Welcome to Fringe Observation Weekly: the comprehensive Clues and Eastereggs Round-up. episode 20 of season 2 – “Northwest Passage”.
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.
Note: This column deals heavy in perception.
At the very start of the episode we see a truck driving towards the Hill Top Cafe where Peter has stopped for some pie. Notice the slanted lights coming from the truck. In my opinion, this lighting style represents shape-shifter activity, and is further evidence that Newton was present in this episode – Peter wasn’t simply hallucinating, although the questioning of Peter’s perception was part of this episode’s objective.
I’ve noticed this slanted lighting thematic throughout Season 2, in episodes which have featured the shape-shifters and/or alternate reality focus – have a look:
The slanted lights were visible in episode 2.04 “Momentum Deferred”. The above capture shows shape-shifter Smith pulling up at a cryonics facility in search of Newton’s frozen head.
We also see the same light effect in 2.10 “Grey Matters” – another episode with heavy shape-shifter involvement (in fact it was the pre-curser to Northwest Passage and the temporal lobe removal). The above evidence features Newton and his buddy extracting the temporal lobe from Joseph Slater who had pieces of Walter’s memories of how to build the DOOR to the AU implanted into his brain (by William Bell, as it goes).
Once again, we see the slanted lights in 2.14 “Jacksonville” – an episode light on shape-shifter involvement (although we do see a photograph confirming that Newton had been at this location) but one that was nonetheless predicated on Newton’s attempt to move objects between the two worlds.
For me, there is little doubt that this is intentional styling used to signpost shape-shifter activity. The lights could be slanted – or skewed – because we, the audience (the characters don’t appear to notice them) have a different perspective on events than those ‘inside the show’. We are effectively observing their world from a different dimension.
We could also run with the idea that the fabric between the worlds is made to seem even more porous by the presence (energy?) of those who have crossed over from the Other Side – in this instance, shape-shifters. This may cause the lights to take on this slanted appearance from our perspective. I have to believe that this is also a marker to the perception theme, as well as subtle evidence that Newton was actively interacting with Peter, in some form, throughout Northwest Passage:
For instance, we also see these slanted lights at the Dairy Killer’s lair. Why would we see this thematic – which has been so consistent throughout the season – unless Newton had something to do with Craig’s killings? This could be further evidence that Craig wasn’t working independently, or that he was in some way being controlled by Newton (we know that both the shape-shifters and the Observers have ‘human’ operatives). This seems to add weight to the idea that Peter wasn’t simply hallucinating Newton.
Although, it’s worth noting that Newton’s previous brain extractions left the subjects alive – whereas Krista and the other victim were killed after their temporal lobes were removed. This could simply suggest that Craig performed the operations and not Newton. There is still a plot contrivance to be found in all of that, but this would at least make more sense than Craig coincidentally removing temporal lobes independently of Newton. (unless, the universe – or some sentient force – was forcing Peter into a situation that mirrored his past (“Grey Matters”) and foreshadowed his future).
Red-y To Go
Red is an important color in Fringe and has gained further prominence in season 2, particularly recently with motor vehicles. In Northwest we see a red tractor at the dairy farm. Krista also drove a red car (inset).
The prominent use of red thematically ties in with Mrs. Peck’s red car and Alistair’s epiphany balloon in White Tulip and Walter’s toy car from TMFTOS.
Wake Me Before I Leave
Speaking of Red, I found the sight of Peter waking up beside a red cushion both subtle and clever because it thematically and emotionally provides a connection to his last moments before the curtains on his real world were drawn:
Notice the red cushion with the word “HOME” beside young Peter. As I said, thematically there’s a connection there. This connection is heightened by the idea that these were Peter’s final moments, being truly AWAKE, in his real home. So I find it relevant that in the Northwest motel lobby, adult Peter is waking up. He’s waking up to a series of events that are, perhaps, forcing him to go beyond questioning where he belongs, to the point of making him question his own mind and where he exists in it all.
