Welcome to Fringe Observations — your weekly guide to the clues, symbolism, parallels and connections throughout all four seasons of Fringe. In this week’s guide we comb through “Welcome To Westfield” for the story within the story.
THIS EPISODE CLUE
- As speculated, the clue for this episode was the Quimby signage foreshadowed in the previous episode. The team takes shelter in the bicycle store on the corner of Cyprus and Quimby.
- Olivia’s dream is kissed by an abundance of blue, thematically tying her subconscious to the original timeline.
- A similar ‘blueness’ was apparent when Peter woke up from his dream in “ATWLB.” Side-by-side these two moments present an interesting offset — Olivia’s unconscious connection to the original timeline, balanced by Peter’s conscious connection to it — in-keeping with this season’s narrative.
BEFORE YOU GO-GO
- Peter wakes Olivia from her original timeline dream, as though the only way home is through her.
- Alternatively, we can look at this as another example of Olivia ‘prompting the world around her’ — her dreams evoking reality, as the very person who incepted her mind, wakes her up.
LET’S COOK A TIMELINE
- More thematic references to the other timeline as Walter mixes a new blue cocktail. Like the journey back, it’s not quite ready — “needs more butter!” Olivia declines a sip.
TEARS IN TIME
- Further clues that the old Olivia is emerging — she does her faux tear wipey thing, memorably dispatched in “Grey Matters”.
- Walter has created a biological interface so that Peter can interact with the BBM. Of course, the BBM also had such a biological interface calibrated to Peter’s DNA in the other timeline.
OBSERVING THE OBSERVER
- The Observer watches flight 591 crash in Vermont.
- The crashed airliner adds alternate universe red to the over here blues, foreshadowing the merger between the over here and over there Westfields.
META META META
- The “We’ve Missed You!” message on the Westfield sign doubles as a reference to the team becoming more like their old selves again over the course of the episode.
- Our team find themselves going around in circles, unable to leave the town. This helps inform the idea that our heroes have forgotten their original lives prior to the timeline being re-written in “The Day We Died.”
- It further implies that they are trapped in this course of history. Interesting that it takes a sign (from the narrator?) to make them aware of the fact they are travelling in loops.
- Walter compares their inability to leave Westfield to Brigadoon, a 1947 musical described as follows:
It tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village’s inhabitants.
THAT TIME IN EDINA
- Olivia taps into her other timeline memories when recalling the military experiment that went wrong in Edina. In this timeline, Fringe Division didn’t investigate Project Elephant. [Diff between timelines].
- As well as highlighting the return of the original Dunhamnator and a difference between the two timelines, it perhaps brings back into question the role of the enigmatic narrator.
- In this instance, Olivia can be deemed unreliable because she’s tapping into experiences from the other timeline, while Walter (of all people) serves as our anchor, reminding her that they never went to Edina.
- You’ll probably remember that a key aspect of the Edina case was perception, with the true identity of the town’s residents hidden in plain sight courtesy of an electromagnetic pulse.
- This reflects Olivia accessing her original experiences and the idea that the two timelines are one in the same. As Walter said in Johari Window, “what changes, is our perception.”
- Johari Window also represented Walter confronting his fear by venturing outside the lab. In WTW, Walter takes the lead by joining the investigation “in person.”
THE WALKING DEAD
- A ‘zombie-esque encounter’. Zombie Brandons were discovered in Olivia’s subconscious in the LSD-sode.
IT IS WRITTEN
- An open book — another nod to the narrator? Certainly, the flipping pages illustrate the various timelines.
- Another possible narrator-tinged nod comes when Walter summons Olivia and Peter through an intercom. This evokes memories of him guiding Olivia through her Bra & Panties Tank™-facilitated dreamscapes.
- Coolidge Killer Bees — possible next episode clue.
- Walter notes that Olivia has always been very empathetic. We know this to also be true from the other timeline.
- Moreover, it seems her acute empathy is allowing her to connect with the original timeline, as well as explaining her intuition as an agent.
- We know this stems from her Cortexiphan trials and subsequent dosing, but she was also predisposed as a child, suggesting empathy as one of the ‘natural’ reasons Walter and Bellie chose her as their mythical gate-keeper. “You were always the strong one. ” Strength through empathy.
- It could be suggested that Olivia is finally empathising with herself, in a fringey sort of way. The road to self-actualization is fraught with fringey encounters.
- Walter realizes they are trapped in the overlap, explaining the mystery behind their predicament, and, possibly, the landscape (so to speak) of the new timeline.
- The ‘merged man’ is a reminder of the themes explored in Jacksonville.
- Peter is in the center of the triangle created by the bike’s golden frame — they used a triangle to locate the bicycle shop at the ‘center of the storm’. Reference within a reference.
OZ AGAINST THE WORLD
- The battered Westfield sign and the aftermath of the storm reminds me of the tornado from Oz that flattened the Wicked Witch of the East.
- As noted, the Oz references continued in this episode, with Olivia joshing that the BBM will allow Peter to ‘click his heels and think of home,’ while Peter directly refers to this timeline as “Oz”.
- The plane crash site carried echoes of The Transformation. This is the third plane that has crashed on Fringe.
- In “Making Angels,” Altstrid noted that Astrid summons Walter remotely. In this episode he manifests in the flesh after she bellows his name.
- Suitably, there are lots of cyclical objects and references in this episode.
- “How does a man drive all the way from Boston to Vermont and not even know he’s there?” Another reference to our heroes finding themselves lost in a new stream of time without knowing it.
- The concept of two entities existing in the same space is an extension of a common Fringe theme (the collision of the two universes, Olivia being pumped with Altlivia’s memories, the whole Bellivia thing, etc, etc).
- Walter says his blood type is O negative, however in Reciprocity,” he claims to be A positive. Continuity error or intentional?
- Olivia’s arm starts shaking as a result of the Cortexiphan dosing. Worth noting, perhaps, that Nina suffered from hand tremors in the season 1 episode “Ability”. Whether this becomes a tie-in remains to be seen.
- Phase II in this episode represents the obliteration of the two Westfields. With such a direct reference it would seem to inform the larger Phase II mythology tied to Olivia.
- While the episode focuses on the emergence of the old Olivia, Walter also undergoes his own journey back. Not Cortexiphan fueled like Olivia, but driven by his growing bond with Peter, illustrating once again the impact he has on the lives on those around him.
- Depending on how things go, could Walter find it difficult to let Peter go?
- The glyph code for this episode spelled OLIVE. The shortened version of Olivia’s name most commonly referenced during those childhood Cortexiphan trials. Seems like things are ..coming together. Dun, dun, duuun.
Previously On Fringe Observations: 4.11 Making Angels