Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

There's just one problem with swapping the Olivia Dunhams of two universes and embedding the "wrong" Olivia with the Fringe team of your alternate universe: She'll kick so much ass, everybody will come to love and trust her. Spoilers ahead.

The Walter Bishop of the other universe, aka Walternate, thought he could embed "our" universe's Olivia Dunham with his own Fringe team for a while and it would be fine. But he didn't count on one thing: working with our Olivia, the Fringe team "over there" would come to rely on her and trust her. More than that, they realize that she's a good person who cares and goes the extra mile. All along, Walternate has argued that the people from our universe may look like regular people, but they're actually "monsters in our skin." But you only have to work with the original Olivia Dunham for a while to realize that's not true.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Last night's Fringe episode was ostensibly about Olivia scheming to return home — and the episode's main baddie of the week, a serial killer who drains the life out of children, should have been just a momentary distraction. But the metal-masked serial killer was loathsome enough that he managed to stand out as needing to be squashed like a bug. From the creepy head-shaving scene to the religious gobbledygook to all of the moments where we got to see him blighting the lives of two innocent (and surprisngly likable, especially for kids on television) children, the Candyman earned our hatred.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

But more than anything, the Candyman storyline served to show us just how great Olivia Dunham really is at her job — and how much she cares about the people she's protecting. She's never been quite so superpowered as she was in "The Abducted" — all her hunches turn out to be right, all her ideas are correct, and she figures out the secrets of the Candyman while everybody else is left flat-footed. But we see her working hard enough that she seems to come by her triumphs honestly.

Olivia figures out that the Candyman is accessing the pituitary gland of the children he kidnaps and draining their hormones, to create a youth serum. She goes to bat with alt-Broyles, arguing that she needs to interview Broyles' son, who was one of the Candyman's victims. Even after everybody warns her not to disturb Broyles in his grief for his son's premature old age, she braves his anger and pushes for what she thinks is right.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

And it doesn't hurt that Olivia is right to want to question Broyles' kid and that she does an amazingly good job of getting him to open up — and he gives her the crucial clue that leads her to the evil church led by Pastor McCreepyPants. Olivia keeps doing her job, long after it's clear that her bosses are about to murder her, and long after most normal people would have bailed.

So it turns out that every time there's another Fringe event "over there," a new church pops up. And one of them is the ultra-creepy Astoria Church in Queens, which is run by a former doctor — who's pretty much telegraphed as the main baddie of the episode the first time we see him, thanks to his grandiose religious promises mixed with his medical knowledge.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Meanwhile, the kidnapping saga also gives us some key insights into the mind of Walternate — and it turns out that Peter's kidnapping is really the foundational moment for Walternate — first we saw him poring over the newspaper clippings about it a couple episodes ago, and now we find out about the Peter Bishop Act of 1991, which treats every single kidnapping as a potential Fringe event. That's a lot of kidnappings, probably. And then there's the thing Walternate says to Broyles: "I know what it's like to lose a son. And even when they come back, the damage is irreparable."

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Is Walternate really comparing the kidnapping of his own son, who came back safe and sound, to the brutal mistreatment of Broyles' kid, who came back prematurely shriveled up? This is the first time we get to hear Walternate's perspective on just what happened when he got Peter back at the end of the last season — the damage was irreparable. Even though he tried to reconnect with his son, he couldn't, which made it that much easier to scheme to put his kid inside the doomsday machine.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Other stuff we learned about the other universe this time: Red Vines are new in this world! Also, what the heck do you think the Lingg Eye Group is? Could this be an anagram? Also, there's a proposed law to limit the number of children a family can have — and two out of the country's three major parties support it. Oh, and the FBI hasn't existed for over a decade.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Olivia faces her final test when she's about to get on a boat to (she thinks) freedom — but she realizes that the Candyman couldn't have acted alone, and Pastor McCreepyPants must have been involved too. She could just phone Broyles and put him on notice that Pastor McCreepyPants might be coming for his kid. But instead, she goes the extra mile and rushes over to Broyles' house herself, potentially blowing her chance at escape.

After she helps save Broyles' kid and arrest the evil pastor, she goes to the hospital, where Broyles tells her he knows that she knows who she really is. But he's letting her go, because of how awesome she's been.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

That's the thing — it's not just that Olivia caught the psychos who took Broyles' kid. (The very stupid psychos who decided, out of all the kids in the world, to steal the child of a top government official.) It's that Olivia and Broyles respect each other as professionals, and they both get the job done, no matter what. People like Walternate can worry about the big picture and plan their wars between worlds, but for Olivia and Broyles, their jobs are mostly just about making a difference and fixing the problems they can see.

So turning Olivia into a superhumanly awesome investigator doesn't just win over Broyles, it also proves that being good at her job is what makes her a hero — not just her role in some hypothetical interdimensional war. Even if Olivia and Broyles aren't technically on the same "side," they do the same job and they understand each other.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

So with the episode having gone to such great lengths to show us that Olivia is A) a good person and B) really persuasive when she needs to be, I'm prepared to give it a free pass for the Henry Higgins thing. The last time we saw Henry, Olivia carjacked him and blackmailed him into driving her around. Eventually he came to believe that she really did need his help, and they sort of bonded — but then she turned around and decided that she'd been wrong all along, and she really was the person the bad guys said she was. Now, suddenly, she needs Henry's help again and he's willing to risk everything to get her where she wants to go — even waiting an extra hour at the dock while she gallivants off? I didn't quite buy that he'd be quite that self-sacrificing for a near-total stranger, and it all felt a wee bit too convenient.

So the kicker is that Olivia does make it home to "our" universe — but only long enough to give a cleaning lady a message to give to Peter.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

He's in bed with Fauxlivia, and they're watching Casablanca — a movie Fauxlivia has never heard of. I think we're going to have to reevaluate our perception of Peter as the astute, observant one of the gang. How many clues does he need before he gets the truth? This leads to a lecture about true love, in which Peter claims all the best love stories have tragic endings — which seems oddly prophetic under the circumstances.

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Because then the cleaning lady calls and delivers the message. Sleep tight, Peter!

Oh, and one last thing — for some reason, the red opening titles for the "over there" episodes have changed. The earlier version contained a fair amount of way-out stuff, like clairaudience, pyrokinesis, ESP, hive mind, astral projection... and of course, "first people," which turned out to be significant. These are all things that are major fringe science topics "over there." But now here's what the red opening titles say:

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Olivia Dunham becomes a superhero, on Fringe

Note "Pandemics," "Speciation," "Synesthesia," "Neural Networks," and "Biotechnology." None of which seem that way out to me, unless I'm missing something. (But maybe they are considered way out "over there"?) Of course, there's still wormholes, reanimation, transhumanism and the Singularity.