Welcome to a new season of Fringe Observations: Fringe Bloggers comprehensive clues and eastereggs round-up from both universes.
To be honest, it’s more than that. This isn’t granny’s easteregg hunt (although bring her along). We delve deep into the worlds of Fringe to explore, recover and examine both the intentional clues planted by the Fringe overseers, and the subconscious elements that are almost innately hidden in the DNA of the story.
We do our best to guide you through the various clues, symbolism and resonating factors, so that you can enjoy it simply on a surface level, or empower your minds with the deeper serialized mechanics of the story, if you so choose. If you wish to extract the most from the journey, all that we ask is that you come with an open mind and the spirit of a Jedi Warrior. Feel free to question and share your minds, bring logic and imagination, and most importantly, Twizzlers. Hopefully you’ll emerge from these adventures with an even fuller understanding and appreciation of the story, as together, we unlock Fringe – two universes at a time.
Below the jump we navigate the meaning of: 3.01 “Olivia”.
Before you dive in, you might want to check out our review for this episode for our in-depth thoughts on the quality of the episode as a whole.
Time Is A River Called Percy
The pictures of waterfalls in the opening scene with Olivia and Dr. Anderson inform us of Olivia’s internal state of mind. Water is symbolic of emotions, of the subconscious elements that drive us. Therefore waterfalls offer an even deeper take on these themes.
This works on several levels – not only is Olivia in an alternate universe, a kind of subconscious echo in its own right, but the very grounds of her reality are being questioned. The interesting thing is that waterfalls are often wild and rapid – the force of the water pulling everything down into a potentially hazardous drop. So the fact these are pictures (and not, say, video) create an interesting vibe. It’s gives the impression that time is standing still, while at the same time gushing forward. Again we have a matter of perspective, and perhaps this is a comment on the time between universes, or indeed the time distortion inside Olivia’s mind (“is it dinner already?”).
It’s also worth noting that the pictures are actually projections. We’ve often referenced how the subconscious can project itself on reality, and we come to see that idea play out in the escape scene.
These waterfall projections serve as clues that signpost Olivia’s upcoming leap of faith from Liberty Island. Once again, I ask: is Olivia’s mind manifesting itself on reality? Perhaps attempting to inform her of upcoming obstacles? I don’t want to get bogged down by that idea, but it’s worth considering.
Thinking Of Blue..
Colors are important in Fringe - I don’t think anyone can doubt that now. So it’s worth looking at Dr. Anderson dressed in baby blue – the marker for Olivia’s “Over Here” universe. What inspired the good doctor to wear that color on this day of all days? Take away the fact that life is full of coincidences, and consider for a moment how far the subconscious mind directs our decisions. What was Dr. Anderson’s subconscious trying to tell herself, or what was it trying to reflect to Olivia?
Look around and you’ll see that the room is also a shade of blue.
sTRAP Me In Baby
Speaking of color – as we know, red is a thematic marker for the alternate universe. The red straps around Olivia’s hands, jump right out – representing the fact that the Dunhamnator is trapped in that reality. But is she also bound by it?
“It’s not surprising that your mind has created this…fantasy – a means of processing the trauma.” - Dr. Anderson
I said a lot about this in my review, so I’ll give it a different slant here instead. Last season we were introduced to Sam Weiss, also known as “Mr. Fantasy”. Sam helped both Nina and Olivia (and surely many others) process their trauma, and displays many perceptive talents. Is he too good to be true – is he a fantasy? While that might seem unlikely, I’d be interested to explore his origins to see just how far he fits this description.
Before we leave Dr. Anderson, I found it worthwhile to consider whether or not she was in on Walternate’s plan while questioning Olivia. Just the thought that maybe she genuinely believed that this was Altlivia (even if she may not have known her personally) gave me a different perspective on Anderson. What I originally perceived as a trace of malevolence now became a doctor trying to get to the bottom of her patient’s underlying problem. It’s interesting what perspective and perception can do when the dial is changed slightly.
Oh, and Anderson name reference. Probably more a general allusion than a direct character reference.
The transferring of Altlivia’s memories into Olivia was a key part of this episode, but in classic Fringe style it emerged from a smaller echo. In Season 1 Olivia shared a dreamstate with John Scott, throughout various points in the season this caused her to confuse Scott’s memories with her own.
