan subjects that we have seen so far (other than Olivia), Nick Lane, Susan Pratt, Nancy Lewis, James Heath and Sally Clark (even though I think that Christopher Penrose, Joseph Meegar, Emily Kramer, Claire Williams and Tyler Carson are all Cortexiphan subjects, as well, possibly even Ben Stockton), I feel the sorriest for Nick. The trials, for one reason or another, have obviously depressed him to the point where he wants to kill himself, and then, when those feelings cause other people to kill themselves, it only worsens. What doesn't make any sense, though, is that if his emotions are suicidally powerful enough to kill other people, then why doesn't he kill himself? At any rate, his situation is incredibly dire, and I can't believe that he is killed off in "Over There, Part 1" (2.21). That really seems like a waste to me, as if the writers just senselessly threw him out, which kind of reminds me of a certain someone in the season one finale, "There's More than One of Everything" (1.20). Anyway, this is a really satisfying episode, as it definitely delivers.

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