Fringe Round Table: "Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There"

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"Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There" was a Fringe episode that created quite an uproar among fans. On which of the divide do you fall?

Come along now with staff writers Sean McKenna, Carla Day and Carissa Pavlica, as they are joined by super fan Nick Shere and Annie (@birdandbear) of Fringenuity to breakdown the latest Fringe installment...


What do you think the significance of the Observer boy will be?
Sean: He will train Peter in the ways of the Observer force. I honestly haven't a clue. I'm more interested in who Donald is and what his purpose will be. Oh, and if he has nephews named Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Carla: My guess is that he will be able to communicate to other observers and be able to use that to either infiltrate them or to deactivate them. Though, it will probably be something entirely different.

Nick: No clue. Although in the world of television, the default expectation of "we meet child" + "time hijinks" is always "it's someone we know as an adult."

Annie: Wacky personal theory: somehow the kid is September. Maybe his experience with Olivia, seeing her heart, is in some paradoxical way what led him to sympathize with the humans in the first place, and then he was sealed underground by the Observers as punishment for defying orders, and he sort of atrophied into a childlike state. It would explain the weird look between the two of them as they passed each other on the street - what if each was remembering being the other...?

I'm most likely wrong, but theories are fun. One way or another, I think this child will be key to eventually defeating the invaders. 

Carissa: I was hoping one of my table mates would know, because I saw photos of him (or another Observer child) during the filming of the next to the last episode of Fringe! Maybe Olivia and Peter adopt him and he'll somehow help heal the universal rift between the two species so everyone can live happily ever after. 

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Were you surprised Walter set out on his own?
Sean: A little, but he always gets into his own world when he's focusing on something important. I completely buy that he would wander off in order to solve the puzzle and not necessarily realize that he shouldn't have.

Carla: When Walter gets something in his mind, he does it without any consideration for the risk involved. His conversation with Peter was enlightening in this regard. How will having his brain piece returned further send him down the path he wanted to avoid. Who's life will he be willing to risk to succeed?

Nick: Not surprised by that, but I was caught off guard by where it went in terms of his character. It started out as a very Walter-y thing to do -- much like when he vanished in Chinatown in the parasite episode way back when. "Is that raspberry filling?" But it gradually became clear this was because a more purposive, grim side of him was coming to the fore. 

Annie: Not really. I think the characters are coming full circle now, and Walter has gone out on his own before, even if he doesn't quite remember it. I think his concern that he's becoming more like "him" is valid, but he'll be alright. In this timeline, like in the other, Peter has helped make him whole, and he's stronger than he thinks he is.

Carissa: It didn't hit me as very off until Walter himself started to wonder who he was becoming now that his brain has been reassembled. It would seem both father and son have pieces in their brain that will lead them to be people they won't necessarily like. 

Pocket universe: Cool or disappointing?
Sean: I liked that you could hide things in the pocket universe, but they could have easily made it some super secret location that didn't require another universe either. It's a toss up for me.

Carla: It's an intriguing idea and fit well into the Fringe universe. Loved the green.

Nick: I loved it. I thought it was visually great, I thought it was neat that everyone just treated it as terrain. I loved the bit where Olivia has to pull the Observer through to be able to shoot him. And it underscores again that our Fringe team has fundamentally changed roles. The last time we saw a pocket universe, it was as part of a doomsday weapon they had to defeat, right?

Annie: Cool! I thought it was really neat, especially the way it played with the tech. It was a fantastic return to Fringe's old sci-fi home turf, and I hope we get to see more of that kind of thing. 

Carissa: I like that they still have the ability to move between universes, but I am still so hurt that we aren't interacting with Fauxlivia, Lincoln and the gang that it was disappointing to know we could be, but aren't.
What do you think of Olivia's new docile nature?
Sean: She's definitely taking a more emotional based arc this season and I could certainly see docile used to describe Olivia. That said, she's shown to be the stable glue that keeps their little band from going off the rails, and will probably do so when Peter has a full break from his human side. Should she get some more action time? Sure. But I don't think that Olivia has been tossed to the wayside in the final season and will shine when it comes down to the end.

Carla: I don't think Olivia is docile. She's exhibiting more emotions, but I don't see her as being obedient or submissive.

Nick: I'm not sure I'd call it docile, but it certainly is something new for her. Family has always been sort of a minefield for Olivia, and I had the impression that at least early on, she made peace with the expectation that it's something that would always be broken for her. I think now she's seeing it as something that could be kept or lost, and she's a little desperate to try to keep it.

Annie: I also wouldn't call it docile. I think she's made peace (again) with the part of her that believed she didn't deserve to be loved, and now she's unwilling to give it up. She's grieving of course, but she's also worried about Peter, and she's holding back while trying to fully assess his state of mind. She doesn't want to make a move that could disturb the fragile new ground they've laid between them since losing Etta the first time drove them so far apart. She's cautious, and terrified of losing Peter again as well.

