“These things that we see everyday, these things that we investigate – they’re happening to me.”
– Olivia

Until this episode, Olivia has only seen the positive effects of Cortexiphan, i.e. its ability to confer telekinetic powers to her. In “Bad Dreams,” we see that the dark side of the drug isn’t limited to testing on children; the drug can actually have adverse effects.

Compared to Nick Lane’s, Olivia’s experience with Cortexiphan is relatively tame. When she sleeps, she has visions of killing people whom she later finds dead, which has adverse psychological effects on her, but it’s far better than being the cause of those deaths. Nick Lane, on the other hand, has had a broken life, spending a large portion of it in a mental institution. He possesses the power of having contagious emotions. When he’s happy, those around him are happy. When he’s sad, those around him are sad. And when he has suicidal or murderous thoughts, people around him die.

It must be horrible for Nick, living with the knowledge that he has indirectly killed people and likely will continue to kill people if he doesn’t put an end to his own life. But Olivia won’t let that happen. Though she has no memory of it, Olivia was Nick’s buddy in the Cortexiphan trials. As such, they share a psychic bond, and the deaths caused by Nick’s emotions are the ones that Olivia sees in her dreams. Olivia can’t let someone who has shared with her the experience of being dosed with Cortexiphan to die. So, instead of killing him, Olivia shoots him in the leg. Nonetheless, for his own safety – and the safety of others – Nick is later placed in a drug-induced coma.

Now, Walter can see the true consequences of his Cortexiphan trials. The effects aren’t limited to Olivia’s telekinesis. Cortexiphan has actually ruined lives, causing perfectly happy people to die because of Nick’s contagious emotions. Walter now sees his once carefree experiments through a new lens, one of remorse. In his lab, he finds a videotape of some old footage of a young Olivia’s reaction to Cortexiphan. The little girl, nicknamed “Olive,” cowers in a corner after having set fire to an entire room with her mind, afraid and unable to be reassured by Walter’s soothing words. Walter now realizes that even though Olivia is all grown up now, she still fears her abilities. If anything, with the knowledge that Cortexiphan can cause great harm, she’s even more scared than the little girl cowering in the corner.

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