Over the past week, I had the pleasure of introducing my mother to Fringe.
Revisiting a show I love and bringing another fan into its world got me extremely excited to hear what Executive Producers Joel Wyman and Jeff Pinkner had in store for their fourth season. Much like the show itself, the conference call with these two yesterday didn't disappoint.
If you're a spoiler-phobe, consider yourself warned: while there are no details covered, thematic and dramatic issues are certainly discussed. The producers' excitement is catching, so beware: there is a definite possibility of your head exploding prior to seeing the premiere on Friday!
Jumping right to the most burning issue of season four, fans know Peter will be back, and Wyman and Pinkner discussed how and when will he return:
Wyman: People will trust us enough to know we are doing things and have a reason. He is part of the language of the show, part of the DNA. Just because he doesn’t exist doesn't mean the three years we invested in didn’t exist. It really did happen and it will unfold itself and you’ll understand the context of which I speak.
Pinkner: Its outstanding to have the trust of the viewers to allow us to do a story where a character is completely missing. It’s a completely unproven theory, but we've noticed some people are unwlling to invest in a show because they are afraid it will die, it will go away and their time will not be rewarded.
Because we have always had a plan, and because the audience has started to understand that our season finales pay off what was said at the beginning of the season, over time we’ve developed this trust which has provided enormous dividends and allows us to to be really adventurous.
On whether it was more challenging making Peter disappear or bringing him back:
Pinkner: The context of his return has been super fun, and completely rewarding. The consequences of his return will give us an engine for a good part of the season. You’ll understand the reasons why and how we did what we did. The future of our storytelling dictated how he was going to disappear and come back.
On what happened to everything we learned during the first three years and continuity:
Pinkner: We will definitely get continuity. The show has played a lot with secrets, and sometimes viewers don’t know the secret and then they do find out Walter’s secret, and then they knew we had this secret against Peter. The audience and Peter both know what is happening and want him to go back. Everything you did know is still relevant and still valuable. Peter is a stranger in a strange land will have some good value.
On how the two universes will converge, and share cases:
Pinkner: How are these two universes going to work together to heal their joint damage now that they have a means to do so? There will definitely be stories where the two universes have to work together and certainly there is an implication, despite all evidence to the contrary, Walternate will still be a bad guy manipulating from behind the scene.
The reason we want to incorporate two universes is because we want to highlight the characters we love. This is an opportunity to go farther than that, have them in the same frame, and for the two Olivias, for example, looking at a problem very differently. Their solutions are very different, go back to our major theme: our experiences are who we are.
Lincoln Lee brings us a thematic element that we needed to tell the big picture. Him coming in and being displaced, and a lot of the things he is going through, will help us tell our story. A major story is the impact we have on each others lives. How do you define the connections we make? Everything he thought was true is no longer valid and that perspective will help the story as he learns how to put it all together.
As always, we have a slew of really thought provoking cases that deal with time travel, out of control biology, humans who, for understanding and not so understanding reasons, are messing with the universe. We’ve never had an episode that didn’t present challenges.
Wyman: The best part of the two sides working together is that we get to tell some great freaks of the week stories built into our bigger mythology because over there is so messed up and over here is kind of suspicious as well. We have carte blanche to push imaginations to the hilt and see some really cool things realized.
We’re constantly going back to the seeds that were laid to see where we will go. All the shows in seasons two and three will be valuable. If you can brush up, that would be great. For the new viewer it will still make sense, but the fun for the long-time viewer will be “Oh my Gosh, I saw that case! I know how it ends!” But you don’t know, and it ends a completely different way. That’s the thematic point.
Pinkner: When you realize that we have built a world, it just makes it all the more fun for the viewer. They always play as little Easter Eggs. Every episode has a hint about what the next will be about, Observers are in every episode, whether mentioned or not. We do this because we are fans ourselves and enjoy all the little things in the margins that bring us into the world.
On how the fans' trust makes their job so much easier:
Pinkner: We believe that the drama is enough in the program to keep people invested. we feel its our duty to give some answers to give backround on everything youve seen in the past so you can start to contextualize them.
Wyman: It was horrible when Kirk Acevedo’s character was dying. People didn’t know that nobody ever dies on Fringe. We wanted to tell everyone to calm down. But situations like these have built incremental moments of trust.
Every great love story is a winding road. As people got to know her, they realized Fauxlivia was a person and people really started to like her. People feel like they are in good hands. People feel like there is this narrator behind their back pushing them, and they can trust where they are going.
Viewers are willing to invest and make stories a part of their lives. One of the things about the show that appeals to us is our ability to go deep. The best form of science fiction is when it speaks about characters and the human condition and why we are alive at this moment in history.
Other interesting thoughts they shared during the call:
Fringe has become a place for artists to conceptualize themselves in an alternate universe. For example, when they approached Berkeley Breathed to do a varying version of Bloom County for the alternate universe. He delivered a full comic to them the next day. The B-52s gave them a song that was never released, and never will be released, but it was played on the other side. It gives the producers the opportunity to be fans themselves.
- The new, Orange (AMBER!) opening sequence was created in order is to set apart stories told in the universe in which we don't have Peter.
The thematic issue of the season is free will versus destiny and how our choices and interactions with others define who we are. The Observers are a Greek Chorus to that notion and we will learn more about them in the interest of the show's determination to give answers to questions.
- All you need to know or ever need to know about Fringe is on the web. If you’ve never seen the show before, the fourth season is a great place to dive in because everything is new. If you have been watching, it’s making you reimagine what you have seen before.
Okay, friends. Are you as excited as the producers are for the fourth season? I am. Friday cannot come soon enough! Visit TV Fanatic the instant the premiere concludes for a full recap from yours truly.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.