Fall Preview: Fringe Swan Song 'Is About Family, Emotion'... and Things That May Blow Your Mind

With Fringe being Fringe – that is, a sci-fi drama that has proven over and over again that everything is possible — showrunner J.H. Wyman has at his disposal, entering the final season, any number of super-cool storytelling devices in his toolbox.

Yet what he most wants to play with is the characters’ — and thus viewers’ — emotions, as the Fox series unspools its last13 episodes.

“I realized this is not a season for tricks and multiple universes, new introductions of things,” Wyman tells TVLine. “So I had to do some soul-searching and say, ‘What would I like? What would I want, demand, if I had invested four years in this show?'”

PHOTO | Fringe First Look: The Final Season Poster

After asking himself those critical questions, Wyman came away with two final-season resolutions.

“One thing I was adamant about was getting inside the emotion of the characters that everybody has grown to know over four years, and really pay that off in a big way,” he attests. “[This season] is about questions, about emotion, about family…. I want to put the viewer down on ground level with our characters, so they can go through this final experience with them.”

That said, Fringe is by no means going cold turkey with the far-out. Instead, you should count on quality over quantity. “I want to see the stuff that really freaks us out… all that Fringe-y stuff that’s inherently our show,” Wyman clarifies. “And some of the things may really blow your mind because now we’re in the future, and things are all that much cooler. You can really let your imagination go.”

Second on Wyman’s “must” list: After the very final entry in what he calls a “13-hour feature film saga”Fringe Season 5 has hit the airwaves, “I want to get into my car the next day, drive off and feel like, ‘Hmm, I can imagine where these characters are today. I can imagine what they’re doing.’ That was really important, because I can’t accept closure that doesn’t have some form of hope. That’s just who I am.”

VIDEO | Fringe Final Season First Look: For Etta or Worse!

Even the glimmer of hope, though, is 13 long hours away. As Season 5 starts up this Friday at 9/8c, viewers will lay witness to a most idyllic setting: Peter and his wife Olivia (played by Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv), several years into the future, beaming as their young daughter Henrietta frolics in a park.

But then the Observers came.

“That moment in time would definitely be an earmark to where things started to go off the rails,” Wyman says. “They had their daughter taken from then, inadvertently, but she’s gone.” And though we know, from last season’s Episode 19, “Letters of Transit,” that Etta eventually emerged unscathed and even grew up to be a fine Fringe agent herself, her parents’ union was dealt a blow. “Most couples, when they lose a child, unfortunately don’t make it through that,” Wyman notes. “So, what happened to Peter and Olivia?”

Rather than rely too heavily on flashbacks to answer questions about the time between Henrietta’s abduction and when Peter, Walter (John Noble) and others got ambered, Wyman says “you’ll see bits,” enough to understand the rift that formed between husband and wife. “I’m keeping the narrative of this as clean as possible.”

Instead, Season 5 is set almost exclusively in the year 2036, picking up soon after the events of “Letters of Transit,” during which Peter reunited with Etta (Georgina Haig) in a powerful, sweet scene that can never be watched too many times on YouTube. There in the future, Peter, Etta, Walter and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) will piece together the puzzle of “Where is Olivia?” – which is but the first step in their great journey towards (hopefully) vanquishing the evil Observers who now lord over Earth.

RELATED | Matt’s Inside Line: Scoop on Fringe‘s Final Season and Broyles’ Dilemma

Why did the chrome-domed, fedora fetishists seize our planet anyway? “That’s the cool thing — they always had an agenda. We just didn’t really understand completely what it was,” Wyman previews. “When you realize that they wrecked their planet and came to use ours…. That’s just who they are. They sort of don’t really consider us to be anything worthy [as an opponent], to be honest.”

To further appreciate what the Observers have in mind, Wyman promises to occasionally eavesdrop on those very strange birds. “I find them fascinating and I know a lot of people do, so I’ve been adamant about helping people understand them, and I think you will,” he says. “You’ll understand what their mentality is like and what it’s like to be an Observer.”

RELATED | Fringe Boss Teases Three-Part Series Finale — But When Will It Air?

Skimming Wyman’s plan above, one might wonder if the Alt Universe — the other side where we spent so much time during Season 3 and some of Season 4 — will be allowed to sneak in one last encore. The answer would seem to be a regretful no. “It’s so tough, because it’s only 13 episodes… and my biggest fear is to sort of have, like, this daisy chain of cool things,” Wyman explains. “It’s all got to be about something. I want to focus on what’s really going on, on the real drama. What’s the real stuff that makes you care? It’s these people that you’re invested in.”

