Executive Producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman Talk FRINGE Season 4 Finale and Season 5

     May 4, 2012


Much to the happiness of its devoted fanbase, Fox recently picked up the sci-fi drama Fringe for a fifth and final 13-episode season, allowing the series to provide the climactic conclusion that it’s been heading towards.  The two-part finale, airing on May 4th and 11th, will see the Fringe team pushed to their breaking point, as they face off against David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) and desperately attempt to prevent a catastrophic event that threatens the lives of everyone.

During this recent interview to discuss the remainder of this season, showrunners/executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman talked about how much the fan and social media support has meant to them, the impact the final episodes of this season could have on Season 5, their hope that they’ll get Leonard Nimoy back for the final season, that contrary to what has been reported there was no alternate ending that was shot in case the show didn’t get picked up, what they were doing when they found out they would get a final 13 episodes to finish telling this story, that they definitely know where and how the series is going to end and what they’re saying with the final season, and that they hope to continue the story with some comic books, once all is said and done.  Check out what they had to say after the jump.

j-h-wyman-jeff-pinkner-fringe-season-4-finaleQuestion: Between who viewers saw in the amber, in Episode 19, what Joshua Jackson has said about Episode 19 informing Season 5, and Walter saying, “He’s alive!,” are you going to have to bring back Leonard Nimoy as William Bell?

JEFF PINKNER:  We’ve basically erected a sign outside of Leonard’s house, which said, “Please come back to Fringe,” and we are hoping that, by Season 5, he says yes.

You’re not writing yourselves into a little bit of a corner, if you need the character?

J.H. WYMAN:  No because, once you realize the extent of everything, it will probably all become clear why we’re not.  We just don’t want to spoil too much.

There’s been talk that an alternate ending was shot, in case you didn’t get the Season 5 pick-up.  Is that something people might get to see on the DVD release for Season 4?

WYMAN:  No, we did not shoot an alternate ending.  We did not.  We thought about it, but we did not.

Are you done with the Redverse, or will viewers see the Redverse again?  And, what is Seth Gabel’s position on the show, if we don’t see the Redverse again?

PINKNER:  As always, we are really, really devoted to everybody and the people asking those questions, but we have a no spoilers policy because we’re just of the mind that the entertainment value of watching the stories unfold is diminished, if you already know what’s coming.  We love all those characters from the Redverse.  The door is closed because of the problems that David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) is causing.  If our team can somehow dispense with Jones, there’s absolutely a possibility of that door being opened again.  We can’t definitively say anything.  Seth is spectacular and awesome and has been such a phenomenal addition to the cast, but as far as his standing going forward, to say anything about that would also be to reveal things that are coming ahead.

Fringe-Joshua Jackson-season-4-finaleWYMAN:  Like we’ve always said, nobody’s ever really dead on Fringe.

Will viewers be seeing any more of the year 2036, either this season or in Season 5?

WYMAN:  Yes, I think it’s safe to say you will.

Is it possible that David Robert Jones is not the penultimate bad guy here, and that there’s someone higher on the baddie food chain, like William Bell or someone else?

WYMAN:  That’s interesting.  No bad guy really thinks that they’re a bad guy.  Jones is a pretty good bad guy.

PINKNER:  What’s been fun for us is that there have been two David Robert Jones’ on our show, and both are largely the same person, in almost every way, existing in two different timelines, but even he has a doppelganger.  It’s so incredibly fun to see Jared Harris portray this character that, for all intents and purposes, could be a doppelganger in a much different alternate universe to David Robert Jones.  Jared is just spectacular.  In the world of, “Is there another bad guy who is pulling his strings or above him?,” I think we’d be wrong to say anything other than just David Robert Jones is pretty compelling and he’s pretty nefarious.  He’s definitely a suitable opponent for our team.  It’s taken all of them to deal with him.

WYMAN:  The ground will shift a little bit and you’ll understand him a little bit deeper.

At this point, what can you say about next season, as far as how it relates to “Letters of Transit”?

PINKNER:  We can tell you nothing.

