FRINGE Recap: ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There’

November 9, 2012 by  

So, I’m really torn about “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There.”

Much like “The Recordist,” I feel like the reaction to this episode has been split. Some delighted in the smaller moments, the callbacks to the things probably only the most hardcore fans would get, etc. Others seem to be frustrated with the slower pace of storytelling and very little of Peter’s newfound Observerdom being addressed. And once again, I find myself stuck in the middle of these two views.

On one hand, I’m so tickled the show is revisiting the wee Observer from “Inner Child.” Whether they really planned to utilize him like this all along or merely mined their history (hat tip to Joshua Jackson) for that twist, fun little tidbits like that are what make being a FRINGE fan fun…you never really know when a random person from the past will suddenly be vital. As a bonus, I loved that the doors in the pocket universe had the Fringe glyphs (six-fingered hand, apple with the double fetuses at the core, etc.) as their markers.

But.

We now have seven episodes left of the entire series. We’re 93% done with the show. For as lovely as some aspects of this episode was — the direction by Jon Cassar in the pocket universe particularly stood out to me — it was a bit jarring to go from the “OMG, PETER BISHOP PLEASE EXAMINE YOUR LIFE CHOICES BECAUSE INSERTING OBSERVER TECH INTO YOUR NECK IS NOT SMART” ending to this much slower-paced episode. The show shouldn’t be focused solely on Peter’s transformation, but it felt like an unusual time to take Walter off on his own journey. Perhaps this was the only time this story really fit, but right now, I’m just left with a feeling of being unsettled.

Much like “The Recordist,” I’d much rather focus in on a few particular storylines/scenes in “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There” and go from there, so let’s discuss…

The Observer tech is turning Peter.

For as insistent as Peter was that he could be “ten times what [the Observers] are if I had that tech in my head,” I think we got some pretty clear signs that won’t be the case. Sure, he has nifty, AWESOME powers — teleporting yourself would be massively useful if you’re a fugitive or you need an advantage in a fight, and he did manage to steer the group out of the pocket universe — but part of what separates our guys from the Observers is their humanity. Like it or not, but Peter is losing his. Does anyone think for one second that Peter from two episodes would have just jumped out of the pocket universe with Olivia on the other side of the room? He knows how fast those Observers can sneak up, and instead he was so razor-focused on getting them out of there, he failed to make sure his wife was going to be safe…and then she got caught by an Observer. (Olivia, of course, once again proved how bad-ass she can be by taking the fight with the Observer back to their universe and kicking his butt.)

Peter has kept secrets from Olivia and Walter in the past (notably when he killed shape-shifters in season 3), but the show doesn’t have that kind of time to have this suspicion linger. Olivia noticed he had something wrong with his neck when they watched a hologram of Etta (an absolutely lovely moment of shared grief I’ll touch on further in a minute), and she certainly was suspicious about how easily he was able to get them back home. She is not a stupid woman. She may be grieving, there may be other distractions going on around her, and really, jumping to, “Hey, maybe my husband stole Observer tech from the prisoner he was interrogating and stuck it in his neck” shouldn’t be anyone’s natural thought progression, but they need to realize something is wrong with Peter before he’s the past of no return.

And for as bad off as Peter is, he has not reached the point where all hope is lost. He may be viewing things like an Observer (that end shot was chilling, particularly Joshua Jackson’s “Oh [insert your expletive of choice here]” look), but his heart is still there. For now.

Peter’s not the only Bishop man who is losing himself.

When Walter ventured into the pocket universe he built (per the instructions on the latest tape), he found a man there who claimed he had been stuck there for five days. Walter realized the man had actually been living there for 20 years (since a bomb had rocked the apartment building) and time was working differently in this quasi-universe. The man tagged along as Walter explored the pocket universe (and kept up with the group when Peter and Olivia joined in on the fun), but when the Observers tracked them down, the man was a casualty.

As the group rode the monorail home, Walter lamented his coldness towards the fallen man to Peter:

Walter: Is that who I am Peter? Is that something you can see coming from my mind? From my heart? Am I the person that would leave in the middle of the night on his own?
Peter: Walter…
Walter: Those are the actions of a man of hubris, arrogance. That’s not me, Peter. That’s him.
Peter: Him?
Walter: Don’t you see? I’m not safe. It’s my mind. Ever since the pieces of my brain were reimplanted, it’s been changing me back into the man I was before. Bit by bit. I’m losing myself, Peter. I’m losing the man you helped me become.
Peter: Listen to me: I’m not going to let that happen. We need you. You are our only hope to defeat the Observers. And I’m going to be here with you every step of the way.
Walter: Please, son, whatever happens, don’t let me go.
Peter: I won’t, Dad. I promise.

