“Through the pitch dark comes a cleansing fire, and through the fire we shall find the spring of new life.”
These words aren’t just the theological ranting and raving of a mad man; they’re emblematic of the path that Olivia Dunham currently walks.
As the seventh episode of Fringe’s third season, titled “The Abducted,” begins, Olivia is fully aware of who and what she really is, thanks to the revelation at the end of last week’s outing. With her identity fully reformed, Olivia convinces Henry the taxi driver (in a repeat performance from the wonderful Andre Royo) to trade pavement for water by ferrying her to Walternate’s laboratory at the Statue of Liberty; there, she’ll be able to access the lab’s technology, repeat the experiment to travel back to Over Here, and stay there for good.
There’s just one problem: a serial kidnapper called the Candyman has abducted a child, and in the curious world of Over There, all child abductions are treated as Fringe events. (You can thank Walter Bishop’s kidnapping of Walternate’s son for that little rule.) Olivia, never one to walk away from a seemingly insurmountable problem, rises to the task of finding the boy. Through her investigation, she learns that the Candyman has literally been sucking the youth out of his victims, synthesizing concentrated pituitary hormones from these children and injecting them into himself as a way to initiate reverse aging.
Olivia learns that one of the Candyman’s oldest victims is actually Colonel Phillip Broyles’ son Christopher, who was left blind and severely unhealthy by his encounter with the kidnapper. Although Broyles is initially resistant towards Olivia’s desire to interview Christopher — and why wouldn’t he be, given the fact that he knows she isn’t his Olivia and, furthermore, is getting pulled off the field and presumably executed in one day’s time — but he relents, and Christopher’s testimony helps Olivia put the pieces together to track down the Candyman and save his latest victim just in time.
The Candyman isn’t working alone, however; just as Olivia is about to head home courtesy of Henry’s water taxi, she deduces that the kidnapper’s pastor was his accomplice, and her quick thinking allows Broyles to save his son from a repeat run-in with the Candyman’s tutor. Fringe Division’s head agent in charge takes a moment to privately thank Olivia, albeit in his own way: he realizes that she knows who she really is, but rather than turn her over to Walternate’s custody, he effectively lets her off the hook by going home to be with his family.
Thanks to the free pass from Broyles, Olivia manages to access Walternate’s lab and get back to her home world. But her stay there is shortened once Walternate and his cronies discover what’s going on, and with seconds to spare before she’s sucked back into Over There, Olivia asks a nearby witness to deliver a message for her.
We’re not immediately sure that Olivia was successful as Walternate’s men drag her out of the pool and back into custody, but at the episode’s end, Peter Bishop — who is lying in bed with the woman he believes to be Olivia Dunham — receives a call from the person who witnessed the real Olivia’s arrival and subsequent disappearance from our home reality. The witness tells this to Peter, adding that Olivia asked to let him know that she’s still trapped in the parallel universe. Whether or not Peter believes her is an issue to be resolved in the next episode, airing in two weeks — but the look of terror in his eyes says everything.
“The Abducted” forced Olivia to reconcile her need to go home with her need to protect a child. In the end, Dunham’s true nature won out, preventing her from fully sealing the deal and getting home for good. But Olivia can’t lose hope yet; as the Observers once predicted, the road has gotten very dark for our hero. But there’s comfort in the Candyman’s haunting prayer: “Through the pitch dark comes a cleansing fire, and through the fire we shall find the spring of new life.”
Riffing on another popular line, the night is always darkest before the dawn — but the dawn is coming.
The past weeks have been hard on Olivia, and they’re likely to get even harder in the coming episodes, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel — it just might take longer to get there than she initially hoped.
An all-new episode of Fringe, titled “Entrada,” airs on December 2, 2010 at 9/8 PM central on Fox.