This fits neatly into the episode and its absorbing mix of perception, dreams and consciousness. I would also suggest this to be more evidence that Peter’s mind is not necessarily making him see things that aren’t there, but rather, he is gaining extra perceptual depth.
Bear in mind that when Walter brought him over to our side, the shutters came down in his mind – perhaps not straight away, but with the aid of Walter’s mantras and the course of time, he somehow shut out the truth about Walter taking him from his real world. So upon (re)discovering this truth, it’s bound to open the curtains in his mind, and I believe this goes some way to explaining what actually happened in this episode – in other words, Peter was not wrong in his belief that he saw Newton and received those calls.
Why Did You Let Me Sleep?
A sleep deprived Peter tries to catch a few winks but is interrupted by a mysterious phone call (wouldn’t be the last). Before I go on it should perhaps be suggested that perhaps something or someone doesn’t want Peter to fall asleep again. I say “again” because as mentioned above, it could be argued that ever since he was brought over to our side he’s effectively been asleep, as the truth about his origins lay dormant in his subconscious mind:
Notice how he is sleeping during his recovery on our side after crossing over from the alternate universe. Did crossing over flick a switch in his mind? We’ve seen so many references to Peter and dreams, from his hazy wake up calls, to his poignant “Life Is But A Dream” reference way back in season 1. I’ll say now what I posited at the time – Is Life But A Dream for Peter? What are they trying to tell us about Peter beyond the obvious? What are the physical and actual constructs of the world that we are seeing? How do you define ‘reality’ when dreams and the subconscious take on a world of their own?
Did you catch the lyrics to Band Of Horses’ “Is There A Ghost” that Peter from Boston listens to as he tries once more to get some sleep? It was a well chosen song and perhaps Krista, God bless her soul, read Peter’s aura correctly:
I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
When I lived alone
Is there a ghost in my house?
Those are the only lyrics to the song, but I think they help bring home the point about Peter and dreams/consciousness. Throughout the episode Peter was told that he was seeing ‘ghosts’ – hallucinating. He even seemed to partially resign himself to that point of view in his ‘goodbye’ scene with Mathis. But let’s look at what this song could be telling us in relation to this episode:
“I could sleep when I lived alone. I can’t sleep anymore. Why? Is there a ghost in my house?”
Allowing a little latitude for interpretation, I think it suggests that Peter was not alone (i.e. not seeing things) throughout the episode. As the other clues suggest, he has been awakened – he is no longer sleeping as both the ghosts in his mind (Newton) and his past (Walternate) have found him, and *no coincidence here* they’re working together. He’s no longer alone.
Again, this is only my interpretation and I am more than open to other points of view, but I do feel that despite the episode’s liberties with the story mechanics, it is intersected by a delicate strand.
Observing The Observer
Like all of us, the Observer is a big fan of Krista’s pecan pie so he decided to stop by the Hilltop Cafe. He didn’t count on bumping into Peter Bishop, though, so he kept his distance and lurked in the crowd – like Newton.
Yet more thematic intent can be seen towards the end of the episode with masses of blue. Not only is Peter now wearing blue, but his lamp, playlist case and even the picture behind him features heavy on the blue.
Why? I believe it’s to subliminally connect our minds to Peter’s kidnapping:
When Walter took him from his real world, Peter was wearing a blue coat. That image and that color has stuck in my mind ever since I saw it, probably because it was such an emotionally absorbing moment seeing young Peter snatched from his home by a deceitful Bishop.
So we thematically come full-circle from then to now. This is made more poignant by the fact that Peter is wearing blue as he’s disturbed from his SLEEP and woken to be reunited with his real father. Again, I don’t think this is any coincidence.
