‘Fringe’ Review: Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There
In an episode that leads Walter into a “pocket universe” ‘Fringe’ decides it’s a good time to have a
“Peter, when you feel like this I want you to include me.” – Olivia
“Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There” is an odd episode of Fringe, but I feel it’s necessary as we approach the home stretch of the series. The episode is meant for Peter to discover some of the qualities of the tech he implanted in his neck last week, while allowing that development to parallel with Walter and his decision to take Peter from another universe way back in 1985. It’s about hubris. Walter had it back then and Peter has it now. Peter believes he can do the tough stuff on his own, like fighting an Observer, and now that he has the point of view of the baldies it’s inevitable that it will end badly.
To go back to the quote above, “Looking Glass” is also about Olivia being left out in all of this. She lost just as much as Peter did. As we’ve seen, both are reacting to the loss of Etta in different ways: Olivia watches a tape of a young Etta and sheds tears while Peter sticks a needle in his neck. She’s not included in what Peter is trying to do and it’s only going to spread them apart when Olivia discovers what Peter has become. Olivia is on the peripheral for the majority of the hour, and I hope that was intended, but I think when Peter left Olivia alone in the pocket universe, it reminded me of the quote above from earlier in the episode. Include her Peter or else you’re hubris will take over and end up hurting her and your quest to save the world.
The entire hour was fixated on Peter, Olivia and Astrid following the trail of Walter into the “pocket universe.” The entire story surrounding it had its mysteries, which I think is a mistake on the shows part. We’ve had plenty of mysteries throughout the run of the series and with seven episodes left we don’t need more of them. We still don’t know who Donald is and the only development we get from this “pocket universe” story is that the little bald boy from season one’s “Inner Child” is out there somewhere and is important to the plan. I like that the show is trying to connect season one stuff to now and I think it’s interesting that the Little Observer is important, but let’s move this along somewhat.
The best part of the episode was the last five minutes, where Walter realizes his hubris is his own undoing. Peter should be taking notes from Walter and understand that your own personal agenda will ultimately hurt innocent people, like Walter did to Cecil, but in this case it could end up hurting Peter or Olivia or Walter or Astrid. I’m pretty sure Peter will realize this too late and someone will pay for it. But going back to those last five minutes, Peter turns full Observer, seeing what they see, but also calls Walter “Dad.” It’s great stuff, but it makes the rest of the episode pretty forgettable.
My biggest beef with the episode is that the structural design of the season isn’t completely working. It’s good in theory, but at this point it’s bad in execution. Unlike last week and the week before, the scavenger hunt structure lacks the emotional connection to the characters. Yes, we sacrifice Etta and Peter becomes an Observer, but it’s been more plot driven than character driven, which is a mistake. Fringe is about these characters and once the show figured this out early in its run, the show became something special. I still think this show has done things that other genre shows haven’t, but in the end Fringe will be about its core three: Olivia, Peter and Walter. There are slivers of it in the hour, but it was overshadowed by the plot and I feel that like Peter realizing too late that his personal agenda will ultimately hurt the overall plan to save the world, the show will do the same in realizing too late that what got them to this point in its run is its characters.