Broyles: In the meantime, I’m considering giving you a protective detail.
Olivia: A protective detail. Why?
Broyles: The last time Peter showed me one of these devices, someone just tried to kill you.
Olivia: I’m not worried, ’cause that was six weeks ago, so if a shapeshifting assassin wanted me dead, then I would be.

It’s rare to see Olivia display any hubris, but after finally overcoming her inability to walk without a cane in the previous episode, she feels like she can accomplish anything. That feeling won’t last long.

The shapeshifters want to know what William Bell told Olivia when he brought her to the Other Side. Once they extract that information from her, they can eliminate her. But Olivia can’t remember her time Over There at all. In order to recall what happened, what she needs is a trigger. In this case, it’s the sound of a bell. (As in William Bell? Get it? Oh, Fringe, you’re so clever sometimes. *rolls eyes*)

And suddenly, we’re flashing back into Olivia’s memories to her meeting with Bell in the alternate universe.

Olivia: He told me what you two did to me when I was just a girl, how you conducted drug trials on young children.
William Bell: We weren’t trying to hurt you, Olivia. We weren’t trying to hurt anybody.
Olivia: Hey. Guess what? You did. I’ve met some of the others. To say that they are permanently damaged would be an understatement.

What we see here is Olivia taking her chance to achieve catharsis, to unload all her anger and hatred for the man whom she believes has ruined countless lives through ZFT and other terrorist activities. But Bell might be a more benign force than Olivia believes. He warned Olivia that the shapeshifters were soldiers in an impending war between the universes and told her how to find their leader, after all.

With that message from Bell, Olivia believes it possible that she can stop the shapeshifters. Cut off the head, and the organization will die. (The fact that this episode features a lot of disembodied heads is interesting symbolism, as if the shapeshifters can’t be stopped by something as simple as decapitation, whether literal or figurative. It’s also interesting that it takes multiple gunshots to fell a shapeshifter.) But Olivia hasn’t counted on one simple fact: shapeshifters can impersonate anyone whom they have killed. And as far as Olivia knows, Charlie is still alive.

When she finally learns that the Charlie she knows now is actually a shapeshifter in disguise, Olivia is forced to kill him. She feels an immense sense of betrayal, and the thought that she could accomplish anything if she set aside her fears and put her mind to it has been quashed. The little bit of hubris that Olivia let herself display is gone. As she tells Broyles at the end of the episode, “I failed.” Olivia is in a rut again, and it will be interesting to see what pulls her out of it.

“Momentum Deferred” is notable for two other things. The first is the introduction of Massive Dynamic employee Brandon Fayette. He’s a dorky man with a seemingly boundless enthusiasm for all things scientific. Brandon isn’t really a three-dimensional character, but his love of science should be noted because we’ll see how it can be twisted into something sick and grotesque next season. The second  previously unmentioned notable thing about “Momentum Deferred” is former test subject Rebecca Kibner. It’s interesting to see the contrast between what Rebecca thinks of Bell and Walter’s experiments and what Olivia thinks of them, especially in an episode where Olivia berates Bell for what he did. Rebecca, on the other hand, is thankful for Walter having opened up her mind, despite Walter’s protestations to the contrary.

Of course, Rebecca may be biased by the fact that she and Walter seem to have once had an affair. From this, we can glean than Walter wasn’t always the kind, bumbling scientist that he is now. He wasn’t just the kind of man who had no qualms about conducting ethically questionable experiments; he was also the kind of man who would cheat on his wife. It’s difficult to imagine the Walter we know now doing something like that. Seventeen years in a mental institution can really change a man.

And in those seventeen years, other things have changed too. Walter and Bell are now residing in different universes, and shapeshifters are running around New England in an attempt to do…something. We don’t yet know what that something is, but whatever it is, it must have something to do with the war between the universes that Bell told Olivia about. Now, with all traces of her hubris gone, Olivia must rebuild her confidence so that she is ready to face whatever threat may be coming.

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