Chell’s science project
Holy crap. This is a doozy. Remember the “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” science fair, full of lazy potatoes and lazier volcanoes? Zoom in on the final project – the mutant potato that’s grown to the ceiling – and read what name is written on the cardboard. Chell!
Let that sink in for a moment. This is more than an Easter egg. This implies that Chell, the protagonist of Portal, is the daughter of one or more Aperture employees. That her father was high-ranking enough to provide “special ingredients from Dad’s work.” That she was present when GLaDOS attacked the facility with neurotoxin. That she has been trapped or imprisoned in the laboratories since she was a child.
Believe it or not, though, the possibilities surrounding Chell’s origin get even crazier as we move down this page. Keep scrolling.
Black Mesa rivalry
If you’re unfamiliar with Valve mythology, you might have glanced at this award case in the original Aperture offices, laughed at the fact that owner Cave Johnson was once a shower curtain salesman, and moved on. But Half-Life fans will also notice that – based on how many #2 and Runner Up trophies are displayed within – the rivalry between Aperture and Black Mesa was raging as far back as 1949, 1952 and 1954.
Vitrified test chamber doors
Unlocks “Door Prize” Achievement / Trophy
Every second of Cave Johnson dialogue is pure gold, yet if you’re not thorough enough, you could miss quite a bit. Although Chapter 6 contains six closed doors that can be accessed for extra (and hilarious) audio by pressing the “use” button, the game never explicitly tells you so. Watch the video for locations, and cherish each word.
Unlocks “Ship Overboard” Achievement / Trophy
Another Half-Life reference. Right past the second set of vitrified test chamber doors is an empty dock where, if the nearby life preserver is any clue, Borealis was built and launched. This research vessel belongs to Aperture, but plays a much larger role in the Half-Life games, specifically Half-Life 2: Episodes One and Two. It’s rumored to contain a very powerful and very dangerous secret that will affect the events of Half-Life 2: Episode Three… possibly even Half-Life 3.
Portrait of a lady
Unlocks “Portrait of a Lady” Achievement / Trophy
Holy crap. This is a doozy, too. Hidden between the first and second orange gel test spheres in Chapter 7 is an office with a portrait hanging on the wall. By this point in the game, you’ve seen plenty of pictures of Aperture owner Cave Johnson, but this is the only one in which he’s joined by his assistant Caroline. GLaDOS exclaims that these people “look so familiar,” and if you’ve put the rather obvious pieces together, you should realize you’re staring at someone far more significant – GLaDOS as a human, before she was uploaded into a robot.
That’s not the only mind-blowing implication. Think back to the science project – Chell’s father, possibly both parents, worked at Aperture. And here are two Aperture employees with “C” names, suddenly looking closer than mere boss and assistant… suddenly looking similar to our heroine, who happened to receive a new face for Portal 2. Oh, and did we mention the meaning of the name Caroline is “free man” or “Freeman”? What, too much?
We could dig into the Chell-Caroline-Cave theory for pages, but this guy has already done the heavy lifting and deserves the credit. Check out his incredibly compelling evidence and see if you’re still a skeptic.
The Caroline portrait also leads to a different, yet no less fascinating, discussion: the many, many connections between Portal 2 and the Greek legend of Prometheus, who was “punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man…cast to the bowels of the earth and pecked by birds.”
That’s a direct quote from the Oracle Turret mentioned on page two, for starters. Hmm, wasn’t potato GLaDOS picked apart by birds? In an underground research facility? Labeled in some places as “Tartaros,” one of the pits Zeus used as punishment? Yeah. Plus, one of Prometheus’s brothers was named Atlas, same as the blue co-op robot in Portal 2. And that creepy figure in the background of the Caroline and Cave Johnson portrait, hovering to the left of the bookcase is Aeschylus… writer of “Prometheus Bound.”
The connections go even deeper and denser if you’re interested – head here for corresponding theories on Chell, Wheatley, P-body and Portal 2’s ending.
Next page: Infanticide, boy bands, co-op cameos and Nathan Drake…