Fringe Observations: 3.10 The Firefly

Welcome to Fringe Observations: the comprehensive clues and eastereggs round-up for episode 3.10 “The Firefly”.

We dive deep into the mythology, symbolism and resonating factors to explore the meaning and unlock the interconnected mystery of Fringe.


Red is well established as the thematic color for the alternate universe. It’s often interesting when the color is applied so strikingly in what we call the ‘blue universe’.

It’s fairly easy to see the dynamics at play. Just as we may question the dreamlike nature of the alternate universe (or indeed, “Over Here”), both Bobby and Roscoe in their dreamlike haze battle the reality of their encounter.

This is a nice way of using established thematics to inform the current story.

Through Time

The Observer dragging Bobby through time casts my mind back to the season 1 episode –“Safe”. In this episode, Walter explains that when Peter was younger, he became sick with hepea – a rare strain of bird flu’. Walter says that he designed the Diz-re to reach back through time to 1936 to retrieve leading physician Alfred Gross so that he could cure Peter.

Walter claims before he could put it to the test, Peter began to get better. Doctor’s said it was a ‘miracle’. Of course, there’s some confusion as to whether this actually happened, and the context of the occurrence if it did happen as Walter describes. And there may be a reason for that. Or it could be an abandoned plot.

On a separate yet related note, this in turn reminds me of Walter’s classic quote, also from “Safe”:

“Imagine yourself then imagining yourself now. 20 years into the future. In your wildest imagination, could you ever think you’d be here?”

If only he had said 25 years. That being said, given the events in this episode I thought that both of the above were worth a quick mention.


As I touched on earlier, Rocsoe tells Walter that Bobby believed his encounter with the Observer to be a “strange dream”.

As I mentioned in my review, the dream implications are somewhat relevant to Peter, as he suffered nightmares of Walter kidnapping from the alternate universe when he was a child. To prevent him from remembering his nightmares and therefore denying Peter the truth about his origins, Walter got him to repeat a mantra:

“It was one of the rare occasions in my childhood when Walter was helpful. He taught me to condition myself. Every night before I went to sleep I had to say a mantra in my head: Please don’t dream tonight, please don’t dream tonight, please don’t dream tonight, please don’t dream tonight [..] It did make it so that I didn’t remember. From the age of 8, to..almost 19, don’t remember a single dream” – Peter (2.05 “Dream Logic”)

Still a very interesting quote. We can see that Walter used Peter’s dreams/nightmares to intentionally prevent him from remembering that he was from another reality. With that in mind, it’s worth speculating whether the Observer intentionally made Bobby believe their encounter was a dream for a reason? To keep him ‘on course’, perhaps?

Either way, the notion of manipulating a person’s dreams as means to manipulate their ‘reality’, is a fascinating concept.

Kill Him!

Peter’s favorite book is If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him! Not to be taken literally. The meaning is symbolic, in so much as meeting the Buddha is a distraction, furthermore it cannot be him, so one should ignore him and continue along one’s OWN road. It’s about finding one’s own truth, own peace within. The Zen Masters warn that no meaning that comes from outside of ourselves is real.

In the context of the Lurve Triangle, Peter, Olivia and Altlivia will have to look inside themselves for the truth in their relationships. The book, as they say, is not closed on any combination.

How much do we need answers to find inner peace? Maybe we already have it? Perhaps we just need to see it, to perceive it.

If I could pluck a Fringe quote off the top of my head to relate this idea, it would probably be Peter’s:

“If you can dream a better world, you can make a better world.”

But I’m sure you can think of one that carries weight for you.


Several references to Autumn throughout the episode. The leaves on the wall of Park Lane Nursing Home (above) and September getting all whimsical about the beauty of the season:

Nothing necessarily unusual about that..EXCEPT, shouldn’t they be in winter?

Is this a major timeline oversight – a contrivance, if you will – or is this part of a larger point? Thing is, it doesn’t look autumnal in all of the outdoor scenes. And it seems odd that Walter wouldn’t notice the ‘descrepancy’ when September asked him about autumn. Preoccupied?

We’ll see if this goes anywhere.

Gift Shop

Interesting to see our team walk past a gift shop so soon after Olivia’s repeated attempts to get back from the alternate universe landed her in a..dun dun shop. I don’t think there’s any big significance in this, but it’s a cute little, possibly coincidental, occurrence.

Bullet Time

September catching bullets was a neat illustration of the way in which the Observers perceive time.

