Fringe Observations: 2.10 Grey Matters

Fringe Observations - 2.09 Snakehead

It’s a bit later than usual, but welcome to Fringe Observations: the comprehensive Clues and Eastereggs Round-up for season 2, episode 10 – “Grey Matters”.

Below the jump we explore the various clues and eastereggs from the episode and try to figure out what it all means.

Heads Up

Grey Matters Clues

As also noticed by some of you, the shape-shifters leader Thomas Jerome Newton is named after David Bowie‘s character in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth (based on the novel, 1963). Here is a brief synopsis (film/novel spoilers):

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. Newton uses advanced technology from his home planet to patent many inventions on Earth, and rises as the head of a technology-based conglomerate to incredible wealth.

Here’s the original trailer:

The parallels are there – they are both humanoids who visit earth to gather resources to save their dying planets. For “The Drought” see “The Blight”. It seems like a nod from the writers, giving us more context with which to understand the shape-shifters and what could be happening on their side.


"Snakehead" Next Episode Clue

This diagram of the central nervous system from “Snakehead” looks like being a good bet for the “Grey Matters” ‘next episode clue’, which dealt with the brain and central nervous system:

Grey Matters Clues

Bell’s Shadow

Grey Matters Clues

This shadow of a bell rings a Bell.


Grey Matters Clues

Is that a kangaroo on Walter’s cup? Tentative next episode clue submission. Actually, we just want that cup!

Wing and a Prayer

Grey Matters Clues

After Snakehead‘s leaf glyph sighting, we spotted a butterfly glyph on the window inside Dunwich Institute. One of these days they’re going run out of those stickers. 😀

Update 12/16/09: thanks to Reflection and Gillian in the comments for pointing out the frog glyph in this shot.

Chalk and Cheese

Grey Matters Clues

Given that Deborah Crampton was implanted with some of Walter’s memories, are the drawings on the board also from Walter’s mind? Is that a car crashing into a frozen lake and a laboratory on fire? I doubt this is the case, but hey, it would have been cool!


Grey Matters Clues

As I mentioned in our review, the directing of this episode was fantastic. I really love this shot. We have this brightly lit tunnel view of a forlorn Peter, dressed in black and grey, and behind him Olivia opens a doorway. There’s no Walter, and yet the scene is all about him, and they are both there because of him. Great symbolism, whether intentional or otherwise.

Flaming Hot

Grey Matters Clues

Grey Matters

The picture in the background resembles a burning/dying landscape – a nod to the Blight or the impending war?

Another environmental reference to the Blight, seeing as it caused the trees to die?

Custardian of Memories

Grey Matter Clues

Newton shows Walter a picture of what I’m assuming is a bowl of custard. Walter associates it with Peter, who used to love custard as a child. Except he didn’t. Original Peter did. As we learnt in “A New Day In The Old Town”, our stolen-from-the-other-side Peter doesn’t like custard and never has. This is just another brick in the Walter and Peter abduction storyline which is sure to come crashing down at some point.

What I find immediately interesting about this though, is that Walter clearly loves his son. And by son, I mean his original son. That’s not to say he doesn’t love our Peter because he does, but how much of that love is rooted in his love for original Peter? It’s an uncomfortable question, but I think it’s equally fascinating to see where his love for his dead son ends, and his love for Peter begins.

Green and Red

Grey Matters Clues

Grey Matters Clues

The green and red color thematic was present again (although not in classic form). This time it was used to indicate the re-mapping of Walter’s old brain pathways. This was probably the green/red theme in its simplest form: red for disconnected, green for connected. Perhaps that could give us some insight into to overarching green,green,green,red mythology?

Just Good Eights

Just Good Eights

The number 8 just wont leave Olivia’s life! Here it is making an appearance on the window of her car.

Observing The Observer

Grey Matters Clues

The Observer chose to watch events from afar this time round.

Silvery Fellows

Grey Matters Clues

Grey Matters Clues

Head-shot? Check! Mercury blood? Check! Thanks for the memories, guys! 😛

Our World Is Their World

Grey Matters Clues

Perhaps the most significant clue of the episode – Newton is wearing a watch with a Massive Dynamic logo. Does this imply that the Massive Dynamic of “over there” are the one’s behind the First Wave? It would make sense on many levels. It could also be a diversion – it would be pretty silly of them to plaster their logo on watches given to their secret undercover spies. Then again, Newton only got a body 2 months ago, so I’m not sure how much we can read into this easteregg – it just depends how tricky the writers want to get.