First of all, “Dad”? Peter Bishop, you sure know how to use that word when it’s appropriate. It’s also so important that those pieces of Walter’s brain were changing him. As I was watching Walter navigate the pocket universe with such certainty/coldness, I was reminded of Walternate, so I’m glad Walter was at least self-aware enough to realize the man he was wasn’t the man he wanted to be; the Walter we love.

That entire exchange between him and Peter was heartbreaking, because while it was the right thing to say, we as an audience know that Peter isn’t able to keep that promise. If Peter is too busy fighting to retain himself, who knows where that will leave Walter? Maybe I was reading too much into it, but I watched that scene with a heavy heart, wondering which of these two men would ultimately be undone by their choices for this ultimate fight.

The ghost of Etta.

As much as the death of Etta is still massively impacting the series — since Peter now has the Observer tech in him as a result of his grief/anger, I can’t see it not being an issue for a while — how do you guys feel about how the show is handling the emotional fallout from the loss?

I mentioned above that I loved Peter and Olivia taking comfort in each other as they watched a hologram of Etta, and I’m so glad they had that, especially in light of Olivia’s call to Peter at the end of “An Origin Story” where she emphasized she didn’t want to lose him.

But where is Walter in this? I get that he had his pocket universe to contend with, but if anyone knows what Peter’s going through, it’s his father. This Walter watched two versions of his son die — and broke the universe a bit in his attempt to save one of the boys — so he knows this agony. He imparted wisdom on Olivia last week, but I wish we had a solid scene of Peter and Walter just acknowledging this new and terrible parallel in their lives.

Other thoughts:

  • I can admit I rewound my recording multiple times to see if I could identify Donald’s voice. But does the fact that Walter called him Donald mean we haven’t met this guy? If so, there goes my theory it’s either Lincoln or Sam Weiss. (Though, I suppose, given Walter’s inability to remember Astrid’s name, that might not mean MUCH.)
  • If Donald took the wee Observer out of the pocket universe at some point in the past 20 years, does that mean he’s now a full-grown Observer somewhere out in the sea of enemies? (It might certainly explain John Noble’s reaction to my question.)
  • We have “Five-Twenty-Ten” next week. Considering that was a William Bell number, we better freaking get a Nina Sharp appearance. We’re halfway through the final season…she’d be helpful to at least touch base with, Fringe team!
  • Windmark, you are a cold bastard. That slight smile on his face after he saw what Peter could do has me incredibly concerned.
  • I’m glad that it was brought up we really don’t know what Walter knows about the cases that were first investigated in seasons 1-3. Yes, in theory, we know things happened the way they happened just sans Peter, but man, there still seems like a lot of variables. The mere fact that William Bell is still alive(ish) proves how little we really know about what happened in this new timeline since the Fringe team was assembled. It does make some of the theorizing a little pointless, though, because we’re not totally playing with a full deck.
  • What will it take for the radio they found in the pocket universe to transmit something?

But enough from me…what did you think of “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There”?

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Comments

16 Responses to “FRINGE Recap: ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There’”

  1. Sarah on November 9th, 2012 10:17 pm

    Is it odd i find Peter INCREDIBLY sey with these powers? I still hesitate to call him an Observer. Sure he’s using the tech but he has hair and emotions, which what they lack. Loved seeing BABY OBSERVER again, I still wonder what happened to him to get him stuck in back in time and then found in 2009 by the team. Anyway I do want Peter to be honest with his family about what he’s done. ALSO PETER CALLED WALTER DAD AGAIN. I CRIED.

  2. Carla on November 9th, 2012 11:40 pm

    I’m so torn. Love the small touches and the nod to season 1. And I’m totally digging this new storyline, Peter with Observer powers? Bring it. It doesn’t quite feel like the same show anymore though, but maybe I just haven’t adapted to the transition yet. All that said, it was a pretty solid episode. Looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds knowing that there are only what… 7 episodes left? BRB SOBBING.

  3. Donna on November 10th, 2012 2:01 pm

    I guess I’m not so unhappy with this episode as you are, Marisa… it wasn’t as good as last week’s, but if you asked me two weeks ago if I was happy with the season I would have said no, but then I got served with a huge dose of satisfying awesome with “An Origin Story” that largely put my fears about the season to rest. So, maybe you just need to be patient for that Walter-Peter scene you want. Peter has still not moved on from losing Etta, so there’s still time for him and Walter to have a talk. I think a talk between them would be more meaningful when the truth about what Peter has done comes out and he is forced to really properly grieve.

