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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Blog | 4 comments

Olivia Dunham: Eyes Wide Shut

Olivia Dunham: Eyes Wide Shut

In the penultimate episode of season three of Fringe it was revealed how Olivia Dunham is inextricably linked with Peter in the operation of the Doomsday Machine.  Thanks to an ancient scroll “unearthed” in the museum,  we see a sketch of Olivia with her eyes closed and the telekinetic strands that hold Peter and her together.

But why are her eyes closed, particularly in contrast to Peter’s eyes that seemed to be ablaze with activity?

In 1999 Stanley Kubrick directed a film called “Eyes Wide Shut” starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.  It dealt with the journey of two repressed individuals as they traveled the route of self discovery opening their eyes to the denial they embraced in their daily lives.  The thematic relation to Fringe is not so much the movie itself but it’s inspiration from the 1926 novella “Dream Story”.

Dreams play a central role in Fringe as does the concept of sleep and the manipulation of individuals through it.  In the book, the two main characters are also deeply repressed and can only work through their conflicted state of denial through a fantasy life that is eventually resolved by admitting to each other their honest needs and the willingness to work together.  Only then can the two people proceed with their lives in a waking state of truth as opposed to the denial of living with their eyes wide shut.  (By the way, the “adult” nature of the denied fantasy life of the book and movie have no play in our Fringe story.)

So I ask again, why are Olivia’s eyes drawn shut?

  • Does it have to do with Olivia’s denial of her repressed telekinetic powers?
  • Are her abilities manifested only when she frees herself of a waking dream state that lets her thoughts flow freely?
  • In contrast, are the closed eyes symbolic of the unconscious freedom from the waking world that only a dream state can reveal?
  • Are Peter’s eyes “ablaze with activity” directly opposed to the calm restful nature of Olivia’s closed eyes and point out the need to work together?
  • Does the spiritual nature of the link between Olivia and Peter as depicted in the drawing portend of a conscious/unconscious state that will eventually bring the two back together in season four of Fringe?

Please feel free to offer your opinions and ideas.  A fresh point of view whether waking or dream filled is always welcomed!

(One final note.  In the film “Eyes Wide Shut” there was a  controversy over the supposed use of a Hindu prayer chant as one of the characters moved from room to room.  I wonder if the writers of Fringe were familiar with this and that is why we see Olivia cremated over water in the final episode?  Hindu burials often have the ashes of the deceased spread over water or rivers.)



  1. I always thought her eyes are closed simply because she’s concentrating. I’d say it’s a fairly common thing to do when one is remotely controlling a device in another universe using one’s mind.

  2. Not to mention a typewriter also. Good one Geiger, thanks for the response things had gotten a little quiet!

  3. Along with the very reasonable explanation that the audience needs a visual cue that Olivia’s using her Spidey senses, I think you hit on an important link between Olivia and Hinduism.

    The god Shiva is a complex and very powerful Hindu god, and is considered both a protector and an avenger, creator and a destroyer of worlds, an idea we’ve heard over and over again on Fringe, right?

    Shiva is so powerful because of his ability to access his higher consciousness, symbolized by a third eye. The story of the third eye involves Shiva’s wife covering both his eyes, plunging the world into darkness and therefore putting it at risk of destruction. With both his eyes closed, Shiva was able to open his “third eye,” thus keeping the world safe.

    Olivia also accesses her higher consciousness by closing those eyes…

  4. “Olivia also accesses her higher consciousness by closing those eyes…”

    Great feedback as always Trish. Thanks for further developing the post by including the story of Shiva. There are remarkable similarities to the ideas and themes we’ve seen on Fringe. Thanks!

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