Follow The Yellowstone Road
We got our, what is fast becoming an episodic, Wizard of Oz reference in the form of Peter’s GPS displaying Yellowstone Road. To me this is a cute reference to the famed Yellowbrick Road that Dorothy and her chums followed on their way to the Emerald City. Northwest Passage (emphasis on the word ‘Passage’) was essentially Peter’s journey of discovery as he winds his way through conviction and self doubt before coming face to face with the other ‘man behind the curtain’, his father, Walternate.
Like Father, Like…
The scene with Peter at the back of the police car with the grill acting as a confessional lattice resembles Walter’s own confessional imagery from White Tulip (inset). Not only is this a thematic callback, but you can imagine that Peter would have a few things that he’d like to confess, including the guilt of being indirectly responsible for the death of Krista – especially if you go with the idea that Newton was involved.
Bazooka Joe is a comic strip character, featured on small comics included inside individually-wrapped pieces of Bazooka bubblegum. He wears a black eye patch, lending him a distinctive appearance.
Several aspects of this easteregg stand out to me:
- Notice that Bazooka Joe wears an eye-patch. This helps convey the idea that Peter is undergoing changes in perception. As we see in the episode, he is seeing things (Newton) that appear to conflict with logic and the testimony of others. However, as I’ve mentioned throughout this column and in my episode review, I believe that rather than Peter’s perception diminishing, his sight is widening. You could even say he’s ‘activating’.
Also, look at Joe’s punchline:
“YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE”
The creative team and the Fringe fans often refer to the two worlds in Fringe as “OVER HERE” and “OVER THERE”. So you can see how this ties into Peter’s journey to find out who he really is.
But looking at this a little deeper and I wonder if there’s another aspect to be noticed:
Above is the Bazooka Joe Comic Strip #26, the same issue as the one that Peter found on the bridge. Except, it’s not quite the same. Notice that the Bazooka Joe’s punchline is different:
“Because they just sent me an instant message telling me to get back to my homework”
Now, I don’t know if Topps release slightly different versions of the Bazooka comics, but I have to think this is the show’s way of telling us that the bubblegum wrapper that Peter found was actually from the Other Side – bearing in mind that Over There things are slightly different.
Personally, I reckon this has to be the case as it would give yet more weight to the idea that Newton really was interacting with Peter throughout the entire episode. Did Walternate or one of the shape-shifters bring the bubblegum wrapper over from the Other Side? I think so, yes.
Also, if we take the message at face value, what is it saying, exactly?
“YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE“
Are we to assume that Peter wont be able to go home from “here”? Does this tie into the dream references – is that the real way home, through dreams? Or is it just a general reference to the difficulty of travelling between worlds?
Maybe it just refers to the DOOR having to be opened from OUR SIDE for humans from the Other Side to be able to travel here?
Perception Is A Song Not Seen By Others
Walter picks up his “Seven Suns” vinyl by Violet Sedan Chair, making sure that we can read the writing (thanks John!). Violet Sedan Chair is a made up band featured in the special JJ. Abrams edition of Wired Magazine a few months back.
- It should be said that the band was also referenced by Walter in 2.10 “Grey Matters”.
It’s purpose here? Hmm, firstly it’s a made up band with ties to JJ. Abrams. Then there’s the claim that the 11th song on the album is ‘missing‘ (kinda like how Johari Window – an episode dealing with Perception – was bumped from being the 11th ‘aired hour’ of Fringe Season 2, by Unearthed – the missing episode from Season 1. OK, I’ve gone too far with that connection).
Then there’s the claim that the song produces “hallucinatory effects when played on multiple turntables”. This ties into the idea that Peter is perceiving things that ‘normal’ people can’t – or that Newton was using some kind of perception altering equipment on him.
I’ve also claimed in previous observations that the frequent references to turntables help illustrate the cyclical nature of the show. Now I’m thinking that they may also represent the different levels of perception (reality) that exist within the world of the show.
