As Kurt and Blaine battle it out with the Doctor and Rose in EW’s Greatest TV Couple of All Time championship, we’re unveiling our favorite couples who didn’t advance as far as we would have liked. Here’s the case for Peter and Olivia of Fringe.
The question EW has been asking in polls throughout this tournament is “Whose love is stronger?” In Round 2, voters favored Gossip Girl’s Chuck and Blair over Peter and Olivia by a 10.6 percent margin. But I have to argue that only the strongest love – like that shared between Olivia and Peter – can weather storms of cosmic proportions this Fringe couple faced for five seasons.
I admit that at the beginning of the series, which concluded its run on Fox earlier this year, I wasn’t rooting for Olivia and Peter to get together. It was refreshing to watch a show that could have two attractive leads and not pursue a predicable romance. And I was actually pleased to learn that Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson felt the same way. “I hope they don’t put us together. That would be so conventional,” Torv told EW ahead of the season 2 premiere. But when the show solidified the pair’s romantic feelings with a mid-crisis almost-kiss in the season 2 episode “Jacksonville,” I was immediately on board because it was clear Fringe would take them on a path that was anything but predictable or conventional.
Peter and Olivia’s love story took hits and took turns viewers weren’t expecting. This couple’s relationship made for great television with perfectly tantalizing pacing as they risked their lives for each other on universe-crossing missions and together moved past the some of the deepest pains TV fans have seen a couple bear, like the loss of their daughter, not once but twice in a grim, dystopian future.
They – along with Walter and Astrid – were a top-notch team, saving the world over and over again with their combined smarts and talents, and all those life-or-death situations eventually developed enough trust between these two for them to realize they wanted something more than a professional relationship. Peter broke down Olivia’s walls and pulled her out of the dark when she holed up in her troubled past. And Olivia was the ever-present bridge between Peter and his father, Walter.
Olivia even placed the Bishops’ relationship above her own blossoming romance with Peter when she promised Walter that she’d keep secret her discovery that Peter was from the other universe. The truth came out, of course, but it paled in comparison to the revelation that Walternate had planned to use Peter to destroy a whole universe. And then Olivia opened up in a way she hadn’t before: It was a rare moment of making her needs known, of confessing that she does depend on those close to her in her life – all the while assuaging Peter’s fear that he doesn’t belong anywhere (not Over There, not Over Here) when she tells him, “You have to come back because you belong with me.”
Once together, the tests to their relationship came fast and furious. One of the biggest of those cosmic storms was the Saga of Fauxlivia’s Over Here Infiltration. Olivia was held captive in the alternate universe while Fauxlivia (as fans came to call her) pulled a switcheroo and posed as Olivia while Over Here. When Olivia made her way back to her own universe and learned that Peter had fostered an intimate relationship with a woman who wasn’t really her, she masked how much this hurt her. But in “Marionette,” in what still stands as one of Fringe’s most heartbreaking scenes, Olivia, shrinking away from her almost-lover’s touch, tells Peter, “She wasn’t me. How could you not see that?”
Now that’s the kind of thing a lesser couple wouldn’t be able to move past. But Olivia and Peter did move past it. His most redeeming moment? When he made yet another risky journey into the dangerous unknown to save Olivia – this time in an Inception-like dreamland – Peter tells an imposter, “I can see it in your eyes. It’s not you.”
Later, when Peter was wiped from existence, he found a way back to Olivia, and though it was a different timeline where she never knew him, Olivia still managed to recall memories of the man who’s as close to a soul mate as she’d ever find in any universe. How was Peter able to come back into existence, and how was Olivia able to remember him? Let September the Observer enlighten you: “I have a theory based on a uniquely human principal,” he told Peter. “I believe you could not be fully erased, because the people who cared about you could not fully let you go. And you could not let them go. I believe you call it… love.”
Fringe may have frustrated viewers with illogical, far-fetched interpretations of how spacetime works, but that was pretty easy to forgive when logic and scientific sense were sacrificed for beautiful stories about human relationships. And though I believe Peter and Olivia were made even stronger by all they went through in the now-obliterated version of 2012-2036, I have to say, this Fringe fan was pleased to see them get back to that rare bright, serene moment in the park in the end. And Etta could finally have her bath.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome