FRINGE OBSERVATIONS: 4.13 A Better Human Being


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 “A Better Human Being” for the story within the story.


  • As speculated, the clue for this episode was the Killer Bees signage, foreshadowed in “Welcome To Westfield“. Walter explains his ‘collective identiy’ theory using a hive of bees.

  • The collective identity illustrated by the case-of-the-week serves as analogy for Olivia accessing her memories from the other timeline.

  • Olivia’s shadow serves as a useful illustration for her memory merger.

  • The two amber lights alternate as Olivia’s amber timeline memories become hazy.

  • Green and red lights which tie into the larger mythology attached to the Observers.

  • A halo effect over Olivia. So often the saviour, but who will save her?

  • Olivia’s DNA sample illuminated in thematic blue, serving as a reference to the other timeline. Peter is clearly projecting his homeward bound desires with his blue shirt.

  • Olivia recalls the time she and John Scott visited storage container units (pilot). The units were largely decked in amber, as though the narrator was pointing towards the amber timeline our heroes now find themselves trapped in.
  • Fast-forward to 4.13, and with Olivia’s memories returning, she makes her first return to a bunch of storage container units with Peter. These units are coded blue, as though the narrator is pointing back towards the original timeline.

  • Olivia’s visit to the amber units served as the catalyst to her unwitting reunion with Peter (they originally met in childhood).
  • Now, they act as the catalyst for Peter accepting her as his Olivia, after he discovers a piece of original timeline narrative he was not previously aware.
  • The storage units themselves serve as a metaphors for the safe-keeping and preservation of memory.

  • Slusho!, the fictional brand of drink seen throughout various Bad Robot productions and serials such as Heroes, makes its return to Fringe.

  • Peter’s face is illuminated in green after he accepts Olivia as being his original dame. Green for Go.

  • Though, given the color of these bricks, he may have been reflecting her capture.

  • The cashier claims not to have seen Olivia. She could have been nabbed before she entered the store. Or, he could lying.
  • Another possibility is that Olivia suffered a time-slip, of sorts, ala Novation. The above options seem more likely.

  • The Observer walks past the cashier’s window as Peter enters the gas station looking for Olivia.

  • Possible next episode clues. (the “Wisdom” book has been seen before).

  • Nina uses her left hand on the biometric hand-scanner, suggesting that her right hand is mechanical, which is consistent with the original timeline.

  • Nina seems genuinely shocked that the Cortexiphan has been replaced.
  • She also allows Walter to taste a sample. So, either she thought he wouldn’t find anything amiss, or she’s not the Nina responsible for dosing Olivia with Cortexiphan.

  • It’s possible that Jones captured NinaBlue before/after kidnapping Olivia at the gas station. Alternatively, this could be NinaRed, or a shapeshifter/clone/dream (yikes).

Possibilities if this is NinaBlue..

  • She’s in cahoots with Jones; pretending to be captured, possibly to spark Olivia’s emotional state. Or..
  • Jones double-crossed her; plans to use her as a means to manipulate Olivia. Or..
  • Jones captured her some time ago, switcherooing her with another Nina. Or..
  • She’s working with Nina Red and Jones.
  • Some other combination/possibility.
  • It’s not NinaBlue.
  • Walter notes “it’s not what the LSD can do, it’s what the human mind can do that is truly wonderful.” Another hint that the timeline is in some way a mental construct? May also serve as foreshadowing to upcoming events.
  • Cyclical reference: “ this hour believes he’s circling Venus.”
  • Walter check that the brain scan machine is calibrated – something he’s been doing with the BBM of late.
  • Walter tells Olivia and Peter to be quiet as though they are both inside of his head.
  • The glyph code for this episode spelled HENRY. As in baby Henry. Or, less likely, Henry the taxi driver.

Previously on Fringe Observations: 4.12 Welcome To Westfield

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  1. fedorafadares says

    Love the observations, Rocco. I, too, thought the weird hair-dryer-looking monitor smacked of “halo.” Not the first time Olivia’s depicted with religious iconography.

    I wonder if the next episode clue is the motor oil/10 min. oil change signs all over the last scene. Could Olivia’s dosing be likened to an oil change??

    Also, and I’m sure I’m reaching, but I felt a little ping toward the Violet Sedan Chair in this episode. Wasn’t one of the songs about “circling Venus” or something of the sort. I also thought the mental patient Walter was talking to was Mr. Solfège — the solfege syllables are do, re, mi, fa… — a reference to another Seven Suns song, right?

    Fun stuff!

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  2. He_knows_not says

    I figured that the Nina we saw in the lab (with the Cortexiphan -clue) was a human shapeshifter. And she was discovered when Walter tasted it. (the Cortex) The idea that the fake Nina was with Olivia (hostage) occurred to me as well, but it seems to point that the fake Nina was in the lab. Only because why would the real Nina give her a drug – for migraines – if it didn’t help DRJ’s purpose, when she was seen before personally making sure Olivia was being dosed with Cortexiphan? It speaks to Lincoln to finally having a purpose since he stopped her from making any phone calls. Fake Nina had no other recourse and figured that Walter wouldn’t see her deception.

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    • He_knows_not says

      The color green is beyond prominent in the last scene with Peter and Olivia. It wasn’t just the one you mentioned, the entire scene with Peter and Olive – in the car – was wrought with the color green. I know it’s an allusion to a potential next season, but considering the ratings, what, if anything, does it mean now?

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        • nirti says

          Well, green is generally known in semiotics (referring perception) as a faux or distorted view of reality. Most clear cases are the color treatments given to films like The Matrix and Hero; both having blue as a reality that may not be the best, but is real after all; green as a distorted and notoriously fake reality; and finally red as a not-so-unreal reality, yet a dangerous one.
          There is a bit more of work on other colors, but those are more prominent… red isn’t that present on the Matrix movies, but a bit more on the Animatrix series, games and the comic books, still Hero gives further work on Red.

          You can also to cop some Eco (Foucault’s Pendulum, Misreadings, etc), Barthes (empire of signs, Camera Lucida, etc) and on a bit of a different, yet useful read Simulacra & Simulations by Baudrillard. It’s interesting to match what we see on the show with how Baudrillard talks about perception and cognition. 😀
          Hope it’s useful!

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  3. lost_stef says

    Great observations Roco. I found your thoughts on which Nina is which very interesting. You sure have given me a few more perspectives to think about before the upcoming epsiode.

    Like: Thumb up 5

  4. Jim says

    Great observations! I noticed a lot of greens in this episode, possibly symbolizing the merging of blue and yellow (”amber”).

    Walter is preparing his tea above a blue flame, then adds the (yellow) honey into the green cup. The way it’s shot it looks like they did it on purpose. Obviously the honey is also a reference to the way Elizabeth likes her tea.

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  5. nora says

    It’s just a little detail, but when Walter said Nina replaced the Cortexiphan with potassium iodide (+ food coloring), I immediately thought of the “delicious strawberry-flavored death”. The ingredient’s name, which Walter was so loudly complaining about in Northwest Passage, was similar: potassium bromate.

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  6. crol says

    don’t know if you noticed, I may be saying something stupid, but the titles seemed to be different, in the sense that being amber, but having definite blue light shining through at moments… someone had pointed it out before for earlier episodes, and I thought, wishfull thinking, but it was very noticable this time….

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    • edgesight says

      I just checked and all of the season 4 episodes have the same title sequence…that i can see. I do agree that the blue lights may signify that universe breaking through though.

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