Old Bluey!

Grey Matters Clues

Grey Matters

Grey Matters Clues

The blue lights were all over this scene with Bell visiting Walter before his brain op. Significantly, they only appear from Walter’s point of view, when we see the two of them in the shot together the blue lights are non-existent. Could this be a clue as to their true meaning? Certainly the presence of blue lights in a memory is corroborated by Olivia visiting John Scott’s memories (The Dreamscape):

Dreamscape Blue Flashes

As well as Olivia’s Kayak dream from the Pilot episode:

Kayak dream

However, strangely we didn’t see any blue lights as Peter’s mind drifted back to his kidnapping (“Dream Logic”):

Dream Logic young Pete

Perhaps the blue lights denote observed or tampered memories/dreams. Or maybe the simplest answer is that they represent the covergence of realities – memory being an alternate reality in its own right? At this stage, we also shouldn’t yet rule out travel and the pattern as an explanation for some blue light appearances.

It’s Djed Symbol

Grey Matters Clues

Update: 12/17/09:

I could be wrong on this but after analysing the symbol on Bell’s wrist, it could actually have some meaning. The symbol resembles the ancient Egyptian Djed Pillar, which is said to represent stability or endurance. This is interesting because we know that the shape-shifters have been tasked with opening a corridor from over here to the other side, and one of the issues associated with crossing over could be keeping the portal stable. We saw David Jones run into such problems prior to successfully getting a lock on the other side in the season 1 finale.

In relation to Fringe, the symbol could suggest that crossing over has ancient connections. Without wanting to get too Stargate-ish, could the ancients have used portals to cross between worlds?

The fact that Bell is wearing the symbol as he purges Walter’s memories of The Door could signify that, at this stage, Bell advocated the gateway between worlds, despite what he said to Walter. If that’s the case  his view has now changed. Or has it?

Another thought: perhaps this ties into the infinity theme? Stability…infinity.

Other Clues

  • As mentioned by Page 48 in the comments, the number 47 showed up again on the CCTV timestamp. 47 is a famous number on the Bad Robot scene.
  • At his old Cambridge home, Walter says that the last time he was there it was a different season and the leaves were falling. This is plausible as Walter didn’t accompany Olivia and Peter when they visited the Bishop’s old home last season (to look for the Halo contraption) in “The Ghost Network”.
  • It was a nice touch to show Walter’s hand trembling before his MRI scan, just as it did when we first saw him in the mental institution in the Pilot episode.
  • The word “connection” was used frequently throughout this episode. Given the context, I couldn’t help but remember, Peter also has a “weird connection”.
  • Old Walter goads Newton when he asks: “how are things on your side?“. This suggests that prior to getting his memories removed 14 years ago Walter was aware of “The Blight”. So presumably he still had contact with the other side after bringing Peter over. Did he cross over more than once? Did September tell him about the consequences? Did he use Nina’s 2-bit computer to communicate with someone over there?
  • Is the Blight in any way related to Bell’s use of an oxygen tank when Olivia visited him over there? (note: we don’t yet know for sure that he was puffing on oxygen, but I think it’s a fair assumption at this stage).
  • Incidentally, Newton tells Walter that things are “worse” on his side. This could go both ways – he could mean worse than the last time he [Newton] was there, or worse than things currently are over here. The latter would be more interesting to me because it would suggest that BOTH worlds are suffering the environmental degradation, only the other side has it at a worse, and possibly, more advanced stage. As we know, they do seem to be ahead of us with a lot of stuff.
  • The blue, yellow, red color thematic isn’t as overt as the green, green, green, red, but it has been in the background of show for some time. This episode all but confirmed it as a theme with Newton’s neurotoxin antidote.
  • In our “Grey Matters” review I mentioned how I wasn’t sure if Walter told Newton how to build the door, or whether the brain mapping process gave Newton the information he needed. Thinking about it now, it could still go either way, although they did make a point of showing Newton’s camera gizmo which allowed him to see which parts of Walter’s brain could make sense of data stored in the brain pieces. That would slightly lean towards the idea that Newton will be able to read or download the information somehow.
  • There were a few decent reflections, mirroring the alternate reality quality of the show. Here’s one such reflection featuring the dearly departed Smith.
  • The glyphs for Grey Matters spelled PORTAL, alluding to the door, gateway, corridor that Newton’s planning to open to the other side. It’s also interesting to note that the “August” glyph word was “BLIGHT”, which seems a better fit for this episode than “August”. Snakehead’s glyph word, “HIDDEN”, also fits this episode quite well.

