Fringe Observations: 2.12 What Lies Below

Welcome to Fringe Observations: the comprehensive Clues and Eastereggs Round-up for episode 12 of season 2 – “What Lies Below”.

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

Two Infinities..and Beyond

If you’ve been following the show closely, you’ll know that 8 is Olivia’s lucky number and is becoming a mystical force within the show (move over “47”). 8+8=16, which is the floor where our Fringies investigation went down. The number 8 is believed by many to represent infinity – I believe this may also represent its use in the show.

Franz Ferdinand

The picture at the science museum is of Ferdinand Magellan – a Portuguese-Spanish explorer who was the leader of the first known successful attempt to circumnavigate the earth. The significance of this reference was addressed in Walter’s speech about “opening doors” – an allusion to Walter building a door so that he could replace his dead son with an alternate version from “over there”, and the consequences of that action.

Forbidden Planet

After contracting the virus, Peter can be seen watching the 1956 movie, The Forbidden Planet. We get a glimpse of the scene were “Robby” The Robot asks Altaira whether “Diamonds and emeralds would do?” for her dress. As we know, the producers like to include references in certain episodes, either as hat-tips or foreshadowing, to add depth and context to the story they are trying to tell. The ‘Forbidden Planet’ reference is likely to be both. Here’s the synopsis:

Movie Spoiler Alert: In the 23rd Century a space ship led by Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) heads toward planet Altair-4 in what he thinks is a rescue mission. Twenty years earlier another space ship disappeared on the way to the planet with only one passenger surviving, Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) who has built up a vast compound from the housing and scientific instruments left from a race called the Krel. All the other humans from the space ship carrying Morbius were killed off by strange vicious animals that the doctor never saw, and only he and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) have survived. The previous race had an intelligence far superior to humans and Morbius has harnessed the left-over trappings of the civilization to develop his own research and science. The security of his compound is managed by a robot he has built and named Robby which has the power to replicate any element put inside it so that food and drink are supplied to Morbius and his daughter. After Adams lands his radio is damaged by an unseen force and he suspects Morbius is behind the action but the larger, more sinister force at work on the planet is something no one has imagined and it takes everything Adams can muster to insure he will be able to leave the planet safely.

Warning: Forbidden Planet Movie Spoiler Alert.

The Planetary Force is revealed to be the subconscious mind, or id, of Dr. Morbius.

  • In terms of the episode, we can infer that the subconscious ‘Lies Below’. Illustrated through Peter’s tussle with the virus and Walter’s lie becoming too hot to keep buried (confessing the truth to Astrid).

On a wider level, I suspect that dreams and the subconscious mind will continue to be explored in Fringe – something we’ve already scraped the surface with during Olivia’s numerous dreamscapes, her perception powered alternate reality viewings, not to mention the odd not-so-throw-away comment:

“If you can dream a better world, you can make a better world.” (Peter, 1.17)

Forbidden Planet also reflects the Fringe portrayal of advanced science, technology, knowledge and our ability to control it responsibly. In the movie it was the downfall of the ancient, yet advanced, Krel civilisation, and from there it manifested the very worst from the unconscious human mind. We’ve seen several instances of advanced technology (like, super advanced) in Fringe, many of them manifesting the most monstrous creations possible..but technology is obsolete without the human what does that say?

  • Note: The Krel foreshadows future events in Fringe (destruction by advancement of technology – the ZFT manifesto) but also adds weight to what is already playing out (the alternate reality being the advanced civilisation in our story).

But although the other-side is slightly ahead of us in terms of technology – Walter was able to build the much sought after “Door”, allowing a safe-ish passage to and from worlds. Is Walter really a genius? Was he helped? Or did he have his mind expanded like Dr. Morbius?

“Open your mind son, or someone may open it for you!” (Walter, 1.04)

As for Dr. Morbius. Could he be our William Bell? Walter’s former Lab colleague, who showed enough ‘moral concern’ over the prospect of Walter’s  “Door” falling into the wrong hands to hide his memories away. And since Nina is basically half robot (arm, Kevlar chest, goodness knows what else), does that make her the Robby figure?

