The Secrets of Portal 2- Part 2 (Warning: Spoilers)

Posted by Gamer_152 (14072 posts) -

Thanks to all those who left kind words on my post last week, this week I have a slightly shorter but hopefully no less interesting amalgamation of Portal 2 trivia and interpretations for your consumption, so let’s get right to it.

The Promethean Legend

 This one's different.

One particular turret in the game has earned a name for itself among fans. Known as the ‘Prometheus Turret’, ‘Oracle Turret’, or ‘Different Turret’, you may very well have rescued this little guy from “redemption” and noted his uncanny references to events passed in the Portal universe, but what exactly did this little guy mean by "Prometheus was punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man. He was cast to the bowels of the Earth and pecked by birds"?

The turret is actually comparing the story of Portal to Greek mythology. Just as Prometheus gave fire to humans and was punished for it, likewise GLaDOS gave Chell the Portal Gun and it ended up being her eventual downfall. Atlas, P-Body and Wheatley are thought to represent the brothers of Prometheus; Atlas, Menoetius, and Epimetheus respectively. Wheatley certainly fits the bill, being like Epimetheus, a foolish character compared to the genius Prometheus. Just as Prometheus and Epimetheus created man, GLaDOS cloned Aperture employees and Wheatley was in charge of keeping test participants alive in storage. Chell is thought to represent Pandora, who delivers Epimetheus great power, only to unleash hell on Earth. Likewise, Chell delivered Wheatley to the Aperture mainframe only to cause disaster within the research facility, including a near nuclear meltdown.

Just as the titans were punished by being thrown into the pit below the underworld known as Tartarus, Chell and GLaDOS were thrown down into old Aperture, where an area can be seen (image by TRUNK_SLAMCHEST) marked ‘Tartaros 09’, and just as Prometheus was punished by having his liver eternally pecked out by an eagle, GLaDOS endured being repeatedly pecked at by a bird while in her potato form and seemed to develop a fear of birds from it. The heaven-like surface at the end is also thought to represent the beautiful area of the Greek underworld known as Elysium. Now that’s one heck of a nod to mythology.


The Portrait

 Cave, Caroline, and "friend".

The hidden portrait of Cave Johnson and Caroline is a great easter egg, largely because it provides us with a look at an otherwise entirely unseen character, but there are a couple of less obvious aspects of this painting you may not have noticed. Firstly, while it may only be viewable by increasing the brightness on your monitor/TV, a figure can be clearly seen in the background of the painting on the far left. It has been hypothesised by many that this figure is or at least represents Aeschylus, a greek writer who is often credited with writing the interpretation of Greek legend, ‘Prometheus Bound’.

Another rather interesting thing about this portrait is that upon first seeing it an achievement is unlocked called ‘Portrait of a Lady’. This could be a possible reference to a famous painting of the same name, or the T.S. Elliot poem of the same name. It also shares its name with ‘ The Portrait of a Lady’, a book by Henry James about a young American woman who becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming. This would be rather fitting considering Wheatley’s later reference to author Machiavelli, while trying to kill Chell.


Caroline’s Name

Again, a small but a wonderful easter egg. Looking up the etymology of the name Caroline you’ll probably find that Caroline is the feminine form of Charles, but what does the name Charles mean? ‘Free man’. Remind you of anyone we know?


Cara Mia

The turret opera at the end was an emotional and unexpected feature in the game’s conclusion, as well as a great opportunity for Ellen McLain to flaunt her talents as a professional opera singer, but what exactly were those turrets singing about? Well, the entirety of the opera was actually in Italian, the full lyrics can be found here, and they reveal something interesting. While it seems as though GLaDOS carries a considerable disdain for Chell by the end of Portal 2, the words of the opera reveal that she may feel affection towards Chell she is ashamed to admit.