We also saw another shade of the memory transference idea in last season’s “Grey Matters”, when it was revealed that William Bell removed pieces of Walter‘s brain and hid them in the brains of other people, who subsequently thought that these memories were really their own.
It’s A Wonder
The episode employed several visual techniques to make Olivia appear very small. A similar method was applied in “Jacksonville“, and gives us a ‘Wonderlandesque’ perspective on Olivia’s upside down reality and journey back to her unresolved childhood elements.
The slanted lights are a thematic device that we picked up on last season. We believe that they are used to signify high amounts of energy, be it from shapeshifters or travellers who have crossed universes, or the extreme emotions of Cortexiphan children.
Olivia is both a Cortexiphan kid, who is in an emotional spot right now, and she has recently travelled from the other side. They are also used to illustrate that something is slightly askew.
The interesting with these skewed lights is that the characters never notice them, reinforcing that they are for viewer benefit. Are we’re looking in from a different dimension?
We see Olivia getting into the elevator as she is taken to her treatment. They don’t indicate whether the elevator goes up or down. There might have been a reason for that, but it’s worth considering why they didn’t decide to go with such a powerful device which plays right into the idea of the subconscious and travelling through its many levels, especially with the next scene which has Olivia receiving Altlivia’s memories.
Or perhaps not showing the elevator move tells us something in itself?
Forest of Nightmares
Olivia running through woods as she escapes facility is reminiscent of her Cortexiphan propelled ‘regression dream’ back in “Jacksonville” (right). Could this subconscious expedition have been her mind trying to project upcoming events? Maybe not the writers specific intention, but you know, it works. And it wouldn’t be the first time that Olivia has foreshadowed herself.
On the Edge of Liberty
Olivia looks out across the water (representing her subconscious) and sees the Twin Towers and the Gaudi building (built Over There). The night time is also reflective of her emotions – she’s in a dark place and the leap of faith I spoke about earlier is more like a plummet even deeper into this nightmare ‘reality’ that will soon lead her ‘home’.
As we know, The Over There red-themed title sequence gives us insight into the kind of ‘fringe science’ that the alternate universe are dealing with. Over Here some of these concepts might be considered super fringe, but still not inconceivable:
It’s also worth noting that ‘Easteregg Zero’ – the “Observers Are Here” hidden clue is still present – not surprising since the Observers also keep a watchful eye on the other side.
As we found out in last season’s “Jacksonville” (left), Manhattan is spelled ‘Manhatan‘ in the alternate universe. One of the subtle differences between the two worlds.
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Olivia finds Henry under a bridge and at a ’roundabout’. Two interesting devices rolled into one.
‘Over There’ Broadway has Dogs as opposed to Cats.
“Be Vigilant” Fringe Division Amber Alert ad on the bus.
Over Henry’s radio, we can just about make out a news report on president Obama choosing former president John F. Kennedy (who, as we already knew, is still alive on this side) to spearhead new government agency of some kind. Kennedy will step down from his current role to take up the position. It’s always interesting when we get these little glimpses of how life would have been different with alternative developments/choices.
Olivia is wearing light blue, Henry in deep red. Pretty self-explanatory thematics that we’ve already touched on, and will no doubt do so again.
A Round We Go
A birds-eye view of a roundabout illustrating the cyclical nature of the show, balance, continuity and also the disorientation that Olivia is undergoing. If you want to take it deeper you could also argue there’s a ‘road not taken‘ metaphor in there somewhere. There are several roads open to Olivia, the one she takes will shape her journey. Funny thing is, she’s probably taken them all.
Glatterflug exists on both sides. Over There, they offer daily trips to the moon, as you would probably expect. Over Here (left), it was on board Glatterflug Flight 627 that we first experienced the “Pattern” (Pilot 1.01).
Olivia also used Glatterflug to fly to Germany to meet the beloved Mr. Jones. Oh, and Petah-lite.
This peek into the advanced space programmes of the other side also make me wonder whether they are somehow responsible for ‘The Shadow’ organism that we encountered in the otherwise random happening, “Earthling“. This organism essentially projected itself from space – wouldn’t it be interesting if it crossed universes up there having originated from the other side’s advanced space experiments? One can dream for an improbable tie-in, can’t he?
Nurture My Nature
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that one of the areas I am particularly interested in exploring this season is the nurture vs nature of our characters. How much are they influenced by their experiences in their separate worlds, and whether there are any ‘hard-coded’ constants that exist between them. Aside from genetics, we already have another constant in that both Olivias are both perceived as being forged in the rings of Saturn. “You know Olivia, she’s strong.” As a measure of Altlivia’s perceived strength, Lincoln is shocked to hear that she of all people has lost it. He calls the notion “crazy”.