But what about Bell’s id? It’s often theorized that there is only one William Bell..but what about an unconscious split in his personality? (personally, I’d love that to be the case as it would make the episode Dream Logic a whole lot more valuable).

Or perhaps Morbius is the archetype for our Walter? Or the alter-Walter? Or how about the subconscious mind of Walter who paid him a visit in St. Claires? (ep 1.08, above).

Of course, the 2 second Forbidden Planet clip is just one of many pop-cultural references that we’ve had – I doubt it will come close to truly scraping the surface on all that is going on in the show, but it certainly offers one of the more provocative and fun eastereggs.


There’s an image of what appears to be a lizard or reptile, of some sort, on the wall. A possible candidate for ‘next episode clue’, perhaps?

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Walter looks down at Peter as his son wakes up from being knocked out by the gas (left). This is imagery that we not too long ago saw in “Of Human Action” (right), where Walter peered down at his son after yet another close call. The creators do a good job at making these moments feel surreal and otherworldly, for that reason I think that we’ll see a similar moment later on down the line – perhaps if we ever get a flashback to Peter’s death, or the night he almost drowned in the lake, or the moment Walter brought him across from the other universe (those last two might even be the same moment).

Peter Gun Good

After Peter and Olivia scuffle in the parking lot, he holds a gun to Olivia – but despite being infected with the virus with a ‘mind of its own’, he manages not to shoot her. We saw a very similar moment back in “Of Human Action”, where Peter – who is being mentally controlled by clone-brat Tyler #3, manages to move the gun off-center so that Tyler is unable to shoot Broyles between the eyes. I believe that both moments are subtle allusions to Peter’s power. Without that ability both Broyles and Dunham would be dead and the war would be already lost.

Question is..what is Peter’s Power? For me it involves touch, and perhaps proximity. We’ve seen several examples where he’s soothed those around him, or persuaded them to do what he wants (and lets not forget..he always knows a guy). We’ve also had Walter infer that communication is not just verbal, possibly indicating that Peter has some kind of mental or empathetic ability.


The blue lights made their first appearance since “Grey Matters” as a virus-ridden Peter succumbed to the knock-out gas. For me the blue lights still carry intentional meaning, dispute their continued ambiguity (although to their credit they’ve done a good job at recovering their tracks this season..those crafty creators). In the above sequence we see the blue lights act as a ‘bridge’ between Peter and Olivia – both of whom have been put to sleep by the gas. One of my thoughts on the blue lights is that they denote some kind of collision (between worlds), or fusion, – which, in this instance, would seem to thematically imply that Peter and Olivia will either be in future conflict, or that they have a deeper bond than any of us realise.

Furthermore, this isn’t the first time we have seen blue lights during sleep. They appeared all over Olivia’s various dreamscape adventures with John Scott..

..and when she was trying to remember her meeting with Bell.

So, we can continue to infer that memory or dreams are valid interpretations of the blue lights meaning. Travel’ is another possibility – most vividly seen when Olivia travelled to Bell’s office in the alt-reality, or when Jones pulsed his way out of Germany. ‘Observation’ is another worthy is one of my oldest ideas that someone is changing, or editing reality – the blue lights being a marker.

It might also be worth noting that the blue lights in this episode contained a single strobe. Whereas most of the time they contain two lines – and once in a blue moon a double strobe appears vertically (see above cap comparison for examples).

Are the creators of the show conscientious enough to make these small details mean something? Personally, I stand by my claim that the blue lights have intentional meaning – the orientation of the strobes I’m not so sure about, but I would like to think that they also carry some relevance. I mean, on a baser level, double strobes would seem to represent convergence or separation. Just saying.

Observing The Observer

A computer generated Observer strolls past McFadden and pal, perhaps getting wind of “Level 6”. For all Observer appearances – in and out of show – see our Observer Files.