The exact correct translation of the opera is a little debated, but within the opera the turrets seem to refer to Chell as “My beautiful dear”, “My darling beauty”, “My dear, dear baby” and “My little girl” among other things. If that doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside I don’t know what will. Oh, and the fact that Chell’s name is similar to the Italian ‘ciel’, meaning sky or heaven only further supports the whole Elysium theory.


The Johnson's Daughter Theory

 The final farewell to Chell.

There is one rather crazy-sounding but none the less plausible theory that many of these secrets combined seem to suggest though. With the potato experiment proving Chell was the daughter of an Aperture worker, the turrets at the end expressing their love for Chell and calling her their child, and GLaDOS even mentioning once that there were two people on record in Aperture with Chell’s second name, some theorise that Chell is actually the adopted daughter of Cave Johnson and Caroline.

It’s been speculated before that GLaDOS never really deleted Caroline, but people like this man take it one step further, claiming that the reason GLaDOS kept Chell away from the facility and feigned a dislike of her was because the ‘Caroline’ part of her recognised Chell as her daughter, but wanted to let her free and may also have tried to keep her away so that she didn’t succumb to the urge of conducting more dangerous tests using Chell. The end song of the game, ‘Want You Gone’ even seems to suggest that Caroline was never deleted through the lines “Now little Caroline is in here too” and “Maybe when I delete you I’ll stop feeling so bad”, a line which GLaDOS actually redacts in the text she usually outputs. If we assume this theory to be true Cara Mia is not simply an expression of GLaDOS’ hidden appreciation for Chell but a touching goodbye from a mother who has to push her daughter away, but wants to leave one last, hidden expression of her love.


End of Part Two

That concludes part two of this crazy collection of Portal 2 analyses but there’s still the final and arguably most insane instalment of this blog to come next week. Thank you for reading, good luck, and have cube tricks.

-Gamer_152

Moderator
#1 Posted by Gamer_152 (14072 posts) -

Thanks to all those who left kind words on my post last week, this week I have a slightly shorter but hopefully no less interesting amalgamation of Portal 2 trivia and interpretations for your consumption, so let’s get right to it.

The Promethean Legend

 This one's different.

One particular turret in the game has earned a name for itself among fans. Known as the ‘Prometheus Turret’, ‘Oracle Turret’, or ‘Different Turret’, you may very well have rescued this little guy from “redemption” and noted his uncanny references to events passed in the Portal universe, but what exactly did this little guy mean by "Prometheus was punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man. He was cast to the bowels of the Earth and pecked by birds"?

The turret is actually comparing the story of Portal to Greek mythology. Just as Prometheus gave fire to humans and was punished for it, likewise GLaDOS gave Chell the Portal Gun and it ended up being her eventual downfall. Atlas, P-Body and Wheatley are thought to represent the brothers of Prometheus; Atlas, Menoetius, and Epimetheus respectively. Wheatley certainly fits the bill, being like Epimetheus, a foolish character compared to the genius Prometheus. Just as Prometheus and Epimetheus created man, GLaDOS cloned Aperture employees and Wheatley was in charge of keeping test participants alive in storage. Chell is thought to represent Pandora, who delivers Epimetheus great power, only to unleash hell on Earth. Likewise, Chell delivered Wheatley to the Aperture mainframe only to cause disaster within the research facility, including a near nuclear meltdown.

Just as the titans were punished by being thrown into the pit below the underworld known as Tartarus, Chell and GLaDOS were thrown down into old Aperture, where an area can be seen (image by TRUNK_SLAMCHEST) marked ‘Tartaros 09’, and just as Prometheus was punished by having his liver eternally pecked out by an eagle, GLaDOS endured being repeatedly pecked at by a bird while in her potato form and seemed to develop a fear of birds from it. The heaven-like surface at the end is also thought to represent the beautiful area of the Greek underworld known as Elysium. Now that’s one heck of a nod to mythology.


The Portrait

 Cave, Caroline, and "friend".

