Welcome to Fringe Observation Weekly: the comprehensive Fringe Clues and Eastereggs Round-up for episode 21 of season 2 – “Over There”.
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.
Kiss and Wish II
Does spirituality exist on the Other Side? It would seem to have its place as agent Lee kisses a silver liberty dollar coin for luck prior to testing the extent of the anomaly. This is just a small character moment but a valuable one for me as it indicates that faith (or hope) still exists in a world onset with decay, social constraints and an over-reliance on science.
When the curtain went down on a sunbathed Twin Towers in last season’s finale, I reasoned with the idea that things were working out better Over There. As this season has progressed we’ve seen evidence to the contrary. Things are worse. But this isn’t a detached problem – their world is our world. As Lee illustrates by turning the coin over to remind us that both universes represent one side of the same coin.
Probably of more intended significance is the fact that Nixon’s portrait is on their half dollar coin.
Silver coins are also a powerful image due to the Peter storylines and the idea of nature vs nurture, particular seen when young Peter gives his lucky coin to Walter, while Peternate gives his to Eliznate. The Observer also used a similar coin (1.20) as a carrot to help Walter remember what he was ‘supposed to do’ – plug the universe.
Seeing Is Perceiving
Altstrid’s freaky eyes was a small but intriguing part of the episode. In this world she’s apparently a “Looker”, as referenced by Broylnate. Which reminds me of “Watcher”, who is the second cousin of “Observer”. No coincidence there – I’m sure the writers want us to connect the dots so we can see the parallels between Alstrid’s seeming ability to perceive computer calculations and the Observers who are essentially able to do the same thing when it comes to seeing future probabilities and the various outcomes influenced by specific actions.
With that said, is Alstrid an Observer? Not quite (though again, there’s a connection to be made). To my mind she’s a low-level Observer, if you will. She can only perceive the accuracy of computer data and not necessarily predict human outcomes (as far we’ve been shown, although I’m open to the possibilities of her abilities being more extensive). This in itself is interesting to me because it gives me the impression that her role is to make judgements on the accuracy of computers. She’s a bit like an intermediary, the ‘human link’ between technology and logic.
Computers are not good at logic (although my Laptop might disagree) so perhaps Alstrid and the other “Lookers” (modified humans) provide added reassurance for a Department becoming increasingly over-reliant on computers to make high-risk decisions. I don’t know, I could be way off base, but I find that extremely compelling. We’ll see which direction they actually take it.
The red themed title sequence for this episode was a clever deviation from the normal blue-y version. As several of us here have been saying for a while now, red is an important color in Fringe for several reasons, and may very well serve as one of the show’s visual representations of the alternate universe (AU), with blue – perhaps – denoting Our Side. (more on this in a bit).
Aside from the red tint, there was was another interesting variation with the replacement of the fringe science that is “Parallel Universes” with the term “First People”.
Who are these “First People” and why is the term used in the context of this episode of all episodes? My immediate thought was that it refers to our early ancestors, or the first custodians of earth before known human civilisation began – the First People.
This line of thought could tie into what Walter said about humans once having special abilities which were taken from us (or limited to children) at some point in our history. Walter suspects aliens are the culprits. Could these “aliens” have been responsible for taking these abilities from the First People or humanity? Perhaps aliens are the First People? If there is a strand connecting our primal abilities, aliens and the First People, the significance probably depends on our perspective on the term “alien”. I mean, I consider to Observers to be a branch of humanity, but in many respects they are also alien to us with their limited conception of emotion, and whatnot.
Another possibility is that the First People refers to the Other Side – the alternate (or parallel) universe. Given that this term appears on the title sequence for an episode where we’re literally Over There, perhaps the suggestion is that their universe was created, or brought into being, first. Could this be a factor in why the Other Side are slightly ahead of us – not just because of human actions, but also because they were literally here before us? Remember Brandon’s description of how the two universes co-exist:
“In truth, the two universes are overlapping”
If the two universes are essentially occupying the same space, perhaps it’s because one side (ours) was brought into existence by the other. If we do take this route there would be several questions that would be primed for exploration, particularly those involving the nature of God, creation and balance.
Another suggestion: Perhaps the implication is that the focus of Season 3 may shift from one of parallel universes to the exploration of the First People. Not that I can for one minute imagine the AU getting pushed to the side, but with each season we seem to be going deeper into the core of what the show is. At the very least, perhaps the goal of Season 3 will be different?
Additional note: First People may also draw from the First Nations.
Going back to the red-tinted title sequence and the idea that it represents the AU. This is upheld by Olivia’s memory flashes of her visit to the Other Side when she recalls her meeting with William Bell. Her memory of this visit is tinted with red – seemingly because it took place in the AU.
To further establish this idea, at one point during Olivia’s memory flashes her vision of Peter goes from normal (blue)…
To red. This seemed to be her mind’s way of telling her that Peter was from the Other Side. Unfortunately for her, she wouldn’t realize until some 10 episodes later when her abilities tried once more to give her insight into the true nature of the universe.
- Aside: What color did Sam Weiss tell Olivia would guide her to back to the right path? Yup, you guessed it.
Speaking of memories, notice this jarful of red just as Walter remembers why Peter is so darn important. Coincidence? Intentional thematic? You already know what I think.
So we have a theme of alternate realities and memories being represented with red. This has been a fairly consistent thematic throughout the lifespan of the show, certainly consistent enough in key areas to suggest that there is a measure of intent from the creators – whether that intention is conscious or subconscious, or the result of something more mystical, is an intriguing question all of its own.
And yep, I see the green/ red too.
Interesting thematic choice with Walternate whisking Peter back to the Other Side as they stand by a window. While this is another small moment I found it worthwhile since Windows (like Doors) are powerful images that inform the subtext of the show. Most notably with the Window device that first enabled Walter to see Peter in the alternate universe. A glimpse which ultimately led Peter to Our Side, inflicting several damaging penetrations to Mother Nature’s sheath along the way. This “observation” is not overly important in the grand scheme of things (although importance is subjective) but it’s clear to me that the storytellers are adding substance to the existing themes without spoon-feeding us the connections.
Small point: In the above capture Peter has his coat on, so we can assume he and Walternate had been talking for a while before Walternate gave him another chance to change his mind about going home. I was disappointed by the lack of seeing their early interactions so this tiny aspect at least provides a bit more breadth to the narrative, even if it doesn’t make up for the loss of an emotionally engaging scene. Yeah, I’m bitter.
Also: Walternate tells Peter “They have our coordinates”. Presumably Walternate’s people on the Other Side had a lock on their location and where able to transport them back to the AU with relative ease. Notice the (presumably) blue flash of energy as they disappear. In my mind this is very similar to how Mitchel Loeb teleported David Jones out of the German Prison to Little Hill, and how William Bell transported Olivia to the Other Side moments before a shape-shifter – one of Walternate’s soldiers, let it be remembered – tried to kill her.
It’s also worth noting that Olivia didn’t need 3 days to recover from her journey to and from the Other Side, begging the question of whether Bell’s technology is more sophisticated than Walternate’s, or whether Olivia is just “stronger” than Peter.
Observing The Observer
The Observador wasn’t at the bar for the alcohol. Honest.
The blue lights (or blue flashes) continue to establish themselves as a by product of travel requiring (and sometimes producing) high amounts of energy. We see this again with Brandon’s demonstration on how objects can pass through the two universes.
We also get confirmation that Walter, Olivia and the Cortexikids journey to the Other Side resulted in a “Blue Flash” (seen by a n eyewitness through a window). Even the most natural means of travelling to the AU produces high amounts of energy.
Whether this is the sole explanation for the blue flashes is another matter. But energy and travel do seem to be the most fitting explanation at this point in time. Although lens flare and “they have no meaning!” supporters should probably reconsider the evidence.
Coincidence or intentional? I have to say it was probably intentional, but even if it wasn’t I suspect the show took over and gave us a reference most appropriate for an episode which literally grabbed us by the neck and took us through The Looking Glass to our very own mirror world.
On the significance of Heath healing the White Rabbit? Considering we took a leap of faith with our heroes into an alternate universe struggling with The Blight and other negative (social, environmental, etc) consequences, I find the idea of a Cortexiphan kid healing the rabbit quite fitting. Because damage (like love) is at the heart of this show. The consequences of a broken heart lead (as far as we know) to a broken universe which left two worlds in jeopardy. The ability to heal these two worlds, to find a solution to their problems that doesn’t result in the destruction of one world over the other, is very meaningful.
The White Rabbit is also known to be a metaphor for dreaming/waking. Given the nature of the previous episode (and on-going themes), not to mention the very deliberate scene where Peter wakes from his slumber, and we have another connection there.
The Small Apple
Perhaps the weirdest breadcrumb in the episode – half an apple can be seen in the theatre. We’ve spoken about the use of apples on the show before, so I’ll stick to my belief that half an apple represents one universe, symbolically speaking. This also reminds me of the Apple Glyph.
As You Like It
Walter tells Olivia: “All the world’s a stage. (Or in this case, both worlds)”. This is a quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It .
My first thought was to once again question the very nature of the world within the show. Are we seeing a reliable picture? Is it all a stage, an act? To what ends?
The next 3 lines of the quote embellishes this line of thinking:
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
The concept of Fringe being a game (or an experiment, if you will) is interesting to me. A game with players each serving a very specific purpose or function – a bit like the preparation of the Cortexikids (just one example of many). The third line really catches my eye with the suggestion of one man in his time playing several parts. This can be incorporated into our multiple reality theme where the characters have doubles on the Other Side essentially playing many parts.
This idea also works on the smaller scale, as seen in the episode when Heath rebuts Lane’s claim that Walter ‘isn’t the same man he remembers’ with, “he’s exactly the same“. Again, we have one man playing multiple parts thanks to his experiences and also the experiences (perception) of others. If we’re looking at a game theme here then we’re probably also looking at the game with different levels, or stages. For some reason I feel compelled to quote Walter’s very first words in the series:
“I knew someone would come, eventually”
Of course, the use of As You Like It as a reference may also relate to the question of Who Is The Fringe Narrator?. As I speculated last week, could there perhaps be several narrators (one man – or woman – playing many parts)?
I really find this reference to be quite fascinating as it allows me to explore the macro and micro elements of what it means for the world to be a stage – or an experiment – with players who are able to adapt or change as per the circumstances. Perhaps the overarching question will be to consider whether both worlds are staged, or if one holds more value or tangible “reality” over the other.
Do No Harm-ony
How fitting that Walter should look like an orchestra conductor guiding the Cortexi-kids as they harmonize their way into the alternate universe. How fitting all of this should take place in a music theatre. How fitting given that recent episodes have illustrated the importance of harmonic frequencies for AU travel.
Another description which popped into my head was: Puppet Master.
On the thematics, we also have the Cortexikds standing in a circle – another on-going theme of the show, serving most powerfully to illustrate the cyclical nature of the story.
Notice how the Cortexi-Circle resembles this logo from “The Bishop Revival”. I doubt this is important but it may make you wonder how conscious some of the choices are in constructing the show.
Through The Looking Glass
I can never get tired of the Alice themes or imagery. This one of the skylight was almost too perfect a Through The Looking Glass reference, as the Cortexikids and Walter’s first conscious realisation that they had “made it” was to look through up through the looking glass and see a Zeppelin – something in this world that is no longer in ours.
Also notice that the ‘looking glass’ is in the shape of a circle. Over and over again the story keeps coming back to the circle – imagery which is both powerful and reflective in its symmetry:
What Might Have Been
As we know the two worlds are the same in many ways but with slight differences.
The portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. is on their version of the twenty-dollar bill instead of former President Andrew Jackson. On Our Side the twenty-dollar bill is known as a “Jackson”, while the Other Side call it a “Junior”. Pretty self explanatory but a nice touch.
Possible Significance?: We can infer that the African-American Civil Rights Movement also took place on the Other Side, with King being a key figure in helping to bring about equality. Perhaps King was also President, although there have been non-presidents on US currency.
The are variations between the two side’s Department of Defence symbols. From Our Side’s DOD logo, gone is the bald eagle, golden arrows and olive branch, and in their place is a larger shield, two swords and more stars (among other subtle changes).
Possible Significance: Our version depicts the American Eagle defending the United States, for whatever reason the Other Side have gone for a shield and swords – also defensive imagery but to my mind more robust. The absence of the olive branch representing peace is, for me, the biggest variation. Does this mean they’re more aggressive than us? I wouldn’t like to think so. Rather, I’d say it’s a sign of the (relative) times.
The Other Side also have a bronze Statue of Liberty.
Possible Significance?: Our Side’s Statue of Liberty is made of Copper but turned green over time due to weathering. The Other Side may have made their version out of bronze because it isn’t easily affected by the conditions. Their version also looks newer than ours – which was given to the United States by the people of France in
It’s also worth noting that our Statue of Liberty originally had a copper-bronze hue, so perhaps the Other Side found a way to keep it looking fresh, or again, it could just be newer.
I suspect members of the Fringe writers room are fans of The West Wing. 😉 The NBC show was canceled Over Here after it’s seventh season in 2006. Over There it’s been renewed for an eleventh season.
Possible Significance?: Aaron Sorkin might not have left the show, or perhaps Nielsen ratings carry less weight. Tee HEE.
No State of Mine
The Other Side appear to be a totalitarian state, with ID (“show me”) cards required to travel. This is just a glimpse into what I imagine are pretty repressive times Over There.
Possible Significance?: Considering the Other Side are slightly ahead of us, perhaps this is the way to look at it. Do they reflect what we will become, in this instance?
Also, on the issue of “identity” – a major theme of the show, it’s quite ironic that the Other Side has shape-shifters who can take the appearance of ‘humans’. Not to mention the fact that the two-universe theme makes ID cards pretty useless if ever the two worlds merged ‘peacefully’. This one can run and run.
Gaudi’s Grand Hotel was never built on Our Side, however it clearly was Over There. As Walter said:
“Things that might have been in our world, that weren’t”.
State of Mind
The map of the United States in Walternate’s office reveals that the landscape of the Other Side has been, in some cases, dramatically affected by environmental, historical, scientific and perhaps natural, deviations.
Two of the most obvious differences is the missing chunk of California and the fact that Texas has been divided in two. Not to mention the absence of Hawaii and Alaska, as per the “Interference” clue from TMFTOS. Although wouldn’t this (considering there are other differences I have not detailed) conflict with the 48 Stars reference from that episode? Then there’s the fact that Hawaii-born Obama is still President. As always I’m open to ideas to save this from being a production error.
Both William Bell (inset – “Momentum Deferred”) and Walternate have the same snazzy Sundial in their respective offices.
Sundials measure time from the position of the sun. I’m not sure there’s any real significance here, but it certainly stood out.
I’m not sure whether this is something or noting, but it caught my eye for some reason. This reflection of what appears to be a spiral could tie into the spiral (horn) glyph that we don’t often see much of these days. Again, this is probably nothing but spirals are quite significant in nature so there’s ammunition there if we need it.
Cabbage Patch Kids
The Cabbage Patch Dolls (also known as Cabbage Patch Kids) reference may have some other significance, but for me it connects to the Cortexiphan Kids and their childlike nature.
When Sally sees the dolls she suddenly feels at home:
“look, Nick..these are my favorite. Can I get one? I like it here..maybe we can stay. Nick..I’m gonna stay“
My interpretation is that seeing an aspect from her childhood took Sally’s mind back to that early state that Walter so often talks about being important and powerful – the limitless imagination and primal part of the mind. Notice how it is only after this point where she has a semblance of control over her powers, setting ablaze agent Lee. Sure, she may have achieved this control because she was scared or angry (both also viable themes) but I like the idea that regressing back to her child state unlocked her abilities.
- Sidenote: I also like the subtle way in which impending death was acknowledged by the simple: “I’m gonna stay”, “I think I’m staying here”. Awwwwwww! Neither Nick nor Sally could bring themselves to tell the other they were dying, although I guess the empath thing would make that redundant. Still, it touches the sentimental part of my stone heart.
As for why Lee recognized Nick? The easy answer is that he encountered Alter-Nick at some point. Could Lee also be a Cortexiphan Kid (or the equivalent)? There’s definitely something being hinted at with this character who we’ll hopefully see again at some point. (Go-Go Nanite Regeneration Chamber!)
The Time Travellers Strife
Frank tells Altlivia: “I’m going for a week, not til the end of time”.
Is he a time-traveller? Probably not given how unknowing Altlivia appeared to be about the true nature of the universal rips. Would she be clued in on time-travel? I guess it’s possible, however not likely at this point (though she may yet surprise me).
At the very least we’re supposed to wonder who this man is and where he’s going for a week. Is he working for another agency like John Scott was? If so, does Altliv know? Is she set for heartache?
The love birds have two matching tattoos depicting a strange symbol (a hydra?). Do these denote some kind of rank or status? Perhaps they are both working undercover, or maybe they are clinical test subjects? I’m not going to say the “C” word but Cortexiphan is a possibility, albeit an outside one. I guess Altliv does have powers of sarcasm.
- AU Fringe Division’s logo consists of two “F’s”, reflecting the duality of their existence.
- Introspective reflection of Olivia, no doubt foreshadowing glimpsing her Double in the alternate universe. (and because drinking for one is just no fun).
- Lincoln reveals that his father knew Walternate. The implication is that his father his now dead and had a military background. Could his father be someone we know? Is his double alive on Our Side? Lee also appeared open-minded, he knew exactly what Walternate meant when he was describing the existence of something on the other side. This may be important if and when we see him again.
- AU Fringe Division refer to Walter’s act of breaching the fabric between worlds as the “Zero Event”, as in the first trigger. We know this to be the case, but was it really the case? I ask because I see the show panning back to reveal more pieces to the puzzle in future seasons.
- ZFT: Natural decay of our world. A ruse. In 1.09 “The Dreamscape”, George Morales told Olivia that ZFT was a “smokescreen” for Massive Dynamic’s true intent. Make of that parallel what you will.
- Walternate refers to those from Our Side as “invaders”. In an episode where Walter talks about humanity having our natural abilities stripped from us by aliens, it’s interesting language for his Double to use.
- Peter’s IV contained a redish-brown substance resembling Cortexiphan. We saw a similar-looking substance in Olivia’s IV in “Jacksonville”. The connection is at least implied. It’s also worth mentioning that Peter wakes up as soon as his Temporal Acclimation is complete. This makes me wonder whether he could only wake up once the process was complete? If he was being totted up with Cortexiphan this becomes even more interesting.
- In my review I said that Altlivia didn’t seem to share too many inherent qualities with Olivia. I’d like to revise that slightly, as I noticed that Altlivia didn’t tell Frank the true nature of the case, claiming it was a “small anomaly”. This is the kind of thing Olivia would say to her sister.
- There were endless pictures of trees in the episode. Was this to get us to subliminally think of The Blight? Not sure, but probably.
- In last week’s Observations Column I mentioned the slanted light thematic and how I think they represent shape-shifter activity or persons (energy) from the Other Side. This seems to hold up on the persons from the Other Side angle, since we see Walter (fresh from the Our Side) among lots of slanted lights.
- The glyphs for “Over There – Part 1” spelled WEAPON as in Peter, as in Peter powering the weapon to destroy Our Side, as in Peter. “The Weapon”. Bishop. BOOM!
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.