It was also somewhat Matrixy. The actual concept of ‘bullet time’ may also go some way to relating their relationship with time.

“Single frames from each camera are then arranged and displayed consecutively to produce an orbiting viewpoint of an action frozen in time or as hyper-slow-motion. This technique suggests the limitless perspectives and variable frame rates possible with a virtual camera.” – Wikipedia

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an Observer catch bullets. That honor would fall to dear old August in..“August”.

Tatts Your Lot

September has a star-shaped tattoo on his left wrist. While it’s not the same, it somewhat resembles Frank and Altlivia’s (and Olivia’s) matching tattoos. Could it be Michael Cerveris’ own tattoo, or have we uncovered another interesting detail on the Observers?

Why would the Observers have tatts? Do they all have the same tattoos, or different ones? What do they signify – rank? universe? model?

Just a few questions to start with (again, assuming it’s not the actors own tattoo).

Spec Script

Walter explains that the blue and red lensed glasses where created by an old friend of his, Dr. Jacoby – who is a fictional character from the cult TV series, Twin Peaks.

He says the glasses will allow him to see Roscoe’s aura so that he can measure the depth of his hypnotic state.

The glasses also serve as a metaphor for Walter’s change in the episode. He begins to see things with greater universal balance, as he willingly sacrifices Peter for the life of someone else (at least in his mind).

The blue and red lenses describe this more balanced outlook that he should now have going forward. A marked contrast “Jacksonville”, when he put on his old specs:

Caught between the joy and terror of his past self.

Press Me

September shows off his lock-picking skills. Another one of the Observers interesting traits – the ability to command mechanical objects just by touching them. We previously held our breath at such skill in “August”:

..When August touched the ignition to start the engine.

It’s probably worth remembering that Peter “can bring almost anything mechanical back to life”. He also operated August’s gun while Science Division (or whatever they were called back then) failed miserably. He can also power the Vacuum. And let’s not forget the possibility that he disabled the bomb (or enhanced Olivia’s ability to do so) back in “Ability”.

All of this serving to illustrate Peter’s connection to the Observers (and by extension, the First People). Was Peter born with these abilities, or were they given to him at some point in his life?

Given that the episode is called “The Firefly”, it’s perhaps useful to observe the light emitting from September/August  in the above pictures. What is this light, this energy? Are we to believe that Peter has the same light inside him?

Time Passes

The classic green/red effect as the Observer turns to face Walter. A subtle clue for how the Observer appears to vanish into thin air? Hypnagogia is a layer on a cake.

More on the Green/Red mythology.

Possible Futures

The Observer tells Walter that although he can see various possible futures happening at the same time, he doesn’t not know which one of them will come to pass. A phrase found in ZFT circles.

As many of us have speculated, the Observers perception of time and their view of which futures will happen is somewhat similar the skills displayed by Milo (“The Plateau“).

His ‘special medication’ enabled him to trigger sequences of events in his mind, to manipulate their outcome.

These screencaps (above/below) illustrate how Milo sees the various futures that may come to pass.

Is this similar to how the Observers see things – events simultaneously playing out? I’d say so. Certainly it’s a great way to convey the idea to the audience.

Milo was caught out by Olivia because he didn’t factor in that she was from another universe, which made her actions less predictable – and ultimately saved her life.

Could the Observers be blind-sided by similar scenarios? We should first acknowledge that the Observers exist, or can travel between, universes. Therefore, they should be able to factor unforeseen circumstances ‘better’ than the likes of Milo

That being said, we also know that the Observers – September, in particular, has watched Peter (and presumably Walter, Olivia) very closely. The intimacy with which he observes them enables him to understand and predict their actions better. When he blasted Peter (on the roof) with the gun he may also have been using it as an opportunity to better ‘see’ Peter. Which brings us back to “The Arrival”, where he seemed to mimic Peter, predicting (seeing) what he was going to say before he said it.

Remember, Peter was able to jump (blind-side) September – he knocked him on his ass. I always wondered why September didn’t see this coming. Now we have a better understanding of why. Perhaps not only because of the possible futures scenario. Perhaps we have to factor in that Peter’s path is/was somewhat obscured to the Observers.

I think I’ve suggested this before, but perhaps September used that opportunity to tune into Peter, thus getting to know Peter’s thought processes a little better.

