Review: Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Review: Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There

      Email Post       11/12/2012 03:19:00 AM      

“You will notice that things work differently here.”

Have you read House of Leaves? If you have, this episode likely made your head spin. (If you haven’t, I’ll bet you enjoyed it anyway.) House of Leaves is a complicated book about a photographer who moves into a house that gives him access to…a place…sorta…and then there’s different sized fonts and various unreliable narrators whose timelines don’t match up. There are diary entries, transcribed videos, and more. It is thoughtfully postmodern, but also surreal enough to evoke a thrill. And so was “Through the Looking Glass…”

I like to think of this as Fringe’s haunted-house episode. The pocket universe and its unreliable physics placed me firmly on the edge of my seat and kept me there for the entire episode. I loved the upside-down shots, the dead end that wasn’t, the way time and light worked differently. Wonderland it wasn’t. Purgatory, neither.

The pocket universe was more of a limbo, a place of waiting without hope—as Virgil says of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, “without hope, we live in desire.” That’s how Olivia and Peter are living now, desirous of Etta’s impossible return. Olivia’s grief wasn’t the focus of this episode, and that almost made it more tangible: she continues to push through, just as she did after John Scott’s (supposed) death in the series premiere. It was perfectly appropriate that Walter was seeking a child, even if he didn’t know it. Not just any child, but the young Observer that Olivia felt such empathy with in “Inner Child.” He is gone, but, unlike Etta, he might still be recovered.

That is not to suggest that House of Leaves, Purgatory, limbo, Dante, children, and Wonderland all add up to some secret code that gives us the “answer” to the show. Rather, the characters’ emotions and actions, the show’s complex allusions and even-more-complicated mythology, and the episode’s various plots twine together, giving a poetic depth to every moment and every scene. Five years in, all of Fringe is fraught with background and importance. For an episode that took place almost entirely in a broken building in a pocket universe, its reach was remarkable.

And I haven’t even gotten to the big reveal: having hijacked the Observer’s tech in the previous episode, Peter is now…Well, he’s different. Is he turning into an Observer, or just able to access some of their power? Was he seeing things differently over the course of the entire episode, or did it take a while to kick in? And how cool is it that he can bloop in and out of space-time?!

Cool and horrible, of course. Cool because, hey, superhero! Horrible because Peter has once again sacrificed some part of himself to “fix” things; in Season Three, it was to bring peace to the two dueling universes. Now, in an attempt to avenge Etta’s death, he has become something other than what he was. And he has kept it from Olivia. From shame? From fear? Or has the tech altered him just enough that he feels like he can’t talk to his wife, so that he and Walter are both becoming different men?

Those questions will be answered soon. In the meantime, let’s take a minute—maybe even two or three—to praise John Noble. At some point in this episode, I said to myself, “Wait! Could this be Walternate? He’s just a bit sharper, somehow.” And I don’t mean smarter, although that might be part of it. I mean he has more angles and is more piercing. It wasn’t Walternate, of course, but it was a different version of Walter: more decisive, more cruel. And, in a cruel Flowers for Algernon twist, Walter had the same realization, and was crushed by it. John Noble manages to play variations on the same complicated character with beautiful precision.

A Series of Unfortunate Event:

• I got so caught up in re-watching the episode that I didn’t have time to track any of the quotes. Add your own in the comments!

What a great episode.

Four out of four pocket universes

Josie Kafka reviews Fringe, The Vampire Diaries, and Game of Thrones for


Anonymous said...

Walter: (immediately getting distracted then fervently knocking on the pastry display) Is that raspberry? RASPBERRY!!!

Then the next time we see him, he's wiping his mouth. Classic Walter! John Noble was really destined to play this role.

On another note, I did feel a tinge of sadness when Cecil got shot.

Zepp said...

I liked a lot of his views, understandings and their analogies, referring to this episode 5.06, Josie Kafka. They depict faithfully under his insightful perspective, those unexpected moments that we all experience, watching this great episode. Thank you. The whole aesthetic scenographic this episode caught my attention, especially as it could not be, that peculiar pocket universe, with its entrance portal, a lonely room, lost in a ruined building. Everything was unfolding in an atmosphere of mystery, awe and unpredictability, as it is already a "trademark" of Fringe. That scene in which it appears Walter, standing in the middle of a room, dark and abandoned, beginning, as it were, a "solitary dance," giving some little steps here, some there, stopping, measuring step, turns up completely, lifts his foot, and disappears ... (!), was wonderfully strange "theatrical" and peculiar. This was a brief moment, yes, but thick with grace, mystery and unpredictability, ie, totally full, what we would call, genuine "substance" Fringe, no doubt.

After that, when Walter goes to the other side, and what it was unreal, it becomes a "nonsense" that unreal, like a vision of unconsciousness in the way of a conscious dream, or something. Under the camera only saw one person, Walter, walking, sneaking decidedly feisty, with an objective set in your mind: find the "inner child" that he had, once hidden there in that strange universe pocket (!). And, during this search initiated by Walter, came upon scenes that seemed, aesthetically speaking, like the movie Poseidon, when a ship sinks in the ocean, getting upside down. There were beautiful scenes of "nexus, and nonsensical." And there is that comes to the current situation that the state is Peter, who is neither human nor Baldie, something is still not well defined, but I also see that it mainly for being in it he became, is the most appropriate person to resolve the current scale of the problems, these current times of Fringe.

milostanfield said...

Walter's "solitary dance" reminded me of the circle that Walter, Olivia, and the Cortexiphan kids formed when they went over to the RedVerse at the end of Season 2. Almost like something a shaman would do.

Zepp said...

You're right, milostanfield well remembered! I also remember, Walter, that dance "crazy" with a kind of artifact to put on the head, full of wires, what he did to the "inner child" when he was in the lab, making him incredibly, laughing. Actually, Walter has a lot of shaman, but of course that all the wonderful talent of John Noble.

o said...

The time distortion in the pocket universe was an issue for me. If 5 days in there is 20 years outside (I believe that was the ratio), then Peter and Olivia should have slammed into the back of Walter when they entered. All the events outside, with Astrid, would have transpired and resolved long before Olivia, Peter, and Walter had re-emerged. It was a cool idea, but didn't stay true to the laws it set up.

Pete is becoming Neo?

Unknown said...

You're right!
5 days = 20 years
1 day = 4 years
12 hours = 2 years
6 hours = 1 year
3 hours = 6 months
1:30 hour = 3 months
45 minutes = 1 month and a half
22 minutes aprox. = 22 days aprox.
A day per hour aprox.!!!!

Unknown said...

And I wonder if William Bell is still alive and where...

Anonymous said...

Silly viewers. The pocket-verse rules of physics aren't like ours. Time folds back in on itself. Nothing suggests that time inside is linear. When Cecil was blasted into the portal with a light bomb... that catastrophic wave may have got the old tsunami going in the pocket.

His first day there may have covered 19 years. Things start to settle and day two eclipsed 11 months. Day three... 29 days. Day four... 23 hours. Day five... 59 minutes. There. 20 years minus a minute in 5 days. Time isn't even stable inside the pocket. Remember how quickly Cecil got down the hall and put a screwdriver to Walter's neck?

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