I Feel, Therefore I Am – “Bad Dreams”

Look, I'm all emo.

“Heal the world, make it a better place” [Michael Jackson]

This episode really got me thinking about emotions and the idea that all of us are interconnected. That really seemed to be the linguring message from Nick Lane’s infectious emo-ability and the “buddy system” employed by William Bell (and Walter’s) Cortexiphan programme. Imagine that, each of our actions, thoughts, feelings..every independent aspect of our being, part of a collective whole. Like a collective consciousness.

I can see the thinking behind Belly’s decision to Cortexifunk Nick Lane – presumably a child with the natural ability to ‘light up a room’, or, ‘suck the life out of one’, depending on his mood. Dose him with the yellow pills and this ability becomes heightened. He’s literally a human weapon. Sure, if he’s happy he could heal the world, make it a better place. But if he’s sad, angry or frustrated..you really don’t want to be around him. The odd thing is though, if the ‘Observers’ are the denizen’s from the other world, how is this hyper-emotive power supposed to work on them? Clearly their emotions don’t function in the same way as ours. This also makes me wonder two things:

  1. Did Belly (and Walter) intend for the Cortexiphan kids to be soldiers in this war against the parallel world, or was that someone else’s idea?
  2. What IS Olivia’s ability?

Look! I have skillz!Personally, I don’t think Olivia has just one ability — I think she’s already displayed a bunch of skills, many of which fall under precognition and parapsychology. We’ve also seen her turn out lights using only her mind (although Peter might have helped with that), and judging by the grainy VHS footage that we saw at the end of “Bad Dreams”, it would appear that she’s a bit of a fire-starter. You know what though, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that her main ability..the one she was chosen for, has something to do with travel. I don’t just mean to your local Walmart..I’m talking dimensional! The scorched walls from the “Olive” footage could be a consequence of that travel – after all, where DID Brenner go? As many folks have pointed out, the walls around Olive look similar the Wiessenschaft prison walls after David Jones did his thing back in “Safe”. It wouldn’t surprise me if Olivia has the ability to produce enough energy to cause some kind of ‘dimensional shift’. Yeah, I made that up, but it probably exists.

This would kinda tie together two of the overriding messages that I took from this episode — the idea that everything is interconnected..not just our world its constructs, but other worlds..parallel realms.


“I remember the scar being on the other side” [Peter Bishop, 1.15]

So, by now we know that alternate realities exist in the world of the show. But in what context do they exist? According to the ZFT readers digest, the alternate world in question (although I would assume there are many..perhaps an infinite number, or maybe just 47 others ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) is similar to our own but slightly ahead. In some ways we can view them as our “buddy world”ย  – a parallel reality that is directly entangled with ours..a mirrored twin..a slimy and shivering sibling birthed at the same moment as ours, growing with ours into a moody emo-teen, before realising that it’s life is over as it gives birth to new life..new realities. In all seriousness though, this Universe buddy system maybe have been essential in our own existence, just as Olive was for young Nick. Ying and Yang, cause and effect in a dualistic Multiverse — God doesn’t do things by halves don’t you know! This could help explain why Lane’s scar resembled the number 2 – possibly signifying that our reality is directly tied to another specific reality (where Lane also has a counterpart)..and where we’re the No. 2 world. This might explain why we’re playing catch-up. This could be why it has to be us or them. If our Universe is expanding, perhaps theirs is too, resulting in an inevitable collision.

Oh, and that gigantic pretzel that Peter was eating? So the representation of the Multiverse – a connected, entangled delicacy. Yum!

Olive Branch - token from another world?

And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth[Genesis 8:11]

Here’s what’s bugging me though – If, in the world of the show, we exist in a Multiverse, and we are entangled with a parallel world, wouldn’t our world suffer the consequences of their world dying (and vice versa)? Of course I’m assuming here..but assuming I’m correct, why would ZFT be so willing to collapse the parallel world when it could have adverse affects on our own? Maybe this is why the “apocalypse” is inevitable, the outcome being that only one side will rise from the ashes..only one side will “pass”. Another thought that crossed my mind is Olive’s name — an Olive is traditionally seen as a representation of hope, of peace and a token of goodwill.