WYMAN: It’s hard because part of our storytelling has always been re-contextualizing what you think you know and what you’ve seen, and putting it into a different mind-frame for the viewer.  Let’s just say that that future is important to our storytelling, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.  There is always a reason to do it.  We’re going to go into the past because we have to put you in that headspace, so you can understand this and figure out where the character is coming from or has been, in order for you to get the full experience of what you’re watching today, in the present.  That’s how we feel about “Letters of Transit.”  It was for a reason.  Episode 19 is traditionally the one where we go off the beaten path, and that was no different.  It was definitely off the beaten path.  Does it have further implications?  It does.  You’re going to definitely need to understand what “Letters of Transit” was, in order to fully grasp all the things we’re going to tell this year.

Fringe-Seth Gabel-season-4-finaleHow instrumental were the fans, getting on social media and talking about the show, to getting your fifth season?

WYMAN:  It was massive.  This is actually a really cool time in television history, or it will be considered a cool time, where social networks are informing the big networks.  They go into action for their show, which is great.  Before, it used to be like, “Well, we’re going to send a whole bunch of letters,” which is okay, but it’s not this.  What this is and what’s going on now is really empowering for the fans because they feel that they have a platform and a forum to really express to people – who may or may not be listening, but the chances are that they are – their deep gratitude and love of the show, and their support.  Our fans are so incredible that they were calling the sponsors saying, “Hey, I don’t watch it live because I have a job, but I love the show and watch it on DVR.  I’m going to buy your product.  You must have good taste because you guys are supporting Fringe.”  That was huge for us.  It was a whole movement.  Honestly, there’s not a moment where I don’t think about how lucky we are to have such incredible fans.

PINKNER:  I think it is absolutely fair to say that, without the support of the fans and social media, there would be no Season 5.

Where were you when you found out about the renewal for Season 5?

WYMAN:  I was actually getting a guitar fixed.  I got a call and it was all of these very happy voices.  It was such an incredible call because it just came out of nowhere.  It was really music to my ears.  We were hoping for the best, but we really did not know anything.  A lot of people were speculating that we did know or that it was a done deal, and a lot of people said it was all business, which really isn’t the case, either.

PINKNER:  I had just dropped my kids off at school.  I was walking back to my car and we got a phone call.  We were asked to hold for both the studio and the network, and you instantly realize that they’re not all calling to deliver bad news.  They were calling to deliver good news.  Graciously, they told the two of us simultaneously, as well as telling Bad Robot.  We were all overjoyed.  And then, they said, “Please don’t tell anybody because we have a plan to announce this to the world.”  Joel said, “Well, we have a dedicated, loyal Twitter following, and we’d like to tell them.”  They said, “Okay, give us a second, and then we’ll tell you when you can tell everybody.”  So, we had this really awesome secret for a little while.

How long before the actual official announcement did you guys find out?

WYMAN:  It was hours.

Fringe-John-NoblePINKNER:  Yes, I think it was four hours.

WYMAN:  You have to let everybody do their job.  They had some great ideas about how they would like to release the information, and we wanted to be supportive of that while, at the same time, being loyal to our fans and being the first to Twitter it, which was the case.  The Twitter guys got it first.  So, it was just a matter of everybody coordinating and saying, “Let’s figure out the best way to give everybody this good news.”  It was very happy.

Were you hoping to have a full season, or was 13 just enough to get where you want to go?

WYMAN:  Yes.  We were always hoping for the best, and you have to plan for the worst.  A lot of the greatest things that people have loved about the program have come from ideas that we had had that snowballed and became something else, and forced us to look at something in a different way and realize, “Hey, that’s a really cool story stream.  We should really give that a try.”  That said, and knowing that happens, when you’re telling 13 episodes, I’m sure there will be things that we’ll discover where we’ll go, “That could be really cool.”  If we had 22, we could really take advantage of that, but the truth is that we could only operate on what we have.  We were hoping, at the minimum, we would get 13, so that we could tell our story and have ways to do that.  If it was a 22 episode season, we would have found ways to do that, too.  I think that Fringe has come such a long way.  We were just more concerned that we would have the ability to not have a couple of episodes to wrap something up, but really an arc that was a real final season event.

Do you see the 13 episodes to tell the story as a blessing, so that you can pace it out?

