I can’t help but wonder if the reason why Walter was unable to help Peter is because ultimately, he himself hasn’t really changed. Sure, his actions are different, but what about his intentions?
Let it not be thought that I am heartless! I was touched by Walter’s terror at the thoughts of becoming the man he used to be. The struggle was heartbreaking at times, enhanced by John Noble’s acting skills. The choices that Walter is currently making are very different now. This was underlined in this episode when, after finding her picture in Bell’s safe, Walter insisted on returning to see Nina to apologize for his harsh words. I highly doubt the old Walter would have ever admitted being sorry, let alone scared.
In this episode however, it hit me that while Walter’s outer personality has changed significantly, he is, on some level, exactly the man he used to be. One would think that the experience of the son, losing his own child, would propel the father to think solely about Peter for once, letting go of himself and his own needs. Unfortunately, Walter is too busy with his own self to see anything. The focus of his attention should be Peter; instead, it is his own fear. Seeing as how Walter also lost a child, why is he not thinking more about Peter? Because he is too busy thinking about Peter in relation to his own self.
So although Walter is not as arrogant as he was before, he is still just as self-consumed. He was previously consumed, in his own words, by ambition and by hubris, and only cared about walking with the gods. Walter is still just as self-consumed, and as such, is still in his own world. The guiding factor of Walter’s decisions in 1985 was himself; the guiding factor of Walter’s current obsession is, again, himself.
What is the solution? Well on the one hand, it really seems like a good, old friend such as Nina has a huge role to play, which she does magnificently. Her balancing act between emotions and logic when talking to Walter about not being enough to keep Bell out of trouble was one of those conversations that differentiates a real friendship from a superficial one. It also says a lot about the woman she is. On a side note, another sad by product of having a shortened fifth season is that we do not have the time to explore the healthy influence Nina could have had on not only Walter, but also on Peter and Olivia. Alas, alas.