As always, if you have any comments on the above, or think that we’ve missed something out, feel free to let us know in the comments. You can find our previous Fringe Observations and Clues here.


  1. Lord Tuetanus says

    The blue, yellow, red color thematic also appear three times in a single shot, they can be seen in were we watch the observer, in the car(red) and the Bus (blue-yellow lines), also up in the store door there is a logo (blue, yellow, red) and more to the right we see again the same store logo (blue, yellow, red)

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  2. Page 48 says

    A couple of casting observations: I noticed that both Mr. Slater and his Dr. West appeared in single episodes of Bad Robot’s “Lost” back in 2005.

    Having recently watched “The Taking of Pelham 123” (the 2009 version), I couldn’t help but notice the appearance of Messrs. Stieg and Loeb in that movie.

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  3. Dan says

    I think something’s going on with the names being given to the main villains. David Robert Jones being David Bowie’s birth name, and now Thomas Jerome Newton. It might be too obvious to be significant, but the naming alone makes me wonder if there is any deeper connection between the two characters.

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  4. Reflection says

    Personally, I don’t think the poster on the wall was the clue for this episode. If I remember correctly, we’d seen that poster in previous episodes. Plus, I felt this episode had more to do with the brain and memory than it did with the nervous system. But that could just be me. I’ve felt like the next episode clues this season have been a lot more ambiguous and left open for debate than they were in the first season.

    I also latched on to the chalkboard pictures when they were visiting Deborah, but it was hard to get a good view of what the full picture was. The burning building did seem rather significant…

    Additional observations:

    When they were at the institution visiting Deborah, they passed by a giant tic-tac-toe game in progress on a chalkboard. I have no idea what the significance would be, but it certainly seemed deliberate.

    I can’t take credit for this one, but the frog glyph also made an appearance in this episode — in the bathroom where they found the tracking device, it was on one of the stalls. Very tricky!

    Also, one of the first things I noticed in that scene was how much graffiti and such was on the walls of the bathroom. I wonder if any of that could be relevant in some way. For example, there was some large writing on the back wall — Peter got in the way of it, but it looks like it says “Cooper” — could that be an important future character or some other clue? It’s hard to say…

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    • says

      When they were at the institution visiting Deborah, they passed by a giant tic-tac-toe game in progress on a chalkboard. I have no idea what the significance would be, but it certainly seemed deliberate.

      I tried to make sense of it too, in the end I put it down to background clutter. There might still be something there though, they usually find a way of making games relevant in some way, i.e. Nick Lane’s game of chess.

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  5. Techman9 says

    Just to add on to the Green Green Green Red, the girl in the red dress, sydney, in walter’s memorys lived at 2626 Green street. Red dress, Green street.

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  6. Lucas says

    Man, I just found this blog and I loves it.

    Adding another easter egg and *possible* clue:
    When Olivia, Peter and Walter enter the first mental hospital, the car’s license plate reads “1C3P01”, which translates into C3PO with a “1” on both sides. For the not-so-geeky types, C3PO is the name of the short sound-emitting robot in the Star Wars saga (get it? STAR WARS? Am I getting paranoid here or is there a connection?)

    Anyways, I read some of the reviews and round-ups and I love it, but I really feel lost. I see frequent references to the green-green-green-red “theme” and I don’t know what that means conceptually in the series. I read you guys saying “this is probably due to the pattern” and I’d like to know what you guys know about the pattern. And the blight. And Belly, and Olivia (what about her psychic abilities?), and the observers, and Walter.

    I mean, is there a link to a wiki or an article explaining what each of these mean and what do we know up to now about each one? What is the pattern? What do we know about the other side? What do we know about massive dynamics? Arg! How many different “forces” are there? Observers, Shapeshifters, Massive D., Belly, FBI, the other side, the terrorist organization. Who’s on which side as far as we know?

    Man, I DO feel lost. Anyways, congrats on the site. Best analisys I’ve read of the series so far. The only downside is that the information of the blog is spread over dozens of articles, grouped by episode, instead of being grouped by theme.

    No offense, really. Just some constructive criticism because I really like what I read here. How about we start that wiki? Or if there’s already one, what’s the link?

    thanks for the site!

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    • Reflection says

      First off, just a quick clarification: C3PO is actually the tall golden droid from Star Wars — and he talked, rather than just making noises. The short sound-emitting robot was R2D2 — which, by the way, was also featured as a license plate number in Season 1, if I remember correctly.