And let’s not forget Altstrid. One of AU Fringe Divisions “Lookers” – another character with heightened probability-reading abilities. She calculates probability using statistical data. At this point we do not know ‘how’ she came to have these abilities, though one would suspect medication. Unless certain people on the other side are born with it. Maybe it’s a natural, predisposed talent found in some that is amplified through drugs?

Off The Wall

Lots of graffiti on the roof. What messages do they hold? Perhaps the most interesting section is the wall behind September, which appears to depict silhouettes of a woman holding a child (left), a man (middle), and a young girl with outstretched arms (right).

I think there’s a danger of reading too much into this, though the silhouettes do bring to mind the concept of ‘higher dimensions’ (2D to 3D) and the higher dimensional properties (or perspective) of the Observers, while playing into what September would tell Peter.

September tells Peter that “It must be very difficult..being a father”.

Let’s look at what he could be referring to:

  • Peter fathering Altlivia’s child.
  • Peter fathering Olivia’s child.
  • Walter’s struggles with fatherhood / trying to do the best by Peter.
  • Ditto Roscoe with Bobby.
  • Peter already being a father.
  • Peter fathering an entire universe via the weapon that has “both the power to create and destroy”.
  • Peter somehow being the father of September and the Observers.
  • Peter somehow being the father of the First People.
  • Robert Bishop.
  • Something else?

Interesting that the Observer seems to turn (walk) into the silhouette behind him, perhaps giving us the hint that this depiction represents him. The silhouette does appear to be bald. Though again, how much can we really read into it?

As for the outline of the girl, my first thought was young Olivia, but context is lacking. Still, this may be one of those where we come back to in later episodes. Like the “LOST” mural, right? Right. 😉

More intriguing to me (for whatever reason) is the fact that September goes up the ladder positioned between the man and the girl. I just picture a rabbit going down a hole.

Olivia makes like Alice and duly follows her “white rabbit”. I like this because instead of going DOWN, they’re going UP – to a higher plane of reality, perhaps? I think that’s the implication of the scene.

Interesting that Peter could only perceive the Observer so far, while Olivia was able to ‘travel’ up a level higher.

Olivia reaches her higher plane, only to find that the Observer has somehow made it to a distant rooftop. How? Quantum theory says that particles behave differently when they’re not being observed.

Olivia turns her back for one second and he appears to disappear.

Would he had been ‘able’ to ‘disappear’ like that had Olivia not taken her eyes off him? I would like to say that he wouldn’t. Whether that’s the case or not is another matter.

Also, notice the red. It’s almost as if the Observer is beckoning Olivia back to the alternate universe. Calling her to tap into her higher powers and see through the fabric of reality. Once more to the breach!

Rewinding just a little bit. When Olivia looks round at Peter, notice how the ‘reality’ behind her appears to have flipped (above image – below), compared to earlier when she checks Peter’s pulse (above image – top). This seems to be intentional – perhaps making a statement on Olivia’s perspective of the worlds around her.

Question is: Can Olive see this? I’d say that she’s on her way.

This is not the first time such a mirroring effect has happened, nor the first time when an Observer is present. In the season 1 episode, Inner Child, this happened:

On both occasions we have Olivia in close proximity to an Observer. Is she causing the flipped perspective, or are the Observers?

Another flipped reference? Sure. Remember the scar on Peter’s G.I. Joe toy? (also “Inner Child”). Over There the scar was on the other side – that’s how Peter remembered it.

Before we get off this roof. The ‘hidden messages in graffiti’ reminds me of the place where Shapeshifter Charlie died (round the corner from Massive Dynamic).

Here, the graffiti represented the chameleonesque attributes of the shapeshifters and contained the ‘Van Gogh’ clue for the subsequent episode. And a few cheeky glyphs for good measure.


Hand glyph on the fridge, behind what appears to be a child’s drawing.

Brain Soup

As Walter nurses Peter back to health, the song “If Only I Had A Brain” by Harold Arlen (music) and E.Y. Harburg can be heard playing in the background. The song is sung in The Wizard of Oz (1939) by Dorothy’s chums as the feel sorry for themselves. The Scarecrow sings about wanting a brain:

While the song could easily allude to Peter, I took it as describing quite nicely Walter’s quest to make himself smarter – to be the ‘equal of his equal’, as he put it.

Another in a long line of Oz references. You could say that Walter has moved from the Wizard to the Cowardly Lion to the Scarecrow.


