The Fringe Files – Episode 6: “This place is a lot like that”

Well this has been a long-time coming. Back in September, when I was figuring out what I wanted to blog about for the rest of the year, I came up with the idea for the “Fringe Files”. Fringe was entering its final season, so I wanted to write about every episode as it aired, like I did with Lost’s finale season. Only I stopped blogging and I stopped watching TV. Now that we’re in 2013, however, I’m getting back into the swing of things, and I’m finally watching the fifth and final season of Fringe, so I thought that I may as well record my thoughts as I viewed, no matter how random and scattershot.  By this point, the finale has already aired, and if you’re reading these, you’ve probably already seen it. So have I. I didn’t, however, want to simply upload 12 blog entries over the course of 3 days, so I’m spreading them out and continuing to post two a day. as the series finale airs later this week. So here we go. Spoilers, obviously, to follow.

Fringe 5×06 – “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There”

“Have you ever read Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There? This place is a lot like that.”

Well, we’ve got a lot to talk about. I knew I would like this episode, based solely on the Lewis Carroll reference in the episode title. Lost did this all of the time too, usually to great results. There’s something else that also made numerous references to Lewis Carroll – The Matrix. I’ve realized with this episode that season 5 of Fringe is Lost meets The Matrix. Let’s list the similarities:

  • Old videotapes (Lost)
  • Hatches (Lost)
  • Shots of people reflected in mirrors (Lost)
  • Cyclical final season (Lost)
  • Lewis Carroll references (Lost/The Matrix)
  • Dystopian future (The Matrix)
  • Antagonists who move quickly, wear suits, show no emotion, and think of humanity as inconsequential (The Matrix)
  • Someone who learns to fight said antagonists using their own abilities (The Matrix)
  • Little devices that burrow into your head (The Matrix)
  • Seeing things in a different color/Observer vision (The Matrix)

I’ll admit, some of those are a bit of a stretch, but how can you watch this episode and not think of The Matrix?

This episode brings us tape #7, which ultimately leads Walter to a bombed out apartment building that houses a portal to a pocket dimension. This pocket dimension looks like a toned-down version of an MC Escher painting, with hallways that twist and lead downwards. Guess who else is on the tape? That’s right, our old friend Donald is back in the picture, and we still don’t know who he is. I have a feeling we’ll know soon enough, however.

Meanwhile, Peter is sitting in Etta’s apartment, watching a holographic message that she left on her own holographic answering machine. Peter can’t let go. Olivia shows up and sees this. She tells him that she just wants to be included when he feels like this. She just wants to know what he’s going through and she wants him to understand what she’s going through. She doesn’t want to lose him. But she already has. She lost him as soon as he lied about inserting the Observer technology into his head. Heartbreaking.

Peter and Olivia find tape #7 and follow Walter to the pocket dimension. Inside, they learn that more of the tape can be viewed on that side of the portal, so they start hunting for whatever it was that Walter hid down there. Meanwhile, Walter encounters a man named Cecil who became trapped in the pocket dimension when a light bomb went off 20 years ago, sending him flying into the portal. He’s been within the dimension for 5 days, but outside, it’s been 20 years. Eventually all four meet-up and discover that what Walter was hiding in this dimension wasn’t an object, but a person. More specifically, the empathic boy from season 1 episode “Inner Child”. Cyclical.

The tape tells them that they need to look for the apple. The apple Walter is talking about is the same one seen in the opening and in the interstitials before commercials. Every door in the building has a different symbol on it, recognizable to viewers of Fringe. I couldn’t help but think of the numbers in Lost, and how they became significant once more in the final season. I know, I know, it’s a stretch. It’s why I didn’t include it in the similarities above. It was a nice touch though.

Fringe Apple

Once they find the room, they enter, expecting the boy to be there, but it’s empty, apart from a radio that wasn’t there when Walter filmed the video. They grab the radio, and get set to leave. That’s when the Observers show up. They find Astrid, who’s waiting outside of the portal and knock her unconscious. The Observers are able to use their special Observer vision to see the portal, and they enter it, shortly encountering and engaging in a gunfight with the Fringe team. Cecil is killed. The Fringe team runs and Peter uses his special Observer vision to find the portal out. Olivia kills one of the Observers, they grab Astrid, and they exit the building. This is where things get crazy. Peter stays behind while the others escape, telling them he’ll fight off the remaining Observer. Then Peter goes all Matrix on us. At first, he finds himself being beat by the Observer, but he adapts and uses the same speed the Observer does to fight back. The Observer seems surprised. “I know what you have done” he says. “You have made a grave mistake. You do not realize what is happening to you.” Peter then teleports behind him and snaps his neck. Wow. Oh, and Captain Windmark? He saw the entire thing.

Resist Windmark

Pretty crazy. We’re almost halfway through the season and there’s been a lot to keep track of. Let’s do a quick inventory, shall we? Here are the tapes we’ve seen:

  • Tape #1 (instructions)
  • Tape #2 (the plan)
  • Tape #3 (quartz)
  • Tape #7 (the boy)

Meanwhile, we’ve been told about two other tapes:

  • Tape #6 (reveals how to use the quartz – probably)
  • Tape #8 (reveals the importance of the boy)

Now, let’s look at the different components of Walter’s plan that have been gathered:

  • William Bell’s hand
  • The transilience thought unifier (which doesn’t work)
  • 40 lbs. of crystalline quartz
  • The plan, condensed to a complicated formula (which Broyle’s currently has in his possession)

We’ve also now got this mysterious radio which is tuned to a frequency that isn’t broadcasting anything – yet.

And despite all of this, the show still takes the time to focus on its characters. I know how important character is to Fringe, but I’m a little surprised that even with only 7 episodes left, we’re still getting these great character moments every episode. The writers never forget what makes this show special. This is illustrated in this episode in the conversation between Peter and Walter on the train, where Walter frets over the fact that Cecil wound up as collateral damage. He blames himself for everything that happened to Cecil, how he used him and then left him to die. While it’s true that Walter wasn’t directly responsible for anything that happened to Cecil, he recognizes that his actions are that of a man of hubris. His actions are that of… well, Peter. Of course, he doesn’t know what Peter has done yet, but Walter claims that this isn’t who he is anymore, but he’s afraid that with every passing day, the fragments of his brain that were re-inserted in “Letters of Transit” are slowly turning him back into the man he used to be and not the man that Peter has helped him become.  Peter says that he won’t let that happen, and yet, look what Peter has allowed to happen to himself? Peter ponders all of this as he looks towards Olivia, his vision obscured in a sea of blue. Peter’s now seeing through the eyes of an Observer. How can he stop Walter’s hubris if he can’t even keep his own in check?

Fringe Matrix

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