Welcome to Fringe Observation Weekly: the comprehensive Clues and Eastereggs Round-up. episode 19 of season 2 – “Brown Betty”.
Below the jump we dig deep into the mythology, make connections and attempt to unlock the secrets of Fringe, as we explore the various clues and eastereggs from the episode.
Over And Over Again
In my opinion, this close up shot of the record player served, once again, as a reference to the cyclical themes and nature of the show – particularly in regard to Walter losing Peter all over again. Interesting that the song playing was “Roundabout“, further bringing home that idea.
The Operation game was referenced twice in this episode, both serving as different metaphors for Peter and his heart. We have Walter yanking Cavity Sam’s his heart out while ignoring “the sides”, representing his desire to fix both his and Peter’s broken heart. Contrasted with Olivia, mindful of the “nerve endings” as she delicately supplies Peter with batteries so that he may survive while his heart is missing. The different approaches taken by Walter and Olivia seem true to their characters.
The other sense I get from this is that maybe Walter needs Peter’s heart, not just because he loves him, but also because their lives are interconnected in a deeper sense, perhaps.
We Were Children Once
Broyles singing “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic stuck out to me because of the line:
“We were children once, playing with toys”
This takes me back to the Cortexiphan storyline and the children who were selected to protect our world. This conveys the vibe that we can all identify with the Cortexiphan kids – ‘we were children once’ – we are all in it together, in a hockey sense.
While the song has it’s own context, my interpretation of its use here also extends to Broyles’ position. He seems to be someone who is fighting ‘the good fight’ but has had to make some sacrifices in order to do that (see “Earthling”). The “Low Spark” may relate to Broyles’ ‘quiet spirit’ and could be why the writers chose this song for him. That or they thought it would suit Lance Reddick. Probably the latter, but I’d like to think there was a deeper level of thinking behind the song choice.
In Walter’s made-up world, the Massive Dynamic logo is red and black, instead of the normal white and black. Is the presence of red indicative of their stealing fire from the Gods?
(note: the original name for Massive Dynamic was The Prometheus Corporation before the writers changed it).
The Glass Man poster, which looks like being an in-show creation, could easily be a reference to Peter’s glass heart. This in turn seems to thematically align with the Tin Man from the Oz tales:
Of course, the Tin Man was also on a quest to find a heart – just like Peter and Walter where on a quest to keep theirs.
One of the many transferable themes from Oz is the idea that the characters on the journey to Oz each unknowingly had what they were in search of. Peter may also one day come to realise that, despite not being “from here”, his heart very much is.
That Peter’s “special heart” was made of glass seems indicative not only of the fragility of his emotions, but also the mirrored and ‘reflective’ quality of the alternate universe theme. Peter is a child of two worlds and glass has always seemed a useful metaphor in that regard.
The World As I Sea It
Thematically, the scene where Olivia is in the coffin as it fills with water mirrors her numerous excursions in the Tank:
Particularly the “Pilot”.
Though the two voyages, for the most part, held contrasting emotions for Olivia, both scenes are also connected to death. In the Pilot, Olivia used the Tank to contact the almost deceased John Scott, while the coffin imprisonment would have resulted in Olivia’s own death had Peter not saved her.
Speaking of which, both scenes share that very parallel – Peter (and Walter in the Pilot) pulling Olivia out from the respective boxes and virtually cradling/protecting her.
I also found it interesting to consider the possible significance of Peter rescuing Olivia in a boat.
Since Olivia’s uncle’s raft (which she saw during her first synaptic transfer inside the Tank) was one of the very first mysteries represented on the show.
Olivia went out of her way to refer to the coffin as a ‘pine coffin’, possibly explaining the clue-like nature of the pine tree logo from the previous episode.
Another mirrored moment came between Olivia and Broyles.
- Olivia is prepared to overlook the fact that one of Broyles’ agents once planted evidence to get promotion, in return for Broyles giving her some information on the Peter case.
- This is a callback to the “Pilot” episode, where Olivia believes that Broyles is being hard on her because she busted his pal Sanford Harris when she was a US Special Marine Investigator.
So we have what is basically a recurring scene slightly tweaked, the difference being that in “Brown Betty” Olivia is prepared to let her ethics slide in return for answers, whereas in reality (the Pilot) she was prepared to fight for both.
Both scenes have one significant commonality: Olivia has come to Broyles because she’s looking for someone – Peter Bishop.
Another slanted take on an Olivia/Broyles moment came later when Broyles tells Olivia:
“I want you as far away as possible [..] leave things to the big boys”.
This contrasts directly with his plea in the Pilot for her to join his investigation:
“come work for me and I’ll get you clearance [..] you’ve seen it now, you know..”.
In both situations there’s an underlying idea that Broyles knows that Olivia has an talent, an ability to affect the things around her – in “Brown Betty” this isn’t a good thing for Broyles, whereas in the “Pilot” it’s something he wants on his side.
Another ‘looking glass’ scene came between Olivia and Nina. Again it’s a moment mirroring a scene from the Pilot. Contrast Nina’s advice to Olivia on both occasions:
“You should proceed with caution. I meant it when I said that Peter Bishop was dangerous”. (“Brown Betty”)
“You should know what you’re getting into, Agent Dunham. I would say this to my own daughter: “Be careful and good luck.” (“Pilot”)
Both sentences are structured in a similar way, consisting of advice and warning, while accepting the fact that Olivia is going to investigate no matter what. Olivia’s reaction in ‘Betty’ also echoes her reaction in the ‘Pilot’.