I’ve speculated that Peter is from another world, but could Olivia also be an “Olive branch” from another realm? Is this her original purpose — to bring peace between warring worlds? Whilst this sounds like a good idea in my head, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of both Peter and Olivia being from the alterverse. What’s more, why would Olivia need to be treated with Cortexiphan if she was an alterversian? Still, it’s something to bear in mind.

Since this touches on the role of purpose and destiny, it leads me to expand on another burning thought: do choices in our world affect outcomes in the other, and vice versa? For instance, what would be the impact of the Nazi’s winning WWII in the alterverse, for example?ย  What if the Cold War dropped it like it was hot in the alterverse? What if Alice never fell into wonderland in the alterverse?

In other words, if the worlds are connected (and I have to believe that they are in some way), what bearing do we have on each other’s existence?

Walter's Alter is alterin' Walter O_o

“What’s the difference between me and you?
You talk a good one – but you don’t do what you supposed to do
I act on what I feel and never deal wit emotions
I’m used to livin big dog style and straight coastin”
[Dr. Dre -“What’s The Difference”, 2001]

Indeed, we often talk about the “what if’s?” in our world: what if we did this, or what we did that – questions for which the Multiverse appears to offer new perspective. If the parallel world is similar to ours, we can assume that there will be counterparts – alternate you’s, alternate me’s, alternate possibilities. This could account for the “doppelganger” clippings found on Lane’s wall — of course this is probably the writers way of telling us that the so-called doppelgangers are actually alternate versions of humans from the parallel world. And Aliens? Yeah, they are just alternate earthlings – as much alien as we are. This also ties in with my Peter theory — Walter’s sheepish comment about ‘travelling between worlds’ made me more confident than ever that this Peter is not of this world. It may also explain where Cortexiphan came from in the first place — if the other world is ahead of our own then Cortexiphan could be the metaphorical ‘fire that was stolen from the Gods’. Alternate versions of you and me being these figurative Gods.

Further to that, the allusion to the mini Observer (1.15) being “30 years old” gave us a clue into how time might be relative between worlds, thus explaining how a parallel world could be advanced enough to have figured out a way to travel between worlds in the first place, yet also have our counterparts existing at the same time in both worlds. To put it more simply: our worlds could be at exactly the same point in time, but the development and quirks of each world are probably different. Possibly explaining why the Observer has high tech power ranger weaponry, yet uses dresses in circa 1950’s gear. They are a mish-mash of us..that’s the luck of the draw.

OK, back to Cortexiphan, that dammed drug is really addictive. I’ve been speculating that it may have been “stolen”, but what if it was given to “Belly” Bell? But by whom and at what price, I’m just not sure yet (although William’s ‘alter’ would be a fair guess). I do have a sneaking suspicion that Cortexiphan may actually derive from the DNA of a parallel universian. Peter, perhaps? If Peter’s DNA is the key to making Cortexiphan work, then this would further bond our heroes stories together. A move that would do no harm in elevating the stakes.

There's no place like the multiverse..

“Close your eyes, and tap your heels together 3 times..and think to yourself, there’s no place like home” [The Wizard of Oz, 1939]

This is one thing that has been gnawing away at me since “Ability”. How does one travel between worlds. IMO, the indicators of this travel could be the blue lights (although they could also represent observation from afar, or the changing reality caused by Olivia’s choices). But how is it done? One possibility could be drawn from what Peter said about “if you can dream a better world, you can make a better world”. A line immediately followed by Walter’s rather shifty; “Or travel between them”. So is dreaming the way the travel to a parallel world? In many ways I’d say yes, because when Olivia’s used the dream-state technique to revisit her and John Scott’s old memories, it could be argued she technically travelling to another Universe, of sorts,..one that she is creating because she is observing it from another perspective.ย  So using this idea as a base, perhaps some kind of dream state is needed to shuttle back and forth between realms? This could tie in with Olivia’s own (speculated) ability, as mentioned above.