  4. Flor on November 10th, 2012 2:03 pm

    I have mixed feelings. I don’t like the Peter turning into an Observer storyline to be honest. I feel like this is a huge step back for the character. Peter and Olivia have already gone through the loss of their child and instead of learning from his mistakes, he is making even bigger mistakes. I can understand him reacting the way he did as soon as Etta died but I’m not entirely comfortable with where the story seems to be going. My main issue here is that there is not enough time, we only have 7 episodes left and it makes me anxious to see this story just beginning. I don’t see the need for it to be honest :(
    And perhaps my biggest disappointment this season is the lack of an Olivia storyline, I want the hero of this story back in the center of the action. I do hope this changes soon :(
    I did love the Peter/Olivia scene from the beginning, it was so heartbreakingly beautiful ;____; And the Peter/Walter scene was fantastic, every time he calls him Dad I die. But every time he does something bad happens too so…

  5. greenerpuddles on November 10th, 2012 3:33 pm

    Anybody thinking the kid is September? That September was saved by Olivia and Peter, grew up with humans who helped him have empathy, then worked to become a scientist so he could travel back in time and observe and assist Walter, Peter and Olivia? He even witnessed his own salvation. It makes sense that in 2016 he told Walter exactly where to find him. Maybe September knew he’d be the only one who can save Peter yet again. Maybe he’ll relieve Peter of his newly acquired “tech”. All this stuff was planned down to the smallest detail. September would have known all their fates and the needed steps to change them. Granted the videotapes seem an absolutely ridiculous way to convey these steps, but maybe that’s a step itself. And maybe this is all hogwash.

  6. Marisa Roffman on November 10th, 2012 3:47 pm

    @Donna: Not so much unhappy, per se, as much as I am conflicted. I’ve been vocal about seeing this as part of a larger arc, and sometimes that requires patience for ebbs/flows that might not make sense at the time. I’m not willing to write off this episode as a terrible hour (or even a bad episode) because it feels like a bridge of sorts, but at the same time, the ticking clock keeps getting louder indicating the show is nearly over. There’s a sort of pressure on the final season of any show, and especially on a show like this, the quieter, slower episodes are sometimes held up to an unfair standard (as in, “If you know you have X number of episodes left, why was this story important enough to tell right now and in this way”)…it certainly happened on LOST, too. In hindsight, this might be an absolutely brilliant/vital hour of television, but right now, I’m conflicted.

    @greenerpuddles: I like the idea that the kid is September MUCH BETTER than the notion of Peter being September.

  7. history on November 10th, 2012 6:34 pm

    @flor:
    i think you just want oliva central, that’s it. the reason you don’t like the peter storyline is bacause it doesnt revolve olivia. if the writers would have made olivia an observer or something else, i bet you would have liked it.

    about you wanting olivia central: not going to happen anymore. oliva is not an FBI agent anymore and she has no powers anymore, something her fans clearly don’t want to understand.
    so now, peter has a gune and he has his own mind, olivia can’t call the shots anymore, that’s history.

    now, it ‘s up to you and the rest of the anna torv fans: do you want to keep complaining or accept the storyline?

    either way, the olivia you knew is not anymore.

  8. JaniceLG on November 10th, 2012 8:56 pm

    @marisa Interesting to read your review after I tweeted you my initial thoughts. Thought maybe you liked it more than just “conflicted”.

    So here it goes. I probably made the mistake of watching the East Coast FOX feed while not really paying attention (I was cooking & watching which Wyman/Pinkner said in an interview that it’s hard to eat and watch an episode of Fringe). I did try to pay attention to first 10 and last 10 min (and promo for 507) But about 5 min after the episode ended, it all sank in. All I felt was dread and sick to my stomach. And it wasn’t just about the Peter storyline. But more for the show that I so love and adore.

    As much as I was very interested in seeing where Peter’s journey would take him (even into potential Observer-hood), I think the moment it became clear that Peter was indeed becoming an Observer (and these are not nice guys with special powers, these are the guys that killed his daughter) was the moment I could feel the passion and love that I have for this show demish. That path by the writers/producers is really dark to me. That was the very first time I’ve bought into the “this isn’t the Fringe I love”. Yes, I’m probably totally over-reacting to 1 episode and should give the entire season it’s fair shot. But if Peter is becoming an Observer, then I think, once again, the writers have cornered themselves in terms of how this ends and how the other key characters stories end..

    I hope I’m wrong and they surpise me.

