“Through The Looking Glass And What Walter Found There” was a journey into the unknown that left the heroes of Fringe disoriented and disappointed. Viewers might have felt the same way. It was a decidedly odd episode, the kind of decidedly odd that Fringe infamously gives us around the 19th episode of each season. But of course, there will be no 19th episode this year. Or ever again. (Sniffle) I’m still puzzling through this puzzling installment, and my continued head-scracthing is a big reason why you won't be getting a full recap from me this week. The bigger reason: It’s been one of those weeks, a topsy-turvy brain drain that has me feeling out of sorts, just like Walter at the end of the episode, and I just need time to reflect and reconnect and re-energize before moving forward, just like Walter at the end of the episode, and WAITAMINUTE. HOLD UP! DID I JUST BUMBLE INTO THE POINT OF IT ALL?! Maybe. Maybe not. But I do suspect that all the ways in which “Through The Looking Glass…” doesn’t make sense to me now will make more sense upon further review, or better, by talking it out with you. And there again: Bumble? Because I think this is part of it, too, this idea that meaning is created in retrospect, by looking back and taking stock, by sussing and hashing s--t out. But this is not activity to be deferred to later; it should be active and ongoing. And it should be done collaboratively. So maybe “Through The Looking Glass…” was some riff on Sartre-esque Existentialism – Fringe gets Nausea. Maybe. Maybe not. I need more time.
The whole thing felt rather Meta, like Fringe was talking to itself or about itself, with us or about us. It was a story about characters acting out of character, searching for missing character and characters, and being very knowing about it. Walter was working in the lab, burning another videotape out of amber. Instead of waiting to watch it with Peter and Olivia and Astrid, Walter went rogue and solo, for reasons that seemed to make perfect sense to him, but baffled everyone else, including us. The episode took him to 167 Cedar Street, apartment 413. He had to bully past a threshold guardian, a sleepy-cranky one-eye old woman with a wasp in her wig about unexpected visitors. He navigated treacherous stairs to the locked room, where he stepped out a pattern one the floor, like executing the paces of a pirate's treasure map, and then walked through an invisible portal into a pocket universe that had its own unique laws of physics.
We would come to learn that Walter created this urban black lodge back in 2016 to hide someone very important: The bald-headed boy empath from the season 1 episode “Inner Child,” a kid that might or might not have been a young Observer. Walter executed this mission with the mystery man named Donald. We were again denied a shot of his face, and so his identity remains unknown. Walter 2036 didn’t know any of this when he stepped into the twilight zone. The videotape he watched cut off (or seemed to cut off) after Walter 2016 executed the final move of the high strange hokey pokey. Entering this looking-glass realm anew as a brain-fried amnesiac, Walter had no clue what he was supposed to be looking for and find. (This week’s episode was teased by the graffiti in last week’s episode that read “GO ASK ALICE.” The reference was to the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit,” which was a reference to chapter 11 of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, in which The Hatter, not Alice, is asked to recall what The Dormouse said. And what The Dormouse said wasn’t “FEED YOUR HEAD! FEED YOUR HEAD!” but rather this: “That I can't remember.”)
(This bit of crazy trivia seemed much more interesting and relevant when I researched it.)
As Walter explored the gloomy-screwy corridors of this wrinkle in space-time, he encountered a man named Cecil, a man out of space-time, a victim of a series of unfortunate events. He was a thief who had been ransacking a nearby apartment when The Observers blasted the building, causing Cecil to tumble into Walter’s vile vortice. Cecil said he thought he had died and went to Purgatory. He said he had been living off drips of water and searching for an exit for five days. Walter informed him – brusquely – that he had been marooned within this Sideways universe for 20 years. Most likely, everyone who knew Cecil, including the man’s wife, was dead. Cecil felt more Lost than ever. As the episode progressed, Castaway Cecil became increasing superfluous -- a sort of Nikki or Paulo or Neil Frogurt, a background player suddenly brought to the foreground, weirdly so; a Red Shirt or Sock, someone for the story to kill.
Personally, I would like to think that Cecil was a reference to Cecil The Sea Serpent.
NEXT: Altered States