The Red and Green color pattern returned just after the blue lights did their thing, as a groggy Peter woke up to his father kneeling over him. I am less sure on the Red and Green color sequence than I am with the blue lights, but I would think that the “Equation” episode gave us a clue of how they might apply on a wider level, namely: the subconscious and mind control.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if they are a company brand of some kind – the Observers corporate logo, perhaps?

Eye See You..

I loved this little moment, so subtle but immediately connecting two disparate moments of the Walter/Peter arc. As Peter recovers from the virus, Walter quickly checks his eye by lifting his eye-lid. Back in the Pilot episode Walter did a similar action – indeed, it was the very first thing Walter did when they met. Peter didn’t like it, of course, but Walter was presumably checking his eyes due to a subconscious memory that his original Peter’s eyes were a different color (or at the very least for reassurance that his otherworldly son was still holding up on our side). In the episode following that he tells Peter:

“ninety-two percent of Caucasian newborns have blue eyes. Yours were green(1.02)

Seeing as Walter wasn’t there to see Peter2 born…how on earths would he know that? 😉

Episode Clue

Update: Thanks to mlj102 in the comments for pointing out that the box of ‘Magellan Files’ in Johari Window was most likely the next episode clue for What Lies Below – in reference to Walter’s rant about Ferdinand Magellan “opening doors” on his voyage around the world.

Other Clues

  • The episode resembled the X-Files episode “Ice” – a homage or a dash of influence?
  • Several nice reflections in an episode that was skillfully filmed. Here’s just one such mirrored scene, with Olivia and Peter reflecting it up in the wet ground.
  • The glyphs for What Lies Below spelled WINDOW – as in the window, door, gateway, portal, ‘nook and cranny’ between worlds.

As always, if you have anything to add to the above post, or you feel that we’ve missed something out, please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments


  1. pugui says

    I always enjoy your episode observations! Your article made me want to watch the episode again, you found so many interesting things. Thanks

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    • says

      @Fringefan, Anjali, pugui – glad you enjoyed it! The episode had a lot more below the surface than I initially thought it would.

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  2. mlj102 says

    Very insightful recap of the clues. I always look forward to your analysis and seeing what you pick up on and your perspective on it all.

    I especially liked your analysis of the blue lights. I’m still reluctant to look into them too much. On the one hand, I know they’re simply a filming effect that is classic in J. J. Abrams productions. But at the same time, I also think there is likely a reason they are included in the specific places that they are. So it was neat to read what you had to say about it.

    When I saw the brief Forbidden Planet clip, I knew you would jump on it. Still, I had no idea how much you would be able to get from that reference. Thanks!

    I know it’s not something people generally focus on a lot, but one thing I like to look for each episode are appearances of any globes. There have been numerous times when a globe has been in a scene and, in my personal opinion, I think it is another clever, intentional reference to the idea of multiple worlds/realities. So I liked seeing Walter using a giant globe as he was teaching in the science center.

    I think I know what the clue for this episode was from last episode. When Walter and Astrid went to the Law Library to find the files Walter had hidden there, there was a box on one of the shelves that was labeled “Magellan Files,” which, of course, has the obvious connection to Walter talking about Magellan several times throughout this episode.

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    • says


      Re: the globes – I’m the same. I can’t help but think the producers like to put as many as they reasonably can in there, so as to give us that subliminal connection with the alt-reality story.

      Nice spot re: the Magellan Files in 2.11! I’ve added it to the post above. Thanks.

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  3. modulegirl says

    About Peter’s power, notice how when the employees found that the receptionist was sick and started freaking out, Peter went immediately into calming mode. His hands came up and he started moving forward as he spoke soothingly about how they didn’t know what was going on yet. Olivia then cornered Vincent Ames in the foreground. I noticed it immediately.

    Found your site recently and am really enjoying the attention to detail.