WYMAN:  Yes.  Like I said, we know the end.  It’s a perfect amount of time to be done right and to be doled out in the right pace.  We feel really confident that we can have a satisfying ending for us, but also, of course, for our fans and supporters, within the timeframe of 13 episodes.  I think that’s really what we were hoping for.  Fox is so great to deliver, and continues to demonstrate their incredible support.  So, yes, we are very content.

Jeff, are there any plans for you to direct an episode in Season 5?

PINKNER:  There are always plans afoot, but it’s a little early for us to worry about that right now.  Joel did a spectacular job and I think we’d be well served, if Joel directed all 13 episodes in Season 5.  We’ve been really, really fortunate, in that we’ve identified directors who have brought so much to the show.  When we sit in the editing room, we’re so excited by the material we get back in.  We have the most talented stable of directors.  They’re amazing.

You guys have been very vocal about having an end plan mapped out.  Have you given any thought as to how these final 13 episodes will play out?

Fringe-John-NobleWYMAN:  Going down the road, as we finish the chapter, close it, and then start a new one, we definitely know.  When we’re thinking about the end of the season, we’re always thinking about the beginning of the next one and where that’s going to take us and what kind of doors it can open.  That’s basically how it’s been since the get-go, and it’s no different this year.  We definitely know where and how the series is going to end and what we’re saying with the final season.

As writers, because you guys didn’t know you were going to get another season, how did you approach Season 4, knowing that you might not get to tell the entire story?

WYMAN:  The analogy that suits us the best is to imagine that you’re on an airplane and you start to read a great novel that you’re really enjoying.  You get through it, and then there’s a whole other layover and you get to read four more chapters.  You get to the end of a chapter where there’s going to be a new beginning and you realize, “Okay, now it’s time to get off the plane,” and you need to go about your business.  You’re stuck with that lost chapter and you feel like, “Okay, that was very satisfying, although I can understand that there’s another book.  If I can get my hands on that other book, in the next 15 minutes, I swear I would read it.  But, I’ve just finished this version and while it’s complete, I still have a longing to understand the characters in a deeper fashion and to imagine where they’re going to go after this logical conclusion that I just read.”  That’s how we look at the end of every season.  That’s why we felt like the inadvertent design of Fringe ended up being a blessing.  You’re protected because you’re closing one chapter and then beginning another.

You’ll see, in the finale, that it’s like, “Okay, I can understand how the show can end, but I’m interested in going further.”  That was how we approached it.  We close every single season with a chapter.  When Peter disappeared, that could have been an ending.  It would have been, “Whoa, wait, what was that?  What happened?”  But, it would have been an ending, of sorts.  Peter had to sacrifice himself in order to save his family.  You wouldn’t be happy about that, but you would understand it.  Then, you could imagine that, one day, they would meet again.  We just finish the season conclusion in a manner that we feel is authentic and real for that season, and then we use that as a push-off point to go tell another aspect of the story that we hope people will be interested in.

Since you do have the 13 episodes to finish things out how you’d like to, has there also been any talk about creating ways to keep the mythology going through alternative media, whether it’s comic books or in some other ways?

PINKNER:  We thought about a traveling Fringe baseball game, where we’ll travel around the country and there’ll be a red team and a blue team, populated by identical twins.  But, that’s a little tough to get off the ground.

WYMAN:  When I was at WonderCon or Comic-Con, I said that, “If there’s no pick-up, we’re definitely going to try to finish off the stories, by hook or by crook.”  It would have had to be comic books that would actually try to give some closure to the fans.  We meant it, at the time.  I think now that we have the 13, that’s not a far out idea.  I love comics, and Jeff does, too.  I think that, if there was a significant story where we were like, “You know what?  I think people really want to know more about this aspect of the show that really wasn’t covered 100%,” and they’re really interested, then yes, that would be something that we would consider.

PINKNER:  I’m sure you’re aware that there’s a Fringe comic book that will continue.  Josh Jackson wrote an awesome arc in the book this season, and if we’re fortunate enough and DC will continue to partner with us, that will continue to come out.  There are still stories to tell that are outside the universe of the TV show.  Baseball joke aside, we don’t have plans for anything other than what is already in the works, some of which is still a secret and some of which you may know about.  Largely, the TV show will tell the story.

WYMAN:  The idea of a couple of very specific, gold cover special edition comics may find their way.

Fringe airs on Friday nights on Fox.

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