      There is a Fringe wiki, but I personally don’t think it’s nearly as organized or as all-encompassing as this site is. I would post the link, but I’m not sure what Roco’s rules are about things like that…

      A couple of suggestions:

      At the top of the site, you can click on the link that says “Clues” and that should bring up all of the posts that include easter eggs and other observations, sorted by episode. From there, you can just go back to the very beginning, Pilot episode, and read through the discussions from there, and that should explain things you’re confused about, such as the green, green, green, red pattern (that one starts in the Pilot, and was also big in episodes like The Arrival and The Equation, though other people like to look for more subtle appearances as well), and other similar things.

      Also at the top of the page, there is a tab called “Archive” and it has links to different themes or topics of posts. I just glanced through it, but I saw that it had things like “Massive Dynamic” and “The Pattern”, so looking through the posts that have been tagged with those themes would likely help you learn more about those theories and topics.

      I hope that made sense and that it helps.

      And thanks for the wonderful site, Roco! Whether it’s the latest clues and observations, episode recaps, or lists of questions, theories, or things you learned, I always enjoy reading what you have to say!

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  7. Catachresis says

    Love the analysis! A couple of thoughts:

    “Bell’s Shadow” – I believe it’s simply the shadow of the lamp behind Peter’s right shoulder, though certainly bell-shaped.

    “Portal” – This shot seems to emphasize a couple of things: Peter alone at the end of a tunnel, and I think the picture behind him is also important: it looks like the beach near their summer home. My guess is that this is the clue for the next episode–a return to Reiden Lake?

    “Custardion of Memories” – Your comment about Walter’s love for his dead son is spot on. I’ve noticed that, too, and have been routinely frustrated that Peter has apparently attributed Walter’s “bogus” memories of his childhood (the ones Peter does not share) to his madness rather than explore them further.

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    • says

      Hi Catachresis,

      You could be right on the shadow. A lamp was my first thought but I plumped for the bell in the end.

      Nice catch on the picture! I agree, it could be a signal for the next episode and a return to the Bishop beach hoome, assuming we don’t reset to a MOTW episode.

      It would be really interesting to see Peter explore some of the comments Walter makes. I mean, he must be getting curious. I guess Walt’s state of mind does make it understandable, but yeah, I’m with you.

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  8. HPL fan says

    Anyone else note the Lovecraft influence on this ep? Dr. West, Dunwich Asylum, and patients Crampton and Stuart Gordon?

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  9. says

    I’ve updated the above post with the Djed Pillar symbol that appears to be on Bell’s wrist. Not 100% on this one, but it would make sense.

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  10. bilbao says

    So, during the promos for Windows 7 during the commercials on Fringe 12/17, they revealed that Walter DID go through a portal to bring back Peter from the other “world”. I dont remember them revealing this in the series yet.

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    • Reflection says

      They haven’t directly said it in so many words, but it has certainly been implied. For example, in There’s More Than One of Everything, Walter commented that he had lost something very precious to him and that he had opened a window to the other reality in order to go over and get it back. From what we know, and based on comments like that, we are able to conclude that Peter had died, and so Walter opened the window in order to go to the other reality and bring another Peter back.

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  11. atmex says

    great observations as usual!!!
    a note on the Massive Dynamic logo on Newton’s clock, is it possible that the watch is MD from “here” and not from alternate universe?? I mean, if Newton has been here for the last 2 months, then he could have got it here. That could lead us to think that MD is behind Newton’s work and that sound like an indicator of Nina Sharp and Bell…

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  12. February says

    Just looking at Bowie’s TJN makes my think our TJN’s eyes are important.
    If I remember correctly the guy that was gonna play TJN originally had interesting eyes, as does our TJN.

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  13. Tracy Wickenhoefer says

    The Flaming Hot pictures are also present in the Dream Logic and Of Human Action episodes. Joe Slater references heather in the girl’s hair while Newton is removing Walter’s brain, in the video when Slater was first admitted he said the flower in the girl’s hair was crysthanimum. Odd don’t you think?

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  14. Dave says

    When I heard references throughout the episode to Dr. Paris, I wondered if it was a pseudonym for Bell, or otherwise associated with him. Nimoy played a character named Paris on the old Mission: Impossible series, so this was a nice shout-out to that.

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  15. mahoor says

    if u see william said i only now the place of the pieces of walter’s brain and we see massive dynamic’s logo on his watch in my opinion his face is also like him but younger so i think newton is wiliam bell

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