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  4. Elaine says

    Peter’s abilities. You know, I hope that if the series continues on to the third season we’ll actually get a chance to witness Peter’s abduction, and what physical consequences he suffered having traveled between worlds. Better yet, Walter coming to a realizaion that Peter exhibits a natural ability that he attempts to inhance, thus the shock treatments Peter mentioned that Walter performed on him in ‘In Which We Meet Mr. Jones’. Walter’s comment to Peter in ‘Safe’, “You have no idea what you’re capable of.” has always stood out to me, and hopefully there will be an explaination as to what Walter meant exactly.

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  5. Jodie says

    Have we ever seen the blue lights through Peter’s view point before? I can’t remember having that been the case. We’ve seen Peter with the blue lights, as shown above in Roco’s observations, but have we seen Peter connected through observing them? Someone on another fan site mentioned that s/he thought the blue lights indicated a change in the observed time line of events. That idea immediately made since to me. The blue lights indicate a significant change in what has already happened before. I’ve always wondered if the observer’s are here to try to prevent something from happening.

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  6. Ric23q says

    anyone else notice at the start of the episode when they show the company logo……it showed PETR for a bit before the camera panned right to reveal PETROL..

    probably nothing but it caught my eye so may aswell mention it

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    • Stefan says

      I saw that too – and I also wondered why.
      PETR is – I think – the Czeck/Slavic form of Peter.

      Petr also reminded of Petrus – from Wikipedia:
      “Simon Peter (Greek: Πέτρος, Pétros “Stone, Rock”, Kephas or sometimes Cephas in Hellenized Aramaic) (c.1 – 67 AD/CE) was a leader of the early Christian Church, who features prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Peter was the son of John, and was from the village of Bethsaida [house of fishing] in the province of Galilee. His brother Andrew was also an apostle.
      After having been the Bishop of Antioch and having preached to the ones who were scattered (i.e., Jews and Hebrew Christians.), in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Peter went to Rome. In the second year of Claudius, he overthrew Simon Magus, and held the Sacerdotal Chair for 25 years. […] On the other hand, the following books: his Acts, his Gospel, his Preaching, his Revelation, his Judgment are rejected as Apocryphal.
      According to Biblical accounts, he was one of Twelve Apostles, chosen by Jesus from his first disciples. He was a fisherman assigned a leadership role by Jesus and was with Jesus during events witnessed by only a few apostles, such as the Transfiguration.”
      Wikipedia-article on St. Peter

      Am I over-interpret this or is there really so much in there?

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      • jade86 says

        Stefan you’re a genious! The Greek meaning of “peter”, the Biblical references about Peter….( Agent Jessup, Bibble…..hehe)
        It can’t be a coincidence!

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        • Stefan says

          I have to say I’m not so much of a genius. I’m from Germany and over here we call Saint Peter simply Petrus – so it came to me (and I’m not even a christian). But thanks anyhow. I thought I was goin’ completely crazy – or had a big lead…

          What I originally thought and that was the reason why Greek got ‘bold-ed’ was the sentence “be a better man then your father”.

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  7. Caity says

    Don’t know if anyone else noticed this, or if it’s even what I think it is at all… but I couldn’t help but instantly think “John Coffey” when the people sprayed blood from their mouths. In the movie ‘The Green Mile’ he had the power to suck diseases out of people, and sprayed them out through his mouth, and it looked very similar to the blood leaving the people’s mouths. Just a thought (:

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  8. Angel says

    While all of your observations are spot on, I have to point out something. The Forbidden Planet clip is a link to Lost. Near the end of the Lost pilot, you hear the smoke monster and see shaking tree’s. Compare the sound to the Morbius Id monster and to when the Id monster attacked Morbius’ home. You might also consider how the subconscious mind comes into play with Jack and his father’s ghost, and Walt and the Polar Bear. As Lost begins its last season, they begin an alternate reality storyline. HMM could J.J. be doing a cross series, cross network easteregg?

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  9. Esmerelda says

    This episode had lots of the blue yellow red pattern which was the antidote combination in Grey Matters. It also appeared in the rug that Walter lies on in Grey Matters.



    Red= OK

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