Olivia Dunham is a young FBI agent assigned to a multi-agency task force of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called the "Fringe Division" after her partner and lover, John Scott, is exposed to a flesh-dissolving agent. Both Agent Broyles and Nina Sharp consider her to have much potential and talent, the latter even hoping to bring her on as an employee of Massive Dynamic.
Olivia is a loner and dedicates almost all of her time to her work. She has a strong sense of justice, which drives her to solve a case by any means necessary. It is this quality which both impresses and annoys Broyles, as it makes her a good agent but also makes her prone to biting off more than she can chew when it comes to pursuing suspects.
Olivia came from a home with an abusive stepfather, whom she at one point shot several times in defense of herself and her mother. She was unable to finish him off, and so he recovered and disappeared, leaving her to blame herself for not exacting retribution against him, contributing to her determination to bring criminals to justice. She was nine years old when she shot her stepfather, and she states in an earlier episode that she knew what she wanted to do for a career "pretty much since [she] was nine", indicating a direct link between the childhood abuse and her job.
An experiment by Dr. Bishop to link her to the dying John Scott's mind in order to learn what he knew about his condition results in Olivia gaining part of his consciousness, causing her mind to begin integrating and purging the foreign consciousness. This results in Olivia mistaking John Scott's memories for her own. With help from Walter, Olivia finds a way to communicate with John within her own mind, eventually allowing the memories to fade completely.
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