Of course, Peter may have been hallucinating in this episode – and I definitely believe that the writers want us to consider this as a possibility, if not a likelihood. I just think there’s more evidence beneath the surface which suggests that Peter’s interactions with Newton and the phone calls were, on some level, ‘real’.
Will 8 Never End?
If you’ve been following our Observations, you’ll know that 8 is a recurring number in Fringe. I believe it to be Olivia’s lucky number since she’s been spotted with it on so many occasions. It made a dual appearance on the Dairy farmer’s map. Two eights leave me thinking ‘double infinity’. And in an episode where we get to see two Walter’s, too.
Interesting. We see Peter literally washing the blood from his hands. This is such strong imagery even though we don’t really get a good shot of the blood. Interesting that we should see this just as Peter has “saved the day”. Something is still weighing on his conscience.
In terms of this episode, it could have numerous possibilities, including the death of Krista (who may or may not have been killed because Newton wanted to mess with Peter), or his new-found guilt over his mother’s ‘suicide’. It may also represent the cleansing of Peter’s (blood) ties with Walter.
Besides that it’s just a sad, sad scene. He looks like a little boy who doesn’t know who he is. He has no belief system to support him (as far as we know), and he’s just lost the family he thought he had. Of course, things were about to change.
Find The Crack
I don’t have much to say about this (Mathis did most of the talking for me, I think), but I do think that FIND THE CRACK will have further significance for Peter in the episodes or seasons to come. Finding the crack could mean several things and like all most good metaphors it’s open to interpretation.
It speaks strongest to me in the sense of Peter finding his ray of light through the cracks – keeping the faith, or the belief. It also conveys the ‘first cracks’ that Walter said he caused by travelling to the alternate universe so he could ‘save’ Peter. And of course, it suggests that Peter will eventually find his place in the world – his crack.
Taking this a bit further – and I doubt this was the intention – it may also reference Peter’s fragmented (cracked) state of mind. His perception is giving him access to things that he wasn’t aware of before. His perception which was once a single sheet of glass (if you will) is now divided up into little cracks of glass, each one telling a different story, and perhaps, allowing him sight into a different ‘reality’ (and not necessarily in the traditional Over Here/Over There sense of the word). For me, this concept fits nicely with what happened (or what was implied) in this episode with the Newton sightings and the phone calls. Were they real? Yes, in my view, but reality is in the eye of the observer.
Walternate’s reunion with Peter is very similar to the meeting between Walter and Peter(nate) after he had crossed universes to save him (2.15):
Both Walters greet Peter with “Hello, Son”.
A phrase which is mirrored in the mid-point of Season 2 (2.10) when Walter greets Peter after having his old memories reactivated by Newton. In fact, he says the phrase twice: “Hello son….hello son” as he keels over from Newton’s poison.
Also, notice how both Walters walk through a DOOR to greet Peter – a nod to their respective doors to the respective Other Side (above).
There is also a nice reflection in the scene – bringing attention to the WINDOW – thematically cementing the Window device that Walter built to see into the Other Side:
A device at the root of the story which gave him the perceptual depth to see that there was more than one Peter.
Notice also how the reflection of Peter’s bed shows no Peter. The angles might not be wide enough for us to see him, or the show could be inviting us to question Peter’s existence in this construct – reinforcing, once again: perception, reality, dreams – both in and out of the show’s world.
- Yet another moment illustrating Peter’s ‘special touch’ came when Mathis was about to call the FBI. Peter touching her hand appeared to dissuade her from making the call.
- At the motel, Peter registered under the name Stewart. Another meaning for that name is Steward – perhaps foreshadowing Peter as the steward, or guardian, of the “gate”.
- Peter staying at the ‘Northwest Passage’ may also be a reference to Olivia’s Northwestern sweatshirt (also worn by The Child in 1.15).
- The glyphs for Northwest Passage spelled RETURN as in Peter’s possible return home – to his real world, or perhaps even to Walter and Fringe Division.
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.