  • It’s not every day that we see Walter’s undies, but on the day he meets his musical hero he happens to be wearing musical-themed boxers. Coincidence?
  • Peter says he’s astral projecting. Is this foreshadowing an upcoming out-of-body experience for Peter? Or is this his best attempt to be as awesome as Olivia’s internal Projection Peter? It’s also another SLEEP reference to add to our lists.
  • When the nurse sees Roscoe sleep walking, he says: “We’ve got a live one”. Nothing unusual in that, but he was more accurate than he knew, considering Roscoe was about to reawaken to his dead son.
  • Drop and Dash delivery company. Just in case it comes back around.
  • Olivia has her back to the bridge that ‘unified’ Peter and Altlivia.
  • Walter tells Roscoe “listen to my voice” as he prepares to guide him through an hypnotic state. The ‘tether to reality’ that he provides is not too dissimilar from the way in which he guided Olivia through her multiple dreamscapes using the Bra & Panties Tank™. We essentially have Walter ‘playing god’, acting as the voice from above.
  • Possible allusion: September tests Walter to see if he’d willingly sacrifice his son. In the Bible, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
  • Cover art from The Police‘s 1981 album “Ghost In The Machine” can be seen when Olivia turns round to look at Peter.
  • Peter says the Observer ran up “five flights of stairs” – the fifth dimension, perhaps?
  • The alternate universe version of Back to the Future was referenced in “Peter”. In “The Firefly”, Christopher Lloyd guest stars – helping the Fringe team edge closer to their alternate universe arc.
  • The glyph code for The Firefly spelled UNITES. As in A Babee!? As in Tether Me. As in bring together. Bond both worlds.


  1. lena says

    “Peter somehow being the father of September and the Observers.
    Peter somehow being the father of the First People.”

    You never fail to make me laugh, Roco! :) great observations!

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    • kidentropia says

      xS Peter being the father of the First People would be freaking great. Or, perhaps, Peter/Olivia´s/Fauxlivia´s child is the First Boy/Girl? OR perhaps they have twins? Adam and Eve?

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  2. KLA says

    Wow Roco- I take my fedora off to you!!! Great observations.

    Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall when the writers/directors/producers meet to see how much thought they give to such things like the grafitit, the fipped images, autumn leaves, etc. It makes for quite a meeting.

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  3. Ari says

    Thanks Roco! I’m always impressed by the level of detail in your observations!

    Just a note on the Abrahamic parallels: it is true that in the Old Testament Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, and it is his willingness to do so rather than the actual sacrificial act (which is aborted) that is important. The same goes for the Qur’anic Ibrahim who is prepared to sacrifice Ishmael. Christianity, however, has a completely different interpretation of sacrifice: Jesus, the son of God, IS sacrificed (there is no last minute reprieve). The willingness to sacrifice is not enough for the salvation of man, sacrifice must be done and God the Father allows it.

    Now this might mean nothing, but it just came to mind when you brought up Abraham and the willingness to sacrifice a son. I think Walter has interesting parallels to God and Man. By taking Peter he was certainly “playing God”. But doesn’t he say in White Tulip that in crossing over he explicitly goes against God’s natural order (which is, of course, the point of the Garden of Eden myth). So for the sins of Man, will Peter need to be sacrificed?

    Again, if we follow this concept we must remember that sacrifice does not end in death in the Christian tradition but in rebirth. Christ rises again in the Kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom that is at hand, or rather close and accessible – another universe, perhaps.

    Well, I got a bit carried away there, but you get the idea :)

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  4. JoA says

    Since they did make a mention about the word “autumn” in this episode, could it be a foreshadow or a reminder of “the fall”? Walter’s “fall” or maybe Peter’s in the future? The dictionary said this about the root word of “autumn”:

    [L. auctumnus, autumnus, perh. fr. a root av to satisfy one’s self:

    It went on to say “see avarice”

    Definitions of the word:

    1. The third season of the year…
    2. The harvest or fruits of autumn
    3. The time of maturity or decline; latter portion; third stage

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    • Fringe It says

      On the topic of autumn, why do you say it should be winter Roco?
      Entrada established the timeline as being 8 weeks after the season 2 finale so, assuming:
      1. That the season 2 finale took place towards the end of May
      2. That episode 10 takes place a a couple of weeks after Entrada (and it certainly doesn’t appear that the characters also had a 5 week break)
      then that places the characters at the end of summer/start of autumn.

      Please correct me if I’m missing something.