The hidden portrait of Cave Johnson and Caroline is a great easter egg, largely because it provides us with a look at an otherwise entirely unseen character, but there are a couple of less obvious aspects of this painting you may not have noticed. Firstly, while it may only be viewable by increasing the brightness on your monitor/TV, a figure can be clearly seen in the background of the painting on the far left. It has been hypothesised by many that this figure is or at least represents Aeschylus, a greek writer who is often credited with writing the interpretation of Greek legend, ‘Prometheus Bound’.

Another rather interesting thing about this portrait is that upon first seeing it an achievement is unlocked called ‘Portrait of a Lady’. This could be a possible reference to a famous painting of the same name, or the T.S. Elliot poem of the same name. It also shares its name with ‘ The Portrait of a Lady’, a book by Henry James about a young American woman who becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming. This would be rather fitting considering Wheatley’s later reference to author Machiavelli, while trying to kill Chell.


Caroline’s Name

Again, a small but a wonderful easter egg. Looking up the etymology of the name Caroline you’ll probably find that Caroline is the feminine form of Charles, but what does the name Charles mean? ‘Free man’. Remind you of anyone we know?


Cara Mia

The turret opera at the end was an emotional and unexpected feature in the game’s conclusion, as well as a great opportunity for Ellen McLain to flaunt her talents as a professional opera singer, but what exactly were those turrets singing about? Well, the entirety of the opera was actually in Italian, the full lyrics can be found here, and they reveal something interesting. While it seems as though GLaDOS carries a considerable disdain for Chell by the end of Portal 2, the words of the opera reveal that she may feel affection towards Chell she is ashamed to admit.

The exact correct translation of the opera is a little debated, but within the opera the turrets seem to refer to Chell as “My beautiful dear”, “My darling beauty”, “My dear, dear baby” and “My little girl” among other things. If that doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside I don’t know what will. Oh, and the fact that Chell’s name is similar to the Italian ‘ciel’, meaning sky or heaven only further supports the whole Elysium theory.


The Johnson's Daughter Theory

 The final farewell to Chell.

There is one rather crazy-sounding but none the less plausible theory that many of these secrets combined seem to suggest though. With the potato experiment proving Chell was the daughter of an Aperture worker, the turrets at the end expressing their love for Chell and calling her their child, and GLaDOS even mentioning once that there were two people on record in Aperture with Chell’s second name, some theorise that Chell is actually the adopted daughter of Cave Johnson and Caroline.

It’s been speculated before that GLaDOS never really deleted Caroline, but people like this man take it one step further, claiming that the reason GLaDOS kept Chell away from the facility and feigned a dislike of her was because the ‘Caroline’ part of her recognised Chell as her daughter, but wanted to let her free and may also have tried to keep her away so that she didn’t succumb to the urge of conducting more dangerous tests using Chell. The end song of the game, ‘Want You Gone’ even seems to suggest that Caroline was never deleted through the lines “Now little Caroline is in here too” and “Maybe when I delete you I’ll stop feeling so bad”, a line which GLaDOS actually redacts in the text she usually outputs. If we assume this theory to be true Cara Mia is not simply an expression of GLaDOS’ hidden appreciation for Chell but a touching goodbye from a mother who has to push her daughter away, but wants to leave one last, hidden expression of her love.


End of Part Two

That concludes part two of this crazy collection of Portal 2 analyses but there’s still the final and arguably most insane instalment of this blog to come next week. Thank you for reading, good luck, and have cube tricks.

-Gamer_152

Moderator
#2 Posted by Dedodido (235 posts) -

Those opera lyrics seal the deal for me, along with chell's potato experiment it seems pretty certain that she is Caroline's daughter.

