Fringe Season 5 Review “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There”

This week, on World’s Worst Scavenger Hunt, Fringe proved once again that they can create really interesting episodes out of simple exploration of a new place. Though many may have clamored for more Peter the Observer action, I was perfectly content to hang out in the pocket universe with Cecil and his never ending water fountain. Granted, it’s a full-fledged killing time episode in an series that is rapidly drawing to a close. Some people will take issue with this type of slow episode that followed last week’s episode that also failed to move the plot forward significantly. While not serving the larger narrative in a final season is problematic, I enjoyed sitting back and going through the Walter’s Pocket Universe Walking Tour. It was an engrossing trip that featured some cool visual benders and a fairly harrowing escape from the Observers. We are not any closer to discovering our plan to defeat the Observers, but the lack of a forward moving plot does not damage the execution of the episode, just the decision to have this episode during the final run of the show in the first place. You can quibble with the latter, but not the former.

In addition to the actual execution of the episode, there were a few moments throughout the episode that reminded us of the larger picture and took us back into the heart of the series. The entire reason for the existence of the show is Walter Bishop’s hubris that led him into the alternate universe all those years ago. While that rift may have been healed, it appears that Walter’s hubris may be returning. However, given his evolution over the years, he doesn’t want to be that brilliant man anymore. He would rather take the toned down brilliance while maintaining his humanity. His struggle to hold on to his humanity is a sharp contrast to his son’s carefree disregard for his own humanity. It appears that hubris is indeed a Bishop family trait. We certainly didn’t need an Observer to tell us that Peter has no idea what is happening to him. He’s blinded by a father’s revenge, which seems to make the newly-menacing Windmark fairly delighted. Peter may be infinitely more powerful (just asked the Observer with the snapped neck), but Fringe has taught us over and over again that these “powers” are useless against things like love, indomitable will, and a willingness to do the right thing without fail. That being said, I’m really pleased at the show’s admittedly surprising dark turn this season. This horrible world is built for men like the New Peter: People willing to do anything to accomplish their aims. However, what happens if the Fringe team is successful in restoring the world as it was. Can Peter ever go back? I’m not sure we’ll find out, but I would be fascinated to watch those scenes play out.

Ultimately, these are the things that Fringe has been exploring for the past five years. All of those characteristics tie into one central question: What does it mean to be human? It’s this idea that will be explored in these final seven episodes as the series draws to a close. We have to watch Peter spiral ever downward as he loses touch with his human side before ultimately being redeemed at the end of the series. The only real question at this point is if his redemption leads to his death. It’s these ideas that the show really needs to deep dive into over the stretch run of episodes. Still, as we near the Fringe closing date, it will be just as important to sit back and enjoy the ride.