FRINGE 5.06 ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There’

The Fringe team enters a pocket universe to find another piece of the plan as Peter undergoes some startling changes.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There"

Writer: David Fury

Director: Jon Cassar

Previously on "Fringe":

Episode 5.05 "An Origin Story"

One of the things that is becoming increasingly noticeable about the current season of “Fringe” is that the creative team is trying to work around an apparent decrease in the series’ budget. How else would you explain why the bulk of this episode features the characters basically wandering around in an old and mostly abandoned apartment building?

A few of the other episodes have also felt decidedly small scale, including the one in which the Fringe team initially broke back into the lab at Harvard. But the writing has rebounded since the death of Etta (Georgina Haig) and the events of last week’s episode have given “Fringe” some renewed energy as we head towards the endgame.

As always, full spoilers lie ahead for this episode! If you want to catch up, we’ll still be here when you’ve seen the current episode of “Fringe.”

When Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) disappeared into thin air, I was hoping that this was an unannounced return to the alternate universe. “Pocket universe” actually was my second guess. That concept has been used in sci-fi many times before, but it’s always fun to see “Fringe” revisit those ideas.

The early part of the episode primarily deals with Walter finding his most hilarious tape yet, as he records himself traveling through the city and stopping for a quick bite to eat while explaining the seventh part of September’s master plan to defeat the Observers. Noble is a rare actor who can switch from comedic to dramatic very easily. And this episode allowed him to show off both sides of his character.

In the past, Walter was the same mad genius we’ve loved since the beginning of the series. But in the present, Walter’s demeanor took on a darker and more authoritative tone as he searched the pocket universe for something he left behind. Walter even verbally intimidated the pocket universe’s lone resident, Cecil (Zak Santiago); a petty thief with the misfortune to have been trapped there for two decades.

Screenwriter David Fury manages to make the audience question Walter’s new persona without making it seem like a forced turn. We’ve seen that side of Walter before back in “Letters of Transit,” before his unfortunate brain drain at the hands of Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa) in the season premiere. When Walter later relates to Peter that he is frightened of becoming “him,” I thought that he meant Walternate. Instead, the man who scares Walter the most is himself, prior to getting pieces of his brain removed by William Bell.
Meanwhile, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) get a chance to deal with the loss of their daughter together. Olivia’s request that Peter allow her to be aware of his grief could have fallen flat in the hands of a lesser actress and it was not a great line of dialogue. But the audience is so attached to both Peter and Olivia at this point that we mourn when they mourn. And it was intrinsically sad to see them reduced to playing an old holographic message of Etta just to see her face and hear her voice.

At first Peter seems relatively normal after having placed the Observer’s chip into his own head last week. Peter, Olivia and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) eventually figure out that Walter is missing and use the video tape Walter made to track his movements to the pocket universe… with the Observers close behind.

I can’t have been the only one having Matrix flashbacks as Peter learned more about his new powers while fighting one of the Observers. But all of those superpowers come with a price. As Walter laments losing pieces of himself and becoming something frightening, Peter seems almost unconcerned about what he is going through even as he now literally sees the world through the perceptions of an Observer.

Giving this arc to Peter has been a very bold move so far. Because this is the final season, there are no guarantees that Peter will ever be cured from the changes made by the Observer tech. There’s a freedom now to completely obliterate the status quo and take some major chances. Etta’s death continues to pay dividends as the main characters still feel the loss and her image pops up again as a rallying point for the resistance. Every rebellion needs a martyr. Except I’ll bet that Etta won’t be the only casualty by the end of the season.

I was pleased to see Astrid actually out on a mission this week, but she quickly got knocked out by the Observers. What, is she gonna be the Giles this season? Get that woman something to do!

The brief action sequences with the Observers were some of the high points of the episode, particularly during Peter’s fight and Olivia’s struggle to fire a gun in the pocket universe before dragging her opponent back to our world. Despite the relatively limited setting, the pocket universe had occasional moments of intrigue, especially the hallway that went straight down at a 90 degree angle.

Which brings us back to the point of this journey: an Observer child whom we haven’t seen on “Fringe” since all the way back in season 1! I love callbacks, even as Olivia and Peter had to reiterate that things may have played out differently in this timeline. Admittedly, “Fringe” can have an overly complicated history.

But the Observer child has already been removed from the pocket universe by Walter’s ally, Donald; whom we know nothing about. The only other glimpse of Donald came in the third episode of the season when we saw footage of the Observers capturing him years ago. Which makes Donald’s survival in the present somewhat unlikely. However, there’s an Observer child somewhere out there who may hold the key to getting rid of his people once and for all. Could he be… September? That would go a long way towards explaining September’s loyalty to humanity and the Bishop family in particular.  

This episode dragged a little bit in the middle, this was still a pretty enjoyable story. And even low budget “Fringe” is better than no “Fringe.”