Showrunner J.H. Wyman Talks the Final Season of FRINGE, When to Expect Answers, Creating a Rewarding Conclusion and More
The critically acclaimed and fan-favorite sci-fi drama series Fringe returns for a fifth and final 13-episode season, premiering on Fox on September 28th. Promising to deliver a climactic and satisfying conclusion, things will pick up in 2036, when the Observers have become ruthless rulers who will reign supreme. The Fringe team’s final stand will bring together all that they have witnessed, in preparation to battle and protect the world.
While at the Fox portion of the TCA Press Tour, showrunner/writer/executive producer J.H. Wyman talked about the desire to give the series a real ending, what made him pick the year 2036 for the final season, the effects of the amber on the Fringe team once they’ve been awakened, whether Walter (John Noble) will get a new cow in 2036, how Olivia (Anna Torv) fits into the story now, what fans can expect from the Olivia/Peter (Joshua Jackson) reunion, how soon audiences will get answers about their daughter Etta, and the influences for his work on the show. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOEL WYMAN: Yeah. Another part of the challenge was to bring back things that you’ve forgotten about and maybe some things you haven’t forgotten about, recontextualize them and have the series make sense. That was really a very big part of what I was after, to make sure that [the viewers] would say, “Oh, my gosh, I thought they forgot about that, but they didn’t.” There’s going to be a lot of that. There’s one, specifically, that’s going to be very impactful, I hope.
Will the show really have an ending, or are you going to leave things open-ended?
WYMAN: I’m not interested in leaving it open-ended. That would just cause me frustration. I wouldn’t be satisfied. What’s really cool about Fringe, and one of the things we did do right, was that the way we chose to tell the story was that, with every season, there was a closure and then a new chapter. That allowed us to actually make the closure. And then, if we really wanted to, we could open it up again. One thing Fringe has is no shortage of ideas. There are so many jumping off points that we could use and have thought about. I just wouldn’t want to pull a trick like that on the viewers. I really want to reward them. I honestly and sincerely feel that it’s the most miraculous fan base I’ve ever seen, so I just want to make sure I use every fiber of my body to deliver for them what I think is going to be satisfying for their loyalty.
WYMAN: What’s a hero, if not for its journey. I think you’re going to recontextualize what saving the world means, and I think that you will be satisfied with the stakes. That’s all I can say about that.
Will Walter (John Noble) get a new cow in 2036?
WYMAN: The cow is going to be featured in a way that I think people will be entertained. She’s a very big part of our show, and she’ll be there.
Are you going to be re-shooting the scenes you did, so that you would have a trailer ready to show the network for what you would do with Season 5?
WYMAN: I literally wrote it in five minutes, in order to try to get it shot. It was all about getting picked up and trying to show Kevin [Reilly] what was in the mind. They will appear, in some way, shape or form, but they’ll be re-shot. The concepts are there. We’re going to be in 2036, and you’re going to see this new nuclear, really messed up family that’s trying to hold it all together. That’s where I’m going to focus. You’re going to have to tune in. There are lots of surprises. I’m sure there are some viewers out there that really love the science. There are all kinds of reports about people who teach it in high school, and that’s thrilling. Anything to get children to learn. But, it’s not really about that. All those experiments were just metaphors for the difficulties in life, and that you have to push through them. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can get through it. So, I’m all about hopefulness and trying to put things that are good in the world because I think that it’s a really tough time and it’s important that everybody can watch our show and go, “Wow, I feel good. I can identify with this. It’s so hard for me. I have two jobs. I have a husband that doesn’t show up. I have a kid that doesn’t listen. I have all these terrible things in life that are really difficult and real. But, I just love watching this show because it has hope, all through it.” As an artist, that’s what I want to say.
WYMAN: Let’s just say that the Fringe team 2.0 is really, really important. You are going to find Anna’s re-involvement in a very special and unique way. There’s only 13 [episodes]. If it was Season 2 or 3, I would tell a lot more. This is just because I want everybody to really enjoy the 13 episodes and watch it unfold, and be there and be present. That’s my gift. I want it to be a love letter for the people that invested in this show. If I tell, it’s not going to be as exciting.
Will there be any new cast members or major guest stars this season?
