With all of the various realities populating the “Fringe” multiverse, it might be difficult for the devoted fans of the show to imagine a world without it.
But as the series begins its final descent toward the season-four finale, with the fate of a fifth season still in limbo, the creators and cast turned out at WonderCon to tease big things in the episodes ahead, in hopes of two alternate realities: a) the faithful turn out in ratings-raising droves to help push another season forward or b) to go out with a satisfying bang.
“I think that what we're really excited about, from now forward, is that the beginning of the season was really much set up for payoffs that are starting to come fast and furious now, for the rest of the season," executive produce Jeff Pinkner tells PopcornBiz. "I think that when we set out to tell this story with an alternate timeline and Peter disappeared and then Peter came back, we had a lot of confidence in the face of a lot of network and studio nervousness of whether or not we'd be able to stick the landing, as it were, of the season. I think that we're not looking backwards from the ending.”
“It was with challenges, and it required a tremendous amount of hard work and juggling balls in the air for us, but I think that it's been an incredibly satisfying season,” adds Pinkner, “because it's really paid off a lot of things that we set up back in Season One. It's made us revisit things that we set up in Season One, texturally, thematically, character-wise. I think that this season has felt like it’s enriched the show now, again, looking back from the episodes that we know are still to come, in a way that is better than maybe we would've even hoped for.”
Series star John Noble says viewers haven’t seen the last of the ongoing variations of Walter Bishop and his alternate-universe and alternate-timeline counterparts that he’s been pleased to sink his teeth into over the last few years.
“As we move forward, we're going to see a couple more versions of Walter as well, which we've never seen before: future ones,” says Noble. “I don't know what's going to happen in the final episode, except there has to be a payoff. The last lot of episodes that we've been making, I promise you, have just been some of the best that we've ever done – so powerful and so thought provoking. Difficult, too, but we're building towards what has to be a meeting of the titans – Walter is one of them – and there's going to be clash of titans. What happens to him, I don't know. I'd like to think that he wins the day.”
Also getting to delve into alt-versions of her character is Blair Brown, after the previous introduction of Nina Sharp’s sinister doppelganger (whom she’s affectionately dubbed “Mean-a”).
“Something interesting happens in the very next episode, what her fate is, which kind of stops her in her tracks,” says Brown. “Then there's another version of Nina that comes along that's quite unusual. So I've had fun in the past several weeks.”
Some new faces won’t be played by the regular ensemble, says Pinkner, with the addition of two new mysterious characters to close out the season. “What we can tell you is that both Henry Ian Cusick and Georgina Haig are spectacular,” he promises. “We can't really reveal anything, sadly, about the roles that they play or their story function.”
Joshua Jackson remains tight-lipped about what’s in store for Peter, who’s reality-lost journey has guided much of the season’s story direction, but he did reveal how much fun he’s had constantly figuring out the new dynamic between Peter and his reality-shifted Walter and Olivia (Anna Torv).
“For as much time as I've spent with John working out the father/son relationship and for as much time as Anna and I have spent in this really tortured kind of work dynamic and then love relationship and then epic love relationship and then we don't know each other anymore, it's been fun to reset all of those relationships and go back to almost a new version of what a new show would be,” Jackson says, though he admits remembering which version of who is being played in each scene gets tricky.
“That's 'Fringe,'” he grins. “It's a little bit confusing sometimes, but it's been fun.
Executive producer J.H. Wyman says that the Mar. 23 episode, which marks his directorial debut, is the 19th of the season, and the fans who’ve paid exceptionally close attention to the structure of prior season may have an inkling that it will be a game-changer.”[Episode] 19 is traditionally a deviation, so that's a hint,” he says.
As far as planning for an endgame, Wyman and Pinkner are optimistic that the probability of a fifth season remains strong. “Nobody has given us ever any indication to think that we need to know about this date, or whatever,” says Wyman. “We're just doing our show and if they tell us yes, then great, but if they don't, well, that's a tragedy and we'll have to live with it. It hasn't changed our opinions on what we do one iota…We knew from the beginning, from season one, where we were going, so traditionally we've ended on chapters. A chapter ends every year, which is sort of our creative choice, and it turned out to be a good one because just inherently that's a very satiating idea. Something comes to an end and there's a possibility of a future, like, 'Oh, wow – I can imagine how they got on after this.' That's okay for me. If I was a viewer I'd be like, 'You know what, I believe they're all going to be okay and I can see their lives and I can feel it and I spent four years with these people. I f**king feel good.' That's all we really care about.”
Jackson says the hyper-involved fans have pulled out all the stops to voice their desire to see the show stay on the air, including mailing Walter’s favorite candy to the head of the network.
“Our audience has been so passionate and so dedicated and [FOX] is drowning in Red Vines on a daily basis, so there's no more love for the show or support for the show that can be shown,” says Jackson. “The ratings are what they are: they've stabilized there, so that's not even the issue anymore. Creatively I think the boys are still swinging for the fences. It doesn't feel like the show is exhausted creatively, either, which is a bad place. You never want to overstay your welcome. So at this point, they're going to figure out if those numbers work, and that's just the reality of TV.”
“I think that we all actually feel very hopeful/confident that we will get to continue telling these stories on FOX,” adds Pinkner when asked if they were considering a shift to a cable network, the big screen or even a comic book continuation. “We know the stories that we want to tell and then the medium in which we get to tell them, we'll see, but right now we're feeling very hopeful that it'll be in the same format that we've been telling them in.”
“We're more worried for our fans.” Adds Wyman, “because we know how devastated they would be, and so we consider that.”