Spoilers for last night's "Fringe" coming up just as soon as I sing the score from "Pippin"...
There are actors who need good material -- or material, period -- to be good, and then there are actors who have a kind of unquantifiable presence that allows them to be interesting even when the material's not there. Anna Torv is decidedly not the latter, but episodes like "Bad Dreams" suggest she might be the former.
As a female strong-but-silent Steve McQueen type, Torv just comes across as a blank. Give her something less subtle to play, though, like this episode's depiction of a sleep-deprived, unhinged Olivia, and she's suddenly present. And by making Olivia (or "Olive") a former research subject of Walter and William Bell's(*), we're making her not only more important to the larger mythology of the show, but potentially giving Torv a lot more to play down the road, which is good.
(*) Unmistakably voiced by Leonard Nimoy.
I was a little amused by the girl-on-girl dream with the stripper, both because it's the second time this season that Olivia has been having a man's dreams, and because I couldn't help but think that the "Fringe" writers recently viewed Torv's work as a lesbian on the BBC's "Mistresses" and thought, "Hey, why not? She seems game."
Also somewhat unintentionally amusing is the number of times in the episode that Olivia traveled back and forth from Boston to New York. Because the show is in the weird position of filming in New York but being set elsewhere -- as opposed to shows like "CSI: NY" that are set there but film elsewhere -- it seems like half the cases, and any visits to Blair Brown, wind up taking Olivia and company down to the Big Apple.
On the other hand, they do make good use of New York locations, and the shot of the empath and his potential victims standing on the edge of a roof in the middle of Manhattan was gorgeous (and, of course, terrifying), in the way that most TV shows don't have the time or skill to pull off, or can't because they're faking one city for another. When production moves to Vancouver next year to save money, they won't be able to do something like that that gives away so much of the wrong skyline.
Very good episode. Creepy as both a self-contained story and as part of the Pattern/William Bell/Walter's past arc.
What did everybody else think?