#3 Posted by AhmadMetallic (18955 posts) -

upon beating the game and having bits of my imploded brain all over my desk and keyboard, i went on the steam forums and spent an entire night reading theories. so i already knew everything you represented here

however, that was a great write up (as always ^^) and you managed to organize the theories and link them together in a refreshing manner!  I still cannot believe that a single video game can be this.. genius and deep.


i can't find a word to describe Portal 2. it's sad, it's heartwarming, it can be exciting, it's nostalgic of secret 50s american laboratories, it's hopeful, it's extremely funny, it's dark, it's mysterious and full of meaningful easter eggs and dramatic secrets....  please someone describe this game with better words!
#4 Edited by GetEveryone (4455 posts) -

I actually enjoyed this edition more than your first (and I really liked Part 1). The theorising which is married to Valve's flagship titles is one of my favourite things about their games. They're so well-crafted and hidden with easter eggs and nods to their own mythology as well (Caroline as a nod to Freeman is a fantastically subtle treat), that I can't help becoming wrapped up in it all. 


I actually subscribe to the 'GLaDOS as CHell's mother' theory; it seemed evident at the time, and I actually thought it was transparent, but apparently I'm in the minority.

Great write up again, bro. Really appreciate these.
#5 Edited by EuanDewar (4892 posts) -

The end of this blog marks the end of my knowledge of the Portal 2 easter eggs and crazy tidbits hidden around and frankly, I thought there wern't anymore. So if you still have another part up your sleeve and it is the craziest one yet? Dude cmon, don't leave me hangin'! :P

Great blogs either way dude, people need to know why this game is seen as the remarkable experience it is.

#6 Edited by Aetheldod (3552 posts) -
@Dedodido said:

Those opera lyrics seal the deal for me, along with chell's potato experiment it seems pretty certain that she is Caroline's daughter.

I do to , Chell is Caroline's daughter .... now I don't know if she is daughter of Cave Johnson....
This is an example of a fun game with soul .... not like LA Noir boredom.
#7 Posted by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

Brilliant post. This approach to the story is, to me, a lot more desirable than the explicit story beats in the game. Excellent analysis, thank you for looking so carefully.

#8 Posted by Azteck (7449 posts) -

The first link is broken, btw. Just thought I'd let you know.

And great blog. I've hardly found any easter eggs other than the super-obvious ones so this series is great for me.

#9 Posted by laserbolts (5319 posts) -
Awesome been waiting for this and it didn't disappoint. Thanks for the great read and I'm looking forward to the next and final part.
#10 Posted by SSully (4159 posts) -
@Ahmad_Metallic said:
i can't find a word to describe Portal 2. it's sad, it's heartwarming, it can be exciting, it's nostalgic of secret 50s american laboratories, it's hopeful, it's extremely funny, it's dark, it's mysterious and full of meaningful easter eggs and dramatic secrets....  please someone describe this game with better words!
It is a game made by Valve. I believe that encompasses everything you are trying to describe. 
#11 Posted by imsh_pl (3295 posts) -
#12 Posted by dankempster (2252 posts) -

Thanks, Gamer_152. I've been looking forward to this eagerly since I finished Part One. It's incredible the amount of depth that can be explored through such a seemingly simple story. No lie - I've read whole stories as part of my English degree that are shallower than Portal 2.


Your promise of Part 3 being the craziest one yet has me very excited. Are we to assume it's coming next Sunday? I really can't wait. Again, thanks so much for doing this.
#13 Edited by Daveyo520 (6681 posts) -

Pssst, turrets are girls. Also they never said anything about having clones. I am pretty sure those test subjects were former employees not clones. The other person in the picture also looks more like Mary or some other important person/saint and the statues they have of them. Are you sure Caroline wasn't turned into GlaDOS before she could have a kid? I thought that as soon as Cave died and the machine was ready the company forced her into being GlaDOS. Even if she objected. I guess it is all down to timing. Also GlaDOS was lying about finding people with Chell's last name.

#14 Posted by Gregomasta (1541 posts) -

Great read.

#15 Posted by translucentfish (127 posts) -

Random thoughts:


If Chell is the adopted daughter of Cave and Caroline (the first name alliteration that so many families use is my personal tipping point towards this), that doesn't mean that Caroline has to be her birth mother. That would explain the strange love dynamic, mother-daughter thing, that is going on. You know, the adopted vs. blood debate. I still can't shake that Chell appears to be Asian, at least partially, and, to my knowledge, there aren't any Asian characters in the Valve universe. I don't know the significance of that, if at all, but it seems like something that may be hinted at further down the road.