Carissa: My favorite scene was when she chose to watch the message from Etta with Peter. I crave more of them as a couple, I have waited years for her to open up to the possibility of a future with love and family. Granted, it didn't turn out well, but she's still willing to give it a chance. I just wish Peter hadn't gotten lost just when she was found.

Why did it take so long for Peter to turn Observery, and what's next?
Sean: Who knows? There's a special app in the tech that didn't fully download? I feel like Peter is headed towards some dark side and a lack of follicles. On the one hand it could be just the thing to take the Observers down, but at the same time could destroy him as well.

Carla: Not sure why it took the time. When it did kick in ... wow! He's become quite formidable and scary. Perhaps his brain was fighting the invasion, but when it became a life or death situation, the tech kicked in. Peter is going to lose himself, but he also will most likely be an asset to the resistance. It will be a fine line for him, but Olivia is perfectly positioned to help him survive this.

Nick: Baldness! No, probably not immediately. Maybe he'll start to perceive things out of order, or atemporally, the way the Observers do. That's where I would take it. The weird Observercam vision is initially jarring, but that's nowhere near what's truly alien about how they see the world.

Annie: I figure whatever that chip thingy was, it acts as a sort of slow release perception changer. Like hooking someone up to an IV antibiotic - it takes awhile, but after full delivery and absorption the infection is kicked out. Only this is like the opposite, it's delivering the virus instead of the cure. If it had unleashed its full potential as soon as he plugged it in it would most likely have fried his brain and possibly killed him.

Carissa: Will Peter be an asset to the resistance, as Carla suggests, or will the tech make him sympathize with those he despises? When you take chances like that, you never know. They all seem connected in some sort of group think, outside of September. How easy is it to be different? Josh Jackson changed his Twitter avatar to an Observer fedora, and he always did want to be one, so he's getting his chance!

Any general thoughts on the episode?
Sean: I really enjoyed the scene between Peter and Walter on the train. It was a nice emotional touch that John Noble nails with his character every time. Going on this puzzle journey and Peter turning into an Observer makes me wonder about the ending. Would Fringe kill off one of the characters in the final episode? Would Olivia have to take out Peter because he couldn't be controlled? I'm just curious as to how it's all going to go down: with Peter and Olivia together, on opposite sides, or one left to be alone and remember the sacrifices and good times?

Carla: I love the callbacks this season to previous situations and cases. The Observer boy was a perfect one to pull forward into this world and story. I can't wait to see what else will be coming.

Nick: I think it converges with what's happening for Peter. In the past, their part of the Fringe story has always been overcoming challenges by becoming better men. But the crisis this season is so severe that they are on the opposite path -- they are falling back on their basic natures, and regressing morally and emotionally. What will be interesting to see next is what Olivia does -- because she's always been a catalyst for redemption. (Even now, as we saw with Etta and the collaborator.)

Annie: Peter's in big trouble and no doubt about it, I don't think he knows yet how much. 

Going back to the idea that the characters are coming full circle - Peter, Olivia, and Walter had all come so far in terms of development by the end of the third season. Thanks to his association with Olivia, Peter the loner con-man had become someone who loved people, and was willing to die for his family and the world. Thanks to Peter, shuttered, defensive Olivia had learned to open herself fully to the risks and joys of love, and to let go of the self-doubt that had always plagued her. Through his new relationship with his son, Walter had learned that forgiveness isn't the final goal, just another step along the never ending path to atonement, and that part of being a father is knowing when to let go. 

Fringe Season 4 undid a lot of that, especially for Olivia and Walter, and then started the process over from another angle. As before, Peter acted as a guide and a catalyst on their respective journeys, and Walter and Olivia are in similar developmental places now to where they were when Peter stepped into the machine. And now it's Peter's turn to re-evolve. Grief has driven him rapidly back toward the reckless, solitary guy who puts himself in harms way because he's angry at the world, and once again, I think it'll be Olivia who brings him back.

I just hope she hurries.

Carissa: It wasn't a secret I didn't like it. It seems like a good time to make something clear. Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson are both incredible. John Noble and Jasika Nicole are incredible. The talent featured in Fringe is not in doubt, but I'm worried about whether the end of the series will leave me with a good or a bad taste in my mouth. It's my opinion. That's why I love when I get to hear from others, it helps give me a different perspective. I really like what Nick said about regressing morally and emotionally and I'll keep an eye on that going forward. 

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Fringe Season 5 Episode 6 Quotes

Don't you see Peter? I'm not safe. It's my mind. Ever since the pieces of my brain were re-implanted, 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 that you helped me become.


Walter: Please son, whatever happens, don't let me go.
Peter: I won't dad, I promise.