Home Is Where The Alt Is
“You’re taking me home”
Little did she know she was going home, just not the home ‘she’ had in mind.
And that journey ‘home’ was paved with yellow – she jumped into a yellow taxi cab, stopped off at the ambered opera house, before finally finding a semblance of peace in her mothers yellow room. Note how she gradually becomes ‘happier’ as her journey progresses. Yellow, as is later intimated, symbolizes this happiness. It’s as if the yellow brick road was guiding her path. And it wouldn’t be the first time.
Jedi Mind Trick
“I know, you’ve got my number..Jedi Mind Trick”
We’ve often commented in the past about Olivia’s ‘Jedi’ powers and her ability to imprint her will on the world around her. The Jedi Mind Trick is a form of persuasion used by the Jedi in Star Wars. Could this reference also hint at the battle for Olivia’s own mind – Will Olivia have to persuade herself that she’s a mutually exclusive entity?
Blue Right Through
In contrast the Olivia’s yellow bricked road, it’s interesting to note the blue path inside the alternate Fringe Division command center. Does this allude to Olivia gaining allies in AU Fringe Division? Will they help her get back to her ‘reality’?
The Point Of Fear
The flickering light as Olivia goes to powder her nose? Possibly a faulty light bulb, but its power should connect the mind back to the very first episode, when Olivia tells John Scott that she lurves him (and also after the subsequent explosion):
The flickering lights can be considered as a device to indicate Olivia’s intense emotional response. This relates to her ability, which as we know is triggered/controlled through her emotions, particularly ‘fear’.
What’s interesting in our current scene is that the lights stop flickering, despite the fact that Olivia goes on to have a good old sob. This may be because Altlivia was coming to the fore at this point, the foreign memory diluting Olivia’s emotional affect on the world around her. Or it could just mean that Olivia was so lost that her emotions went beyond the point of fear.
I also find it worth considering that ‘Altlivia’ was also crying – giving us the rather unique perspective that ‘Altlivia’ (who is now a realized character inside Olivia’s mind – literally) is just as lost as Olivia is. Memories they may be, but they now have a vessel.
Spirituality In The AU
Spirituality is an interesting aspect of Fringe. We know that Olivia’s real mom was religious, something Olivia couldn’t quite understand. But what about Altlivia’s mom? Is she less spiritually inclined? We also see that Henry is a man of faith (a cross hanging from rear-view, also red). In a brief scene he uses the hopeful yellow of his taxi as a backdrop to pray for his family. It further makes me wonder that if we do explore a third universe in Fringe, will it be marked with yellow in contrast to the blue and red of Over Here and Over There? And will it be a very real place, or a spiritually idealized one? Over to you, writers.
This scene is interesting because the yellow is flanked on either side by intentional red and blue thematics.
Generally speaking, it reminds me of this.
Observing The Observer
God bless the Observador. He’s Over There watching over our dear Olivia like a guardian angel.
We Have A Dream
The Martin Luther King and Eldridge Cleaver memorial park in New York, is another nuance of ‘Over There’, offering some more insight into its history. The phrase “We Have A Dream” has face-value meaning, but there’s another level to its resonance. It alludes back to the shared dream state - a concept the show has visited on a number of occasions. It also taps right into the current Olivia/Altlivia memory merger. And then there’s the possibility that the characters in the show, and perhaps even the audience (from a narrative standpoint), are participating in a dream. Whether the creators are going to go in this direction is open to discussion, but it’s clear that they continue to toy with the idea.
As I’ve said on many occasions, it’s worth considering the alternate universe – and perhaps “Over Here” – as ‘dreams’ in their own right. Who’s to say that a reality is ‘real’. Taking it back King and his ‘Over There’ Alter, the words: “I have a dream” of course have their own power – their vision helped shape both realities and bring about more equality for both universes. So clearly, some dreams are worth believing in. At the end of the day, and I think this will play into Olivia’s eventual empowerment – it’s about what you choose to believe in that matters most. This truth may well be Olivia’s only way out, or her way of embracing this new identity – it can work both ways.