A few questions:

- I don't really understand the timeline in the Portal games. I figure that Portal 2 takes place well after the first, but Chell doesn't really seem any older, if it is Portal 1's Chell at all.
- How did Chell end up in the "hotel" room at the beginning of Portal 2? It may have been explained, but I missed the connection.
- Does the Portal gun have anything to do with the Half-Life gravity gun? Seems like they use some of the same technology (the picking large objects stuff), and the "seams" that the Xen cross through in Half-Life sound an awful lot like first-gen portals.
#16 Posted by Gamer_152 (14072 posts) -
@laserbolts: @Little_Socrates: @imsh_pl: @Gregomasta: Thanks guys, your kind words are much appreciated.

@Dedodido: I certainly believe the theory.

@Ahmad_Metallic: Thanks. Honestly I think trying to sum up the game with a handful of adjectives would be reductionist and not really respectful or accurate of what the game does. Two of the things that I think define the game though are that firstly, it's a very layered experience by all accounts, and secondly that not only are the various different components that make up the game of a very high quality but they work fantastically in relation to each other.

@GetEveryone: Thank you. Honestly it seems pretty obvious to me, especially with the opera lyrics but I guess everyone's entitled to their own theories.
 
@EuanDewar: Thanks a lot. I dunno, you may find that you knew about more easter eggs than you realised, either way I hope the last part lives up to expectations.

@Aetheldod: I've not played L.A. Noire but Portal and that game are going for very different tones, both in aesthetic and gameplay. To each their own.

@Azteck: Thank you. I've taken a look at that first link and it actually seems it's a result of a glitch in the site. On my blog page it leads straight to my first blog without any problem, but anywhere else it actually links through to a broken URL. I'm going to keep in intact for now and bug report it so that the mods have some evidence of what I'm talking about. I appreciate the heads-up on it.

@SSully: Too right sir.

@dankempster: Thanks a lot. The last part will go up either Saturday or Sunday, it's hard for me to say right now.

@Daveyo520: Yeah, I wasn't sure whether to call the turrets "he" or "she". You're probably right that they're more feminine than masculine but I don't think it makes a huge difference seeing as they're genderless anyway. As for the test subjects, at least some of them are clones (i.e. The guys at the end of the co-op mode). On this page of Lab Rat GLaDOS outright states that she's taking the DNA of dead Aperture employees and using it to create clones .

As far as the figure in the portrait goes I really don't see the resemblance to Mary and I can't understand what connection Mary or any other Biblical figure would have to Portal. Consider how Aeschylus appears in this famous painting, it does look quite a lot like him. I never meant to imply that Chell was Caroline's natural child, I do believe that she's her adoptive mother instead. While we can speculate that GLaDOS was lying about the other people with Chell's second name though, I don't know of any evidence that actually proves that she was lying.

@translucentfish: Yes, I don't really think there's any evidence for Chell being the natural child of Cave and Caroline. The original modeller for Chell actually admits to deliberately making Chell race-ambiguous and it doesn't look like there's really any kind of solid confirmation of her nationality in there. Anyway, to answer your questions...

  • Chell's lack of ageing seems to be due to her stay in the long-term relaxation vault which appears to act like a kind of suspended animation for her.
  • She was definitely put in there by some kind of robot, you see during the first Portal ARG the ending to Portal was actually changed to include Chell being dragged back into the facility by a robot and this is almost certainly the same one who put her there.
  • The Portal Gun and the Gravity Gun are almost definitely linked; they both use what's known in the Half-Life universe as a Zero Point Energy Manipulation Field which is what they use to pick up objects. Black Mesa and Aperture Science were both in bitter competition to create teleportation technology first and Black Mesa are supposed to have stolen Aperture tech, so it could be that Aperture came up with an early version of the Gravity Gun and that Black Mesa stole the design.
Moderator
#17 Edited by Daveyo520 (6681 posts) -
@Gamer_152: I go with she because they are voiced by the same person as GlaDOS is all. All speculation on my part. I guess there would have to be no real reason to have some Lady (as in our Lady of the_______) in a picture besides maybe Cave was religious. Actually he is a scientist so probably not. 
I thought the guys at the end of co-op were just old employees that they stashed away back in the 50's for who knows what reason.