  9. Marisa Roffman on November 10th, 2012 9:11 pm

    @JaniceLG: It’s a very interesting situation the show is in, because I think a LOT of fans now expect there to be a reset. (Most of my friends certainly do.) If they go down that road, how can they do it and not have it be massively predictable — which is something FRINGE rarely is? Almost more importantly, how could they do it and still have it be satisfying? If they shock us and don’t do the reset, is there any way at all this can end on a hopeful note (something J.H. Wyman has been vocal about)? I don’t see this ending sans a reset and with Peter and/or Walter dead as a hopeful outcome. Maybe it’s being naive or overly trusting, but I just really want to believe the ending isn’t glaringly obvious or absolutely dreary.

  10. JaniceLG on November 10th, 2012 10:53 pm

    Yeah, I’ve listened to/read most of Wyman’s interviews and I known he’s a hope guy (he did write White Tulip).

    Before this episode, I thought there might not be a reset, but if Peter is going down this path, then I don’t see how “love” and “looking into my eyes” will bring Peter back. I do expect death (in particular Walter) and that’s ok. You can still have hope with death.

    I tweeted back and forth with Ari who knows the end (see below). He seems ok with what’s about to happen. Maybe we do need to trust, but boy it’s bleak.

    JaniceLG‏
    @jonxproductions Speechless. For the wrong reasons I think. Peter’s story is dark. Never thought Wyman would go THAT dark. He’s hope guy.
    Ari
    @JGottschall Good drama needs ups and downs… Sometimes things have to get dark… But the characters are in good hands! #Trust
    JaniceLG
    @jonxproductions Honestly, I don’t know. Way worse than Etta dying. Turn to the DARK side is a huge game change for entire SERIES. Hopeless
    Ari
    @JGottschall All I can tell ya is that as a fan myself I love what is coming up & how it ends. Feels true to the show and earned. #Fringe

  11. mary on November 11th, 2012 4:21 am

    @Flor

    i see your point and i wholeheartedly agree with you

  12. greenerpuddles on November 11th, 2012 6:11 am

    @marisaroffman If Walter and September concocted a way to wipe out the existence of the Observers altogether, it wouldn’t be a reset, it would just be life as it was destined to be pre-baldie, time travelling parasites. I suspect that would be something September would absolutely support and sacrifice himself to achieve. I do think the kid is September and he’ll concoct a way to remove himself and his kind from the whole timeline. Some might suspect that would mean Peter would no longer exist because September originally saved him at the lake, but that history was re-written. Peter exists out of sheer will and love and fate and yadduh, yadduh. There will be a park, there will be Peter, Olivia and Etta having a lovely idyllic afternoon, Observer-free and hopeful.

  13. Scott on November 11th, 2012 8:06 am

    It feels bleak. :(

  14. Ray Roberson on November 11th, 2012 12:19 pm

    These are the questions I sense answering.

    Why did the observer tell Peter he had made a mistake by imbedding the tech? If the result would be bad for Peter, was this a normal observer reaction based on a calculation of the perceived effects on Peter – and otherwise was not needed because the transformed Peter would somehow benefit the Observers. If the result benefited Peter and led to something bad for the Observers, then the statement would only have confirmed to Peter that his decision was correct.

    Widmank knows something. You can tell it in his smile.

    Will Peter “learn” to timetravel? If so, what will he do to the timeline?
    >> OMG << TIMELINE RESET!

    As far as an ending, I would like the last hour – or half hour – be a narrative, filling in gaps and explaining how this all made sense, to whit:
    – Where is the machine?
    – How or why did Olivia in timeline 2 recover her memories of timeline 1?
    – What is/was the significance of Olivia's picture on the "In case of Fire, Break Glass" crowbar document?
    – Why was September in Walternate's lab in the first place?

  15. Ray Roberson on November 11th, 2012 2:11 pm

    That last question about September needs explanation.

    As we all know, that event – of Walternate realizing an unauthorized person (September) was in his lab – diverted his attention and he failed to see his recent test had been successful.

    To September – as a future being observing history – what was the historical significance of this test in the “alternate” universe, in a timeline that would have originally had Walternate observing the successful test. I want to know the motivation for him being there in the first place.

  16. Donna on November 12th, 2012 12:24 pm

    I’m the hugest fan of this show, but somehow not feeling obsessed with the exact way it will end. Season 4 was wrapped up as if it were a final ending, and while it was a bit lame, I could have lived with that ending. Fringe has very few mysteries left to answer… it’s not like Lost. It’s a character story and I think most of its fans accept that.

    I *am* thrilled, however, by the Peter storyline with Etta’s death and the Observer tech and now that ironic scene with Walter at the end begging for his help. This is one of the best subplots the show has had. It’s just an awesome idea, it’s deeply resonant, it makes sense for Peter and his history as a character.

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