“Walter is legally in my custody. You have no right to keep him here!”
– Peter

Walter was imprisoned in St. Claire’s Hospital for seventeen years. During that time, his mental state deteriorated, and when he emerged at the end of his stay, freed by Olivia and Peter, he was a broken shell of a man. Since then, he has reconnected with his son and has begun to rebuild his life. But this rehabilitation is fragile. Walter is far from fully independent. His memory is spotty, and he has a tendency to ramble on about random things. A traumatic event could send him into a downward spiral and earn him a spot back in St. Claire’s. And what could be more traumatic than revisiting the very institution that sent him to the brink of insanity?

In order to save Ben Stockton, the child prodigy who was kidnapped in this episode, Walter has to return to St. Claire’s to speak to a patient, Dashiell Kim, who could have information about the case. Despite Dashiell’s instability, he and Walter were friends when they were both patients at the hospital.

Even though Walter was going to visit St. Claire’s to meet a friend, not an enemy, Peter is convinced that sending Walter is a bad idea. He shows a lot of care and concern for Walter, which is impressive considering that just eight episodes ago, he would have been all too happy to send his father back to a psychiatric facility.

But ultimately, this is Walter’s battle. He is the one had to live in St. Claire’s. Now, in order to put it behind him, he must face the virtual prison that housed him for seventeen years. So, determined to get any bit of information that could be useful in rescuing Ben Stockton, he goes to talk to Dashiell. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end well. Dashiell attacks Walter, Walter fights back, and he is sedated and committed to the facility.

Suddenly, Walter is back to living a nightmare. The memory of his seventeen-year stint at St. Claire’s still rings fresh in his memory. The scars from that living hell have never truly healed, and within less than a day of staying there, he begins to see hallucinations of a stronger, more confident version of himself, as if to symbolize that Walter’s biggest struggle is internal. He is attempting to hold onto his sanity and some semblance of normalcy; he is literally fighting his own deteriorating mind.

Thankfully, Walter’s stay at the mental hospital is brief. Peter comes to free him the next day (which is something that I’d never expect to happen in the pilot episode), and he compliments Walter on his bravery (which is another thing that I’d never expect to happen). But even in that brief time, Walter manages to extract some information about the kidnappings from Dashiell, a minor detail that proves to be invaluable in locating Ben Stockton. But the important thing is that Walter faced his fears. He returned to St. Claire’s and lived to tell the tale. Walter may not be fully functional on his own, but there’s no denying that freeing him and allowing him to form friendships has been the best therapy for him.

For more information on the Fringe rewatch project, please click here.

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