“The man and the moth don’t change at all. What changes is our perception of them.”
– Walter

On a science-fiction show like Fringe, what is and isn’t real is often called into question. Perception can affect one’s views of reality, and one can easily fall victim to illusion. “Johari Window” deals with illusion, perception, and how they relate to a group of mutants living in the small New York town of Edina.

Initially, Walter is convinced that the little mutant boy found at the start of this episode, Teddy, displays metamorphic abilities. First he appeared normal, and then he appeared deformed, which must have meant that the boy had transformed himself. However, that supposed transformation was an illusion. The boy never actually changed form. What changed was how others perceived him.

Within the city limits of Edina, an electromagnetic pulse that interferes with the signals that eyes receive causes the mutants to appear like normal human beings. No outsider would be able to tell that the town’s residents were victims of a military experiment gone wrong. But the pulse does not physically alter their appearance; how they look because of the pulse is an illusion.

It takes Walter a long time to come up with and fully accept this theory, which is odd for a man who usually prides himself on thinking of the most fantastical things right off the bat. He has no trouble believing in the existence of Bigfoot or the Yeti, so why is he convinced that the mutants use metamorphism to disguise themselves? Perception is a powerful thing. Even an open-minded scientist like Walter has trouble accepting ideas that run counter to what he perceives. It is always simpler to assume that things are as they appear than to assume that one’s perspective may be skewed by external factors.

But ultimately, Walter understands the power of perception. He knows that deep down, the mutants are just like regular human beings. But he also knows that if their secret is revealed, they won’t be accepted by regular humans. They’ll be poked and prodded and examined in every which way, possibly even humiliated and put on public display. Broyles understands this to, and so he opts to bury the results of the investigation and report that nothing of interest was found. Thus, the mutants can preserve their quiet way of life and proceed with business as usual in Edina.

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