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    • Pam says

      Along the same lines, then, Autumn is the third season of the year and we are now in the third season of the series. Had there been spring or Summer references in the past two seasons?
      Autumn is also the season of transition – getting ready to go into winter. And, this season (3) has clearly been a transitory one for all the 3 heroes of our story.

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  5. Fringie6989 says

    AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME! I am constantly awed with the observations that you come up with, Roco. So good! I need to go watch it again with my newfound knowledge as well as the million questions you brought up!

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  6. MllePogo says

    The star tattoo on the Observers wrist was probably a slip-up. It’s the actors’ real-life tattoo. Good catch; I didn’t see the tattoo during the episode, though whenever his face is shown in close up I get distracted by his pierced ears. HDTV sure does reveal a lot of interesting details.

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  7. Blind says

    There have been a lot of episodes where Walter was guiding others audibly while all other sound was blocked out. It reminds me of the episode where that red haired boy was controlling those two men’s minds. At the time where they were getting the suitcase of money the whole SWAT team had headphones w/ white noise and Walter directing them. It’s almost as if he is thinking for them, controlling them.
    Also, I’m very curious because last time Peter was shot with that gun he completely changed him mind and became bought into being on the Fringe team and looking for answers. Now, the second time he’s been shot, there has been another big change. He now is some kind of militant w/ a different personality. Makes me wonder if the gun shot did it. We also see that something has changed in the way that the camera shot mirrors after Olivia is done chasing the Obeserver.
    The observers are interesting. it’s like they’re either angels or demons. In the instatnce where Abraham was told by an angel to sacrifice his son, if this is in any way similar, then they would be angels. The only thing we dont know is where they are getting their commands

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  8. Jenn Hoff says

    I always just assumed that Alstrid was born with some type of social disorder that made her so disconnected, like Asperger’s or something. She’s certainly just as smart, and lately has shown a proclivity for sorting out information and quickly analyzing it and pulling out the most important things. She just has something in her behavior that’s different on the other side. I would assume that you could be born with various genetic differences on the other side, for example an alternate you having Down’s Syndrome, and yourself here not. Thoughts?

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    • anonymous says

      If you listen to Jasika Nicole’s interview with the Sci-Fi guys that came out around New years/Xmas, you’ll see that you’re right. :-)

      She told them that Astrid on the other side has Aspergers Syndrome and that the Alt-universe’s society is more advanced at ours at integrating them into useful jobs in society. Maybe something to do with President Kennedy not being assassinated and him having more time to work on civil rights?

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  9. Laura says

    Brilliant stuff, amico.
    As I mentioned before, I would go for the Peter-being-a-father-of-a-species (universe?) option rather than the pregnancy one (that should be Altlivia’s, as no sighting of archangels were reported so far over here 😉
    I absolutely loved the graffiti theme all throughout the series.very useful to tell something , and/or to HIDE something.

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  10. Inter-dimensional Dave says

    I’m always on the lookout for any clues that might presage the coming war between the universes. The silhouettes on the wall are reminiscent of something from our second world war. In the aftermath of Hiroshima bombing “shadows” were left from the incinerated victims against the walls of buildings etc. I’ve included a link below to illustrate what I am referring to.

    Pretty grim to be sure and probably not what the Fringe writers really intended. But you never know.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the observer “September” is featured in an episode with such strong “autumnal” themes. I do think it will be time to worry if we get a snowy episode featuring “December” That could mean the winter of our discontent for our favorite Fringe team.

    I think the gift shop is thematically used as a place where people go to preserve their memories with something tangible. That way the memory is real as opposed to a dream which can be surreal or as we have seen in Fringe manipulated.

    I liked Roco’s use of the quote, “Once more unto the breach” from Henry V. It made me think of Walter and how is is often portrayed as the Cowardly Lion. As Peter in increasingly threatened, Walter is more likely to “Imitate the action of a Tiger”. (From the same quote.) Also, if Walter is ever successful in rebuilding his brain we may see him “lend (his) eye a terrible aspect” such as that which characterizes the grim visage of Walternate.

    I know this post is a little late but I hope someone gets the chance to read it including Brother Roco as I value your opinions.

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    • Peanut says

      I thought that the little girl with her outstretched arms might be a variation of Olivia’s position on her back with arms outstretched–when she passed out in the lab after returning from Over There & when she lands on the pavement after being thrown through the windshield when Bell returned her from Over There.

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