As for GlaDOS lying, I just assume she always is. I hardly take anything she has to say without a pound of salt. She did lie about everything else concerning Chell's parents and meeting them, why not lie about finding their names?
#18 Posted by MikkaQ (10283 posts) -

I was looking forward to this blog after reading the first one, glad to see it delivered. The Greek mythology stuff is crazy when you finally notice the parallels. 

#19 Posted by Vexxan (4618 posts) -

Great read, VERY interesting...just brilliant.


Good work! :)
#20 Posted by Scooper (7882 posts) -

I love you. Brilliant blog, again.

#21 Posted by 1p (760 posts) -

Great job on these posts.

#22 Posted by Gamer_152 (14072 posts) -
@XII_Sniper: @Vegsen: @Scooper: @Bib: Thanks guys. I feel loved.
 
@Daveyo520: Actually reassessing my clones theory, while GLaDOS almost certainly did make clones, those guys at the end of the co-op probably aren't them, it doesn't make sense that GLaDOS would make clones that then got stuck in old Aperture behind a door she couldn't open. As for the employees theory, well, maybe, but there certainly seem to be a lot of physically refined specimens there for them to all be scientists and unless there's something we don't know, Aperture didn't start conducting experiments on their own employees until a couple of decades after their founding.
 
Back in the 50s they had legions of Olympians, war heroes and astronauts, it doesn't make sense that they'd choose their own employees as test subjects instead, it only came about in their history anyway as a sort of last resort when they ran out of money. If these are some of the 50s test subjects then that would account for their physical attributes but it doesn't really explain why Aperture resorted to self-damaging methods to obtain test subjects later on if they had this massive store of ready-to-go humans in their facility. I guess it sorta works if you assume these were humans that were grown over time but that seems like it's veering into the territory of rather outlandish speculation. I've tried looking this whole thing up online but got no clear answer on who those people in the pods are, I think this might just be one of those unfilled blanks of the Portal universe. Maybe the next comic will expand on it.
 
On the subject of Chell's "parents" I agree it's entirely possible that GLaDOS could have lied about the two other people in the database with Chell's surname, but there's no 100% concrete evidence one way or the other. It would also be unwise to assume that GLaDOS is always lying, in fact her statement later on about Chell actually being adopted is almost definitely true, she says it while defending Chell from Wheatley and uses it not as a point of aggravation but rather empathises with Chell over it.
Moderator
#23 Posted by craigbo180 (1739 posts) -
@Gamer_152: Excellent blog once again sir, I eagerly await part 3. All that greek mythology stuff is very interesting indeed, I personally found this one even more interesting than he first part.
#24 Posted by Gamer_152 (14072 posts) -
@craigbo180: Thanks Craigbo, part 3 will be going up soon.
Moderator
#25 Posted by asian_pride (1654 posts) -

The Prometheus tidbit sounds awesome. Looking back at the bird and the potato, it all makes sense. Man, how much can you miss when you don't pay attention to your surroundings and ignorant to things like these. Thanks for the information, just made me appreciate Portal 2 even more than I already do.
 
Also, the Cara Mia thing just sounds so sweet when you put it that way. Aww...

#26 Posted by dcgc (878 posts) -

Great thread and great game. Didn't even know half of these easter eggs.

#27 Posted by Venatio (4491 posts) -

This is truly mindblowing, I know I'm a little late to the party but I just Finished Portal 2, freaking amazing

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