FRINGE: Television Romance Done Right . . . or Not (Peter and Olivia) – Part Two
By K. Haley
In my previous post, I raved about how brilliantly the Peter and Olivia romance on Fringe was handled. But now I have to amend my previous opinion. Why? The two episodes that followed the beautifully written and acted episode, “A Better Human Being”, nearly ruined the well-drawn P/O story arc that has been building for the better part of four seasons.
In “The End of All Things” (Ep. 14), all of the layering that had been created in the “A Better Human Being” (Ep. 13) was torn apart when Peter rejected Olivia because he was uncertain that she was ‘his’ Olivia. This twist, or wrench, would have been better tolerated if we hadn’t spent the entire episode of “A Better Human Being” watching Peter decide, after careful observation, that ‘this’ Olivia was indeed ‘his’ Olivia. Although many fans found Peter’s rejection of Olivia natural, I found that it cheapened the emotional journey of the preceding episodes (Eps. 12 & 13). It just felt contrived to put one more obstacle between the characters.
The following episode “A Short Story About Love” (Ep. 15), which was meant to be a love letter to the Shippers (viewers, like me, who are vested in romantic couplings), lost its impact for me because of the false issue that was presented in “A Better Human Being” — Peter rejection of Olivia. As with most Fringe episodes, though, the writers did deliver some great scenes. I enjoyed watching Olivia’s journey to choose love and all of its uncertainty over opting to play it safe. It was satisfying as a Shipper to note this character sacrificing a part of herself (life experiences and relationships from the current timeline) for the opportunity to experience true love. This choice was beautifully illustrated in the scene [Fringe Episode 4.15 Scene - Don't Give Up On Me - YouTube] between Olivia and Nina (her surrogate mother in this timeline). That’s a pretty damn romantic story arc, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, we watched as Peter dealt with his decision to leave ‘this’ Olivia—he was unhappy, but determined to do the ‘right thing’ as defined by Walter. In probably one of my favorite scenes this season, Peter found out that not only was this his Olivia, but that he was already home [Fringe Episode 4.15 Scene - Back Home - YouTube].
The final scene in “A Short Story About Love” was typically Cineplex in its romance factor, with Peter and Olivia running into each other’s arms [FRINGE 4x15 "A Short Story About Love" Ending - YouTube]. Unfortunately, this scene lost some of its impact because of the unnecessary diversion of Peter’s earlier rejection of Olivia. Then again, I have re-watched this scene multiple times since it aired.
I totally respect the Fringe writing team. They are arguably the best in the business, especially in character and relationship development. Obviously, I adore this show. Even though I wasn’t totally happy with how they ultimately handled the P/O story arc, I still believe FRINGE proved they know how to tell a love story better than most. Now, let’s see how they manage the relationship moving forward.