WYMAN: We’re going to have some cool guest stars. There’s been so many people who have come out of the woodwork now, saying that they’d like to be on Fringe. It’s like, “Couldn’t you have said that two years ago? We could have gone up to maybe a three, with your involvement.” So, I’m trying to find a way to bring these people in and make them part of the tapestry. I think it will be really fun to do it with no advertising, so that people go, “Is that? Yeah, that’s who it is!” It’s something more meaningful when you can go, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe that they’re on!” So, I don’t want to say.
WYMAN: It’s so funny because, when the other world was being hatched and conceived, I just kept hearing, “Don’t do that! That’s a huge mistake! People love your characters. Why go to these new ones?” And I was like, “No, we can do this! I’m invested. Why wouldn’t they be?” So, it’s amazing that viewers felt something so profoundly about the other universe, but I use them for a specific reason, in order to tell thematic things I wanted to tell, like the choices we make, make different things, and you’re only one choice away from a new life. Keep in mind that, from “Fade In,” it’s a manipulation. The second I write, “Fade In,” I’m manipulating and trying to say something, using this great story and tapestry to get it across. There was a plan for the reasons why we went there, and it became very important. It’s an organism that’s always changing. Now that I know it’s so important to people, it starts to factor in, in a different way. You may be surprised. You don’t know. You’re going to have to see.
Were there any shows or movies that influenced your work on Fringe?
Did introducing time travel, in the way that you did, create any unexpected issues or complications for you, narratively?
WYMAN: No. Once we thought, “What’s the coolest way that we could tell this story, and what do we want to do?,” and we came up with the gist of what it was like, it was very easy to imagine what that would be. It’s not a traditional time travel story. Nobody is getting into a time machine. It’s different than getting trapped in amber and woken up, in the future. We all fell in love with the idea that the Fringe team from the past has to come and save the future.
What are the residual effects of the amber on them?
WYMAN: There are some cool things that we’ve already established about amber. You have your last thought in your head, for all those years, so that becomes relevant. What were you thinking, when you were in that amber? There are residual effects, in different ways. You’re going to see some of them. It depends. If you’re in amber and you somebody pushes you and it gets destroyed, you could break into a million pieces, and then you can be put back together. It’s basically like a freeze-drying.
WYMAN: We just figured that it would be a good age for Etta to be a part of the Fringe division. How cool is it for a woman to dedicate her life to finding her parents, who may or may not be dead? She’s believed in this lore that her parents are these famous Fringe fighters that just went missing. Some people say they’re in Peru, and some people say they’re dead. I just was really intoxicated with that whole concept, as we all were. We just thought that was the right time ‘cause she could be old enough to have made an impact in her own life, becoming a Fringe division agent, working for the underground. Her history was fascinating to us. What happened to her? Where did she go? Who raised her? When did she decide that she wanted to be in the Fringe division? Did she just use it as an apparatus to be able to find her parents? All these questions are really cool and provided us with a lot of push-off points.
Will the answers to those questions come right away, or will you get them a little at a time?
WYMAN: You’re going to learn what happened and get more of a context. When you come in, we’re going to settle you in to the point where you’ll be like, “Oh, I know what’s happening. I know what’s come before.” I don’t want to pull any tricks. I’m interested in really hitting what we’ve earned and have some very wild, freaky, fringe-y things. I don’t want to make it so it’s hard to understand. I want to make it so it’s like, “Oh, I get it! This is really cool!”
WYMAN: That it’s a good one! I believe in the Peter relationship with Olivia, and I wanted to make sure that it was worthy of all those people who are invested in that relationship. It’s actually more of a fractured fairy tale, but in a cool way. I just wanted to make sure that people were like, “Oh, wow!” I think that’s where they are. What’s really key is what happens after they get out of amber and what has happened. The questions people should be asking, which are interesting, are, “From the time Etta disappeared, what happened to them? How did they get amber? How did they end up in the amber? What happened to this team? How did this happen with Walter and William Bell?” Not a lot of people are asking that, which I find interesting because there’s a large story there.
How did the amber get over here?
WYMAN: The amber is over there, but everybody knows the technology. September knows the technology. Walter knows the technology. There are a lot of ways to get it. It was here in Season 1, but you just didn’t know it. There was a bust in Season 1, when they were trying to figure out the pattern, that looked like a weapon and people thought it was a weapon of mass destruction, but it was amber. Now, we explain what amber is. But, I can’t take credit for that. Nobody can. We didn’t know, at the time, that that was where we were going with it. It’s just an example of fortunate storytelling, that you can pull from the past to form the future.