Welcome to the FB review of the Fringe season 2 episode 11 – “Johari Window“. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.
- Family Unit. This episode really showcased the team’s togetherness – Olivia, Peter, Walter, Astrid and Broyles continue to bond which only bodes well for the dynamics of the show. The level of support and understanding between them is heartening – illustrated brilliantly by Broyles agreeing with Walter’s plea to keep Edina’s secret, secret.
- The Edina case tied back into Walter’s previous work - saving the episode somewhat. Despite my fear for yet another molebabyesque episode, I was able to buy into the story due to Walter’s past involvement which gave proceedings an emotional resonance. It was great to see Walter so determined to clean up after himself (and others) – echoing his sentiments from Midnight about it never being too late for redemption. The writers will probably have to be careful how often they use the ‘Walter’s past work’ device, though (especially in standalone episodes). On the one hand it gives us a way in to the episode, but on the other hand they run the risk of robbing the bigger, more important, episodes of their power. But in this instance, I think it worked well enough.
- It was very pleasing to see some much needed continuity and carry over from the previous episode (Grey Matters) with Walter’s anxiety over being kidnapped by the shape-shifters, and his neck still bearing the scar from where Newton ripped the tracking device. These are such small details but important, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve previously winced over the lack of serialized story elements in stand alone episodes. So credit where it’s due for allowing this episode to have more connectivity with the overall story than it would otherwise have had.
- Good visuals and excellent prosthetic jobs.
- While I enjoyed the subtext, I felt they could have incorporated the same elements in a more significant and satisfying way. I would also ask whether we really need so many iterations of the same type of episode? This was basically Night of Desirable Objects‘ slightly better looking sister, and it left me feeling as though we haven’t moved forward a great deal. Like Peter, my fear is that we went backwards somewhat. Fine, give us Johari Window, but The Adventures of Molebaby and Johari in the space of ten episodes? Really? This type of episode can get real old, real quick.
- Wasted opportunity to make this episode important. Instead of having the Edina shape-changing story tie into the technology which allows the shape-shifters to transform, we had an episode which was fairly disparate from the central arc of the show. I have to think this was a missed opportunity to do something really cool by fusing standalone and mythology. I mean, why have an episode about shape-changing people when we have a whole bunch of mercury gulping ninjas back home trying to open a door to their universe?
- The episode was a bit ‘hokey’ and so far removed from where the show lives and breathes. There’s a war going on, hybrids are trying to open doors to another universe, shouldn’t we be paying more attention to that? Although Johari was a fine episode in its own right, I just found it a bit too The Hills Have Eyes-ey for my taste. If Fringe is the redefine the genre (which it has a chance of doing) then we need to get with the important episodes more often.
- I thought events unfurled a bit predictably.
- Is the electromagnetic pulse technology in operation anywhere else?
- If everyone in the town suffers from the Project Elephant genetic deformities, are we to assume that no ‘outsiders’ have ever moved into the town? What do they do to keep people away (other than kill them)?
- The people of Edina suffered from a genetic disorder caused by military camouflage testing in the 70’s (Project Elephant) which caused them and their descendants to have deformities.
- Edward Cobb, a former acquaintance of Walter, perfected Project Elephant’s electromagnetic pulse – which hid the deformities of the Edina folks by changing the eye’s perception when inside the town limits.
- Walter was a consultant for Project Elephant back the in 70’s.
- Previous investigators had come to Edina, but were killed.
- Broyles needs an office. I’m gonna keep on saying it until someone buys or rents that man an office!
- I thought it was very foolish of the sheriff to even mention the military base. Why give that information up?
- Broyles’ advice to Olivia about the Edina folk being adept at hiding themselves, seemed like a direct reference to the recent goings on with shape-shifters. Subtle but worthy arc shading, in my opinion.
- Olivia jokes about “growing a third eye” – I’d say that she kinda has. Since working for Fringe Division, she’s opened up her “chakra” and experienced higher realms of consciousness.