As for the Altlivia in Olivia’s head – it will be interesting to see whether we end up caring more about her than the actual ‘original body and mind’ version kissing it up with Peter on the other side. Technically, we now have two ‘Altlivias’. Will Olivia and her experiences bring anything to ‘Altlivia’ to make her worth investing in? Will Altlivia on the other side achieve this on her own? As I said before, there are so many levels to this.
The bike (right) or “Penny-farthing” is another nuance of the alternate universe (those crazy sweethearts – whatever next, double-decker cars?). As well as being a quirk to be considered at face value, I also extracted a time reference. Something about the big front wheel and the much smaller rear wheel. There’s balance, but you can see how the larger wheel takes longer to complete a full cycle than the smaller wheel. This plays into the show’s take on the two universes being out of sync – there’s a time discrepancy between the two realities, perhaps in terms of how time flows ‘Over There’ in comparison to ‘Over Here’, and certainly in terms of scientific (etc) developments. In that sense, ‘Over Here’ may represent the larger wheel, and the alternate universe, the smaller wheel – or vice-versa.
Along with the the ’roundabout’ mentioned earlier, you can see another time reference being made. We’ve often spoken about the ‘cyclical’ nature of the show, and how events and phrases repeat, or ‘come back around’. There are many examples of this and you probably know them all if you’ve explored our Observations. Perhaps the most powerful one (aside from Walter, Bell and Olivia re-teaming after all those years), is probably William Bell’s reference about ‘having a unique perspective from living in two worlds, and knowing enough about history to know that a war is coming’. Another example is Charlnate echoing Charlie’s wonderful “Obsolete” line in the season 2 finale. There are many more and examples, and surely many more to come.
Dream A Dream
Notice as Olivia’s dream world becomes more dream-like as the zeppelin passes by overhead. The sound of the thing is what also struck me. It’s almost as though seeing this familiar yet so unfamiliar object nudged a bit more of Altlivia’s memories past her brain barrier.
There’s a picture of what appears to be a Raven in Altlivia’s apartment. Going with that possibility for now, Raven’s are commonly thought to symbolize death and bad omens. But they are also believed by some to have prophetic abilities – being communicators of important messages and keepers of secrets. This symbolism is connected to the Welsh primordial deity Bran the Blessed (Bran is Welsh for Raven). Bran, whose totem was a Raven, was the holder of ancestral memories who ordered for his own head to be cut off. I don’t have to tell you why this would play into several aspects of Fringe. But it is interesting to consider whether we can use this information to not only deepen the memory confusion that Olivia is currently going through, but also other mysteries – possibly something relating to Newton, or more likely, the Olivias family histories? We’ll see.
Inside Frenemy Territory
Interesting use of music and pictures to show Altlivia’s memories arriving at the gates of Olivia’s mind. This was the tipping point, the literal echoes of her mind resulted in a 50/50 split. On one side there’s Olivia, on the other, Altlivia. It’s at this point, when she meets her mother (wearing blue for ‘Over Here’, no less), that Altlivia’s memories begin to finally win out. Perhaps helped in a way by Olivia’s emotional longing to have ‘her’ mom again. I love how Olivia still fought it though:
“This was supposed to be my way home!”
Indeed, the yellow brick road is always supposed to lead you home, but before that it’s a spiritual journey – a road filled with choices and negotiation. Olivia must have always wondered what her mother would be like if she were still alive, and now she has her. She’s ‘over the rainbow’ as Altlivia’s experiences come flooding over her brain barrier. For me, this is part consequence, part choice.
But outside of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is in some way a self-help exercise on Olivia’s part. Sure, all of the events here are ‘real’, or so we’re led to believe – but consider Olivia’s journey, her companions and paths that have led her to the one thing that she would probably want more than anything else. Even if we only take this on a spiritual level, it works.
The question now is whether this is Olivia’s true home? It’s easy to dismiss this idea. But if this episode does one thing (and it does many), it illustrates that our choices are not always governed by what we see – it’s what we choose to believe, what we choose to ‘dream’, that matters most. Marilyn may only be an echo of Olivia’s real mom, yet Olivia’s path has led her here – to Oz, to Wonderland, to Over Here. If Peter can choose the other side, why can’t Olivia choose the other side? It’s fascinating, I think.
“You picked the colors. I wanted blue, but you convinced me to pick..”
