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.
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.
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 mind..so 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 candidate..as 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?
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.
- 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