- While all episodes go through the editing mill, I got the sense that this one went through some very late changes. Not only did the title get changed after the original one went public, but Olivia’s meeting with her old friend also seemed to get chopped late on.
- Only Walter would sleep through a car crash! That was a funny moment in the height of danger. Speaking of which, how in the blazers did Joe run back to the car and drive away so quickly? It took him two seconds after Peter fired the shot. Is this a case of the editing not quite matching up, or do we have another “Evil Charlie” scenario with the Edina folks having some kind of unseen super speed? Please let it be the former.
- Something tells me this isn’t the first time Peter has killed someone. Although, to Olivia’s credit, I don’t think she was necessarily assuming that he hadn’t – rather, she was asking in a round-about way whether he had. Assuming I’m right, that’s an interesting window that Peter decided to keep shut on Olivia, since he didn’t respond. (not on camera anyway).
- How many times is Walter going to lull Astrid? I’m actually a bit surprised that Peter allowed her to keep an eye on him after her recent Walter lapses.
- Was our Fringies day out in Edinaland a humanitarian effort, or a waste of time?
“Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
For what it’s worth, Clarke’s 2nd law is pretty good description of Fringe:
“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
- The episode seemed to confirm that our Fringe Team are a little bit freaky, in that they are anything but normal. This was particularly conveyed during Olivia’s comment on the way her old friend perceived her. I guess we can also apply Walter’s quote here – “what changes is our perception”, suggesting that Olivia (and the rest of the gang) haven’t so much changed..rather their circumstances have. This is even more powerful when thinking about Walter and how the episode seems to suggest that Walter is, in fact, the same man he’s always been. For me, that’s a golden nugget that I will take away from this episode.
- Walter began the episode wanting to hide himself away, but investigating a case which mirrored his own situation brought out the very best in him – humanity, courage, compassion, understanding. Walter was on good form.
- It was a big decision by Broyles to keep the Edina secret – I would imagine that unearthing such advanced technology (invisibility) would have kept the wolves from the door and congress off their backs for a good few months. Broyles’ decision seemed to represent another sign that our team are valuing each other over tangible results – we saw a similar thing in Grey Matters when Olivia sacrificed capturing Newton in return for Walter’s life. It’s also interesting to see the Fringies use their own discretion and un-follow the letter of the law. If the show goes to where I want it to go, I’d imagine they’ll be doing a lot more of that in seasons to come.
This episode definitely took place in the ‘verse I like to call Fringe 2. While no molebabies were harmed in the making of this episode, my patience for ‘flickchart’ episodes grows a bit thin.
That said, Johari gave us some beautiful moments which only serve to remind me that even a below par Fringe is still a truly inspirational and magical show. If I am disappointed, it’s only because I know what this show is capable of.
Johari Window is a fairly apt title for this episode. It’s a model that describes our interactions with people and the different information or “windows” that we share. The idea being that the more information we share, the better everyone is for it. Such information is, however, predicated on perception – and we see how this can relate to the Edina townsfolk secret and how the revealing of their true appearance brought our team to a better level of understanding of who they are. Would the wider world have been so understanding? Not according to Walter, which is why he felt it was important that their secret remained..and therein comes the punch. Walter is also keeping a secret. But if he tells Peter about his otherworldly origins he risks the destruction of their relationship. They’ve come such a long way – from Peter not wanting anything to do with his father, to viewing him with such pride and admiration. The truth can bring them to a new level, or ruin their second chance (and let’s not forget about experimentation if this ever got out).
Opening windows is one thing, but in Walter’s case he may view this particular secret as better left untold.
Best Performer: John Noble
Best Moment: Broyles agreeing to not go public with the Edina findings / Walter telling Peter that he’s glad he chooses to see him in the way that he does.
If you enjoyed Johari Window, you’ll like: Unleashed, Night of Desirable Objects.
Episode Rating: 7.25