“Because it was more cheerful”
As we know, Olivia doesn’t like the color yellow – despite being of great intuitive help to her (as we see in this episode, and in the past), it reminds her of medicine. This dislike for the color stems from her childhood – which is interesting in its own right. The fact that Altlivia has a entirely different, more positive, relationship with the color brings us smack bang in the middle of the road not taken (not that it ever left the party). It’s even more interesting because as we know the writers have these three particular color thematics (red – “Over There”, blue – “Over Here”, yellow – Third Universe/Spiritual Aspirations) that give the audience an extra dimension with which to play with.
What seems like natural color preferences to the characters (i.e. Marilyn liking blue, which represents the “Over Here” universe) can be perceived as being governed something more sentient from our wider perspective. Why did Marilyn project Olivia’s universe on Altlivia? What instinct informed this high level foreshadowing? Is it coincidence, is it a quirk of the universe, or is it something deeper - slight shades of differences between characters and their doubles that help color the entire canvass..the bigger picture?
It has always seemed to me that within these choices, exists this force..this pull which drives it all. While I’m loathe to discount the existence of choice (especially since I value it), I can’t ignore the idea of fate (which I also acknowledge), especially when what we are essentially looking at are iterations of..some grander system.
All Knocked Up
The knocker on Marilyn’s door of two souls intertwined in a passionate wet kiss? Possibly a ‘next episode clue’. Crumbs! Will boots be a-knocking?
Blue My Minds
Ah. The Blue Lights – a Fringe Blogger favorite. I don’t think anyone can still deny that they don’t have intentional significance in the show. And even if they didn’t, they certainly have done for a good while now. This was indeed one of the most blatant uses of our mercurial flashes – but it was still in-keeping with our interpretations of their speculated meanings: observation, energy, convergence, and travel/transfer. In fact, all of these can be said to apply here as we witnessed the perspective switch from Over Here to Over There.
As for the most blatant reflection ever seen on Fringe, take a look at your Boy Wonder looking all..reflective. There were, of course, many other reflections throughout this episode (examples). We’ve discussed their meaning before, but since it’s the season opener and we have many new readers who have joined us for the journey, the reflections speak to the duality and reflective nature of the story, and give the audience a subconscious pull into these concepts.
What to make of Peter’s surely marvellous pen trick, and the fact that his offer was declined? Obviously it plays into Boy Wonder’s ability to ‘bring things (usually mechanical) back to life’. Not to mention the fact that he can power Walternate’s weapon thing – a weapon which is based on ‘old tech’, perhaps dating back to the ‘First People’, or The Observers?
“A trick? To save a dying pen?”
I also wonder if there’s another message in this? Considering that this show is written by writers (shock, horror! Now that’s an observation for you), is it an in-joke which somehow found its way into the script? And considering the new energy that the show has found, were they in need of a ‘trick’ to find their way out of the ‘stand alone’ maze prior to the second half of last season?
“Nah, it’s OK. We’re almost finished here.”
Say it isn’t so. For the love of all the Molebabies in the Fringeverse, say this isn’t the final season of Fringe!
Is that a cringe I detect, agent AltDunham? Remember, close your eyes and think of New York.
- Everyone and their mother will be pleased to know that Tom Cruise exists in the alternate universe. He seems to have opted for TV over movies Over There.
- Other color references: blue injection/red Altlivia’s B-Lymphocytes/”code blue” – and many others.
- Number 8 (Liv’s ‘lucky number’) reference: “I can be out for up to 8 hours at a time” – Lincoln. Dr. Anderson’s room also appears to have 8 sides.
- Altlivia seems to genuinely care for Franky Boy. He seems to be her ‘Peter’, if you will. It will be interesting to see how being apart from him and doing what she has to do on the other side plays with her conscience.
- Didn’t Frank say he was going away for a week in the season 2 finale? Does this conflict with the suggestion that only 3 days have past since Olivia was captured, or did Frank come back early after he heard what happened to ‘Altlivia’?
- Olivia enters her ‘mom’s’ house through a window. I don’t have to explain why this is worth a small mention.
- The Glyphs for this episode spelled: AMBER - as in amber quarantine, as in Olivia trapped on the other side.
If you’re looking for even further exploration, feel free to check out our:
- 3.01 Olivia Review
- Past Fringe Observations
- Differences Between Worlds of Fringe Guide
- The Complete Observer Guide
- When Blue Lights Attack
We also cover Fringe over at our Serialized TV sister site Seriable.
Phew! That’s what we observed for this episode. Feel free to share your thoughts or any other observations in the comments below.