Another possibility is that the “DisRe” teleportation device is used to travel our own future – to a point in time when our world has advanced to the stage where the technology exists to commute between worlds. This technology, or knowledge, could then have been brought back to the original time period, and then used to visit these other worlds. This could also provide an alternative, less fantastical, explanation for Cortexiphan – one suggesting that it comes from our own world, but a future one. Yeah, screw paradox. :)

Final Thought:

  • One thing I don’t think we can forget when dealing with multiple realities, is that they present multiple possibilities. Earlier in the season I mentioned how I thought Quantum Mechanics was playing a very real role in the show, and I still believe this is the case. Until something is observed, it exists as a wave of possibility. With this in mind, an ‘outside observer’ (someone from another reality, say) must have a bearing on the outcome of events and the choices that are made. Those treated with Cortexiphan are similar to these Observers in so much that they are more open to the possibilities – their perception allows them to consciously change reality.

Note: I know I took liberties with the title of this post, but here’s the real version. I’m just looking out, Descartes.


  1. Bishop Takes Queen says

    Wow – terrific read.

    I now wonder about the timeline of the experiments…if both Walter and William were conducting the Cortexiphan experiments in Jacksonville – where was Peter? Was he at home with his mother? (Are Olivia and Peter supposed to be around the same age…? Or, if Peter is indeed from the alteverse – is he much older?)

    Anyway – I guess those toys that Peter didn’t recognize in “Safe” instead were from the days of Walter & William’s immoral experiments on children. Were they both also on hand to conduct the Cortexiphan experiments in Ohio?

    Anyway, back to the timeline – Walter’s lab accident was 17 (or 18) years ago – making Peter/Olivia 13 years old. In the video, Olivia (Olive) looks to be < 5 years old. Per “Ability,” Cortexiphan trials were in 1981, so Olivia would have been 2-3 years old (if she is 30). How was Olivia selected? Was it just random, for dependents of military personnel stationed at the base in Jax? And was this Olivia’s “real” father, or her stepfather that was in the service? On that note – has it been mentioned what happened to her real pop?

    So many questions. Exactly why I love this show. The biggest question I want answered right now: What IS Peter? (Well, right after, Is this amazing show getting renewed for another season?!)

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    • says

      Good point BTQ. I would agree that Peter was at home with his mother during Walter’s heydey. I seem to recall Peter raising that issue with Walter earlier in the season (may even have been in the Pilot?) — he was sniping about how Walter never had time for them (or something along those lines). I believe it was at this point that Peter discovered that Walter didn’t really work for a toothpaste company (although I suspect a clever guy like Peter MUST have secretely known?). This could still tie in with the alterverse-Peter angle, although it does seem poignent that Walter should both be absent and yet so loving towards his son. Was he a misunderstood father, or was he doing his best to protect his family? One thing is for sure, he has a lot of resentment towards Peter’s mom.

      I think the toys belonged to Peter 2.0. Although as had been pointed out, some of them are from earlier decades and may have been passed down from Walter to one of the Peter’s. (assuming that the alterverse Peter is a possibility).

      I think your time-line is about right. It is interesting to consider why and how they were selected for the Cortexiphan trials. I seem to remember Walter mentioning that they were “predisposed”. Predisposed to what? I wonder..

      The whole father/step-father thing is kinda confusing because we haven’t had much info on Olive’s background. But I’d say that her father and step-father are supposed to be the same person. Although the writers could easily make it so that Olive’s mother re-married or whathaveyou. It’s interesting though..we have all these parent issues with Peter and Walter and yet we’ve come to accept that we don’t even have a hint as to who Olivia’s parents are. The way things are going I could see the writers pushing the envelope further by making Belly or Walter (or their ‘alters’) her real father. I just can’t imagine that her parents would be insignificant.

      Anyway, excellent thoughts BTQ, plenty to chew on there!

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  2. Elliot says

    (Humbly) Wow. Lots to think on here.
    Tiny things. . . notice how many of the altered people we meet here are altered to become weapons: Meegar, the women in The Cure, the wereupine men. Once or twice we hear the alter-ers say “you’re special, now”. Not something to wish for, obviously.

    Could cortexiphan have been used to make the kids weapons in general, and used against another ‘verse?
    (The other wing of that triptych is Angel with a Sword.)
    But could Olivia be a vaccine, to fix that other ‘verse, a nice double back, spiking the bait, version II?

