Please note this post will contain spoilers for season three of Fringe, now airing in the US.
I’m having some problems with Fringe this year.
At the end of last year, we were left with the not-terribly-shocking reveal that our Olivia Dunham, from the blue reality, was not our Olivia but the other Olivia (Fauxlivia), from the red reality. The people on the red side had a plan and they executed it. Olivia, as it turned out, was being held prisoner in the red reality.
This season began with her, and it began strongly. We found out that the powerful Walter double (Walternate) was trying to break Olivia down, by convincing her that she was, in fact, actually Fauxlivia. We were not given a reason why, but can assume it was not an arbitrary decision. We saw Olivia in a therapy session with a doctor guiding her to memories she steadfastly refused were her own – because they weren’t. She refused to break. Eventually, it was revealed that Walternate and his scientist minions weren’t just coaching her – they were imprinting her by injecting some sort of concoction that contained Fauxlivia’s, well, life, to put it simply. This science was supposed to overwrite Olivia and replace it with Fauxlivia, but it would not work on her. This was a huge source of frustration for Walternate.
When Olivia was dragged to a lab for another “treatment”, she observed guards using codes for elevators, etc. The opportunity for escape presented itself, and she took it – but only after they’d managed to inject her with Fauxlivia again. Still, she kicked ass and took names in true Olivia Dunham style. Most of the remainder of the episode also showcased how awesome and collected Olivia was. Is. She commandeered a cab and began trying to find her way home – a home she is convinced was not where she currently was. She remained strong and steadfast, except cracks began to show. Fauxlivia memories started creeping in and confusing her.
And eventually, heartbreakingly, those memories won. What made the difference? Why did that last treatment work, when countless others had not made a dent in erasing Olivia? Adrenaline. Yes, folks, the adrenaline from her awesome, amazing escape was what triggered the transformation. To sum up: she did it to herself.
Troublesome, from my viewing perspective. But not as troublesome as Fauxlivia. This last week, back in blue reality, we watched as Fauxlivia tried to slip into her role of Olivia – sans any magic drug. My problem here was that, while the story concept itself is interesting, I was having an extremely difficult time understanding how those around her were not aware of the change. Fauxlivia was not Olivia. She looked like her and sounded like her, but in practice was so different someone should have noticed. Even the way she spoke wasn’t Olivia, so much that those in her circle would surely take some notice. I suspect we were supposed to believe because they have so much going on, they haven’t had the time to focus on anything but their own issues.
But take, for example, Olivia’s relationship with Peter. Last season, it was a slow build. It took Olivia a long time to even acknowledge the fact she might just have romantic feelings toward Peter. She was, quite literally, terrified at the prospect. In the finale, she revealed how she felt. They kissed. Then they got the hell out of red and ran back to blue. Except, of course, it was Fauxlivia running back with Peter. And since then, she accurately read the chemistry between them, but they’ve been very openly physical about it. Like, all of her inhibitions just vanished. Now, I’m no expert in the ways of love – but shouldn’t Peter have been the obvious choice to realize Olivia was Fauxlivia?! Did he simply think he’d won the lotto with how different and open and sexual she was being with him all of a sudden?
I’m having a difficult time with the whole idea, the thought that Olivia can be replaced by a lookalike and no one who knows and loves her can tell the difference. That chemistry inherent between Olivia and Peter – are we to believe it’s only physical? He is, in fact, sucking face with a complete stranger. Peter’s a bright guy. He has to know something is up. I think part of him might, but in the meantime, we have Fauxlivia being terribly faux and no one noticing enough to call her on it.
I know I’m not articulating why this whole thing bothers me so much. I think it’s that they’ve made Olivia plug-and-play to tell this story, and one thing Olivia has never been is plug-and-play. They’ve turned her into the “replace this good-looking blonde woman with this good-looking blonde woman and no one will care” trope, and they’ve done it using the same actor! It makes me bristle.