The final mirrored scene that I’m going to highlight is perhaps the most significant in terms of the broader story. In ‘Betty’, Olivia discovers that Walter effectively hired her to find Peter. This reflects the ‘Pilot’, where Olivia’s investigations reunite Walter with his estranged son. Walter’s very first words in the show still seem eerily relevant:
“I knew someone would come….eventually”.
Once again, the ‘Betty’ parallel is a slightly slanted take on the ‘Pilot’, but the level of intent permeates. Remembering that this episode is holding a mirror up to how Walter perceives things (in a heightened sense) further adds to the pull of these references. If reality is all about perception – how we see and feel about the world around us – then isn’t it somehow significant that Walter is effectively recounting our entry-point into this journey?
Unlikely to be intentional, but the focus on the camera instantly reminded me of Newton setting up base in an antique camera shop:
The show is dense with so many different levels of observation – from the quiet nods to God, to Newton’s camera shop, to September worryin’ about the boy, to Olivia putting the pieces together, to Nina peering through to the alternate reality, to the audience observing the clues and nuances. The list goes on. How deep do you want to dig?
An Animated William Bell seems to indicate that the alternate universe in this fairy tale world is in fact animated or computerised (see Peter’s motorized heart). Somewhat interestingly, we see the Window being used as a two-way communication device for the first time. How does this work on Bellie’s end. Does he also have a Window that can work from any location, or does he have to be in the same relative location as Nina? I guess it doesn’t matter since Walter was high while telling the story, yet like a Cortexiphan child his senses were heightened, so perhaps it matters completely.
More Than One
Interesting that September should be called “Gemini” in Walter’s fairy tale world. On first inspection it would seem to make more sense if he was called “Virgo” or even “Libra” – the star signs covering the month of September. But Gemini works because it is the star astrological sign for the Twins – referencing the fact that “there’s more than one of everything”. Also, Gemini has been ‘closely associated with the planet Mercury and is considered to be ruled by it’. Does this tell us something about the relationship between the Observers and the shape-shifters, or is it just a coincidence?
Heart 2 Heart
The little doorway to Walter’s heart reminds me, symbolically, of the DOOR to the alternate universe that he created:
It was this doorway to the Other Side which somewhat healed his and Elizabeth’s hearts, while sowing the seeds for Peternate’s current heartache at the deception and betrayal of it all.
Meanwhile, the opening to Peter’s heart resembles a GATE. We’ve heard this word mentioned before in relation to Olivia being the supposed “gate-keeper”, prepared by Walter and Bell to safeguard our universe. The creative team could have made the opening on Peter’s chest more like Walter’s had they not wanted us to further consider the possibility that Peter might also be an assigned “gate-keeper”. Although, with Peter being from the Other Side and feeling sore right now, who knows, maybe he could be (or go on to become) the gate-opener. The Anti-Olivia.
We’ve spoken about this a lot throughout this season and last, so I’ll make this quick: Peter touches Olivia to calm her down. Just as he did with Walter in the previous episode to put him at ease (and on numerous other occasions). The message: Peter has an ability – a calming influence or perhaps something grander that shifts or unlocks the emotions within people (see “Jacksonville” and “Ability” in particular) he comes into contact with. This also ties into the ‘heart’ metaphor, and the idea that Peter is “important”.
One Becomes Two
Symbolically, Peter splitting his heart in two so that both himself and Walter could live encapsulates the idea of forgiveness, and perhaps taps into something even deeper. As touched on earlier, does Walter’s life-force in some way rely on Peter’s? Have they become intrinsically connected like the two realities of the show?
Again, on an emotional level the answer would probably be “yes”, but I wonder if there is something else being hinted at.
The splitting of the heart also reminded me of the apple glyph with the two embryos. Probably because the apple is also split in half, or maybe because the apple, to me, symbolises knowledge. Knowledge with Peter know has in relation to his origins.
Observing The Observer
September appeared earlier in the episode as Gemini, but since that all took place in Walter’s head, it’s only right that we give him his proper recognition. 40 consecutive episodes and counting..
- When Ella first enters the Lab she tells Olivia that the snack machine swallowed her Dollar. Although this probably has little significance, it immediately made me think of the lucky Dollar coins belonging the The Peters.
- Ella says “Hi Cow”, as she presumably plays with Gene. Walter goes off camera to the other side of the Lab to stop Gene from licking Ella, however we can clearly see that Gene is in the background behind Olivia, and not on the other side of the Lab. Production error. Or Gene has a new friend called Jean.
- I found it interesting that Waltercal was in a wheelchair for the entire story – perhaps reflecting his demobilized emotional state in the ‘real world’.
- Walter referring to the singing corpses: “why not bring a little life to the dead, I say”. He has been known to bring people back to life – the defective shape-shifter embryo and, of course, Peter (in a roundabout way). To name only two.
- Bad Robot’s infamous number 47 returned. Nina’s parking space and 147 pins on Peter’s hilariously titled “pattern of destruction”. (which also resembled the actual Pattern map from the season 1 finale).
- The glyphs for this episode spelled HEART. As in Peter’s glass heart, and all that jazz.
As always, if you have any comments on the above article, or you feel that we’ve missed anything out, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.