    A niggle: the fire effect is the reverse of the Wissenschaft prison one. There the burn center was where he stood, like where an arc was struck. In the lab footage, the area around Olive is not burned; she was in a protected space. She may have started the fire, for sure–but she may not have started it, either.

    Another niggle: if it’s Peter’s DNA that Cortexiphan comes from, are all the kids being made into his relatives/copies? Too weird. Either way, we seem to be getting oddly close to he and Olivia standing in for Adam and Eve.

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    • says

      It’s interesting. There seems to be different ‘levels’ of altered people. We have those who were altered from childhood, those who have been altered in adulthood, and those who are, presumably, born ‘different’.

      I’m definetely interested in Olivia’s destiny..what purpose was she altered for? You could be right, she may be a vaccine of somekind.

      Good point about the walls — the scorches are similar, but the area where Olive is sitting is unmarked. Almost as if she placed a defence shield around herself during the “incident”.

      Hmm, I probably didn’t convey the ‘Peter being the source of Cortexiphan’ quite as I intended. I’m not sure the kids would be “copies” per se (although that’s a consideration), but more along the lines of his unique DNA or bloodwork being the source of what makes Cortexiphan work. Could also explain why Walter experimented on him as a child — both to tweak him so that he could survive in our world, and perhaps to ‘save’ others by giving them something from his DNA. Perhaps these kids (Olive among them) would be enhanced in so much as their natural talents would be allowed to flourish?

      Adam and Eve? Maybe..although I kinda see Belly and Bishop as taking that matle…but then who knows what changes Olivia and Peter will undergo throughout their journey..

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  3. Stephy says

    Hello !

    Excellent website ! Great work !
    I love your posts and your analyses especially.
    I have a theory, too !
    Imagine… Season seven (LOL maybe before !) a war begins between our world and another universe… a parallel world with many ugly observers… (another army) and Olivia and Peter (I think Peter is also a recruit) become real soldiers with special abilities and incredible weapons… wow, it could be really SciFi, isn’t it ?!
    Best regards from France ! (and sorry for my bad english !)

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    • says

      Hey there Stephy, I’m glad you like the site!

      That sounds pretty explosive! :) Although, I do hope they don’t go all “Heroes” on us. I like the happy balance we currently have between making the show believable and spectacular. As the show develops the writers will have to push the page a little more, but hopefully they’ll continue to ground it in theoretical science, as they have done so far.

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  4. Stephy says

    I absolutely agree with you !
    I’m found of fringe science and that’s why I love this show so much. Sometimes I have crazy ideas… just for fun ! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  5. Elaine says

    “One possibility could be drawn from what Peter said about โ€œif you can dream a better world, you can make a better worldโ€. A line immediately followed by Walterโ€™s rather shifty; โ€œOr travel between themโ€. So is dreaming the way the travel to a parallel world? In many ways Iโ€™d say yes, because when Oliviaโ€™s used the dream-state technique to revisit her and John Scottโ€™s old memories, it could be argued she technically travelling to another Universe, of sorts,..one that she is creating because she is observing it from another perspective.”


    I’ve been having a ball reading your re-watches from S1. It’s like discovering a hidden treasure! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Okay, so the above comment got me to thinking about S2’s ‘Dream Logic’ from another perspective. Be forewarned, I haven’t completely thought this out. But what if the technique Walter taught Peter to keep from having nightmares was some type of dream plug (for a lack of a better word) that dampened Peter’s natural ability to travel between universes? Like you suggested, there must be a way to physically travel between worlds, and like the comment from ‘Bad Dreams’, “If you can dream a better world, you can make a better world…or travel between it”. In ‘Dream Logic’, the doctor had literally created a device that plugged into the part of the brain that regulated sleep and dreams. By abusing that access, the doctor changed his patients perception of reality so they were experiencing waking nightmares–which was very real to them. Peter’s re-occuring nightmares were a based not on a dream, or a distortion of the mind, but a reality…one Walter tried to get Peter to suppress. Aaaand I lost my train of thought. LOL.

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