When all is said and done and the last hour of what Wyman describes as a “three-part finale” airs early in the new year, “Sure, there’ll be some guy in Des Moines going, ‘Hey, you never answered that thing in Episode 3.…’ But that’s OK. I’ll live with that,” Wyman says. “Because all the stuff that’s really, truly important , the emotional things, will be addressed.”

Speaking of the emotional, Wyman gets that way as he reflects on these, the final months ahead of him. (Shortly after Thanksgiving, he will fly to Vancouver to direct the series’ final episode.)

“It’s hard, because at the same time that you feel, ‘OK, a script is finished and that’s an accomplishment,’ you also feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, another script is finished and we’re closer to the end,” he shares. “Everybody involved with the program, we are so in love with these characters, [and] it’s getting harder and harder because you realize, ‘Wow, these are really beautiful characters and they’ve all grown so much.’ And what they’re going through in this last season is profound. So it’s bittersweet that way.”

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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31 Comments
  1. ACL says:

    Bless you, Joel. Counting on you to not let us down.

  2. Every Sci FI show I have invested in has been forced off the air on me. The X-fIles, never did properly wrap things up. All the Stargates, were forced and rushed. Smallville is more of a fantasy action than sci fi and even tjat one seemes rushed. Dollhouse, Birds of Prey, Firefly and Dark Angel got axed b4 their tiime. With that said, Joel, I’m counting on you to give me the closure I deserve with this little show I have invested 5 years in to

    • TVHuntyr says:

      I disagree with almost everything you said. Where I’ll agree is that the one great travesty that almost all Sci-Fi fans would agree with was the mishandling of Firefly.

      How can you say that the Stargates were rushed? There were 17 seasons of television there. Yes, SGU got cancelled earlier than I would have liked, but the franchise was not shortchanged.

      Dark Angel had a decent season, but the second season was absolute garbage, and along with most of the others you mentioned, they were cancelled because the ratings don’t merit their renewal. Fringe, by it’s ratings should have been cancelled a couple of years ago. We’re fortunate as fans, that in this case the network decided to continue airing the show.

  3. tjj50 says:

    I almost don’t want the season to start, becase it’s going to be over that much sooner. I’m so grateful for a season 5, but so disappointed it’s only 13 episodes. Regardless, I will continue to let everyone I know know that I’m not avaialble Friday’s at 9pm.

  4. Chris says:

    Hee. the last remaining believer in the moonlighting curse is joel wyman. either that or he just hates the polivia fans. Looks like he’ll let Peter finally be more than set decor while Anna changes wigs tho’ so it should be interesting to watch the end.

    • I’m sorry, did you not watch season 4? Because the whole damn point of that season was to show what an impact Peter’s made on the lives of these people. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damn sure that makes him more than set decor.
      And I’m not overly happy about the splitting Peter and Olivia up again thing, but it does make sense that a couple would fall out after losing a child. It has nothing to do with the freaking moonlighting curse, for heaven’s sake.

  5. M3rc Nate says:

    Though its totally realistic, idk how i feel about Peter and Olivia’s marriage being strained, maybe almost over. I hope and pray that my favorite part about fringe ( i LOVE every other part too) Peter and Olivia’s love story, will in the end be positive. By that i mean im sure when they release her, she will still be upset (etc), but once she mets her daughter she and Peter will reconnect and hopefully be fighting together in love. So much of the show was will-they-wont-they, and finally they did, but all the parts of them actually happy, together, in love…have been ruined or skipped over (he popped out of universe, then when back with Olivia she gets prego and their 4 years of love and Etta gets skipped to 2036).

  6. Mindy says:

    I am not very interested in a “Fringe” without the Alt Universe. I feel that Alt Universe was the entire point of the show. Back from season 1 it was the cracks in the universe that was the source of the problems. People had been sneaking over from the other side. All of season 2 was about Walter’s and Peter’s history with the Alt Universe. Season 3 was the best season, and it was entirely about the other universe. I don’t really care about the Observers.

    Needless to say, I am not very excited about the new season.

    • raftrap says:

      I agree with season 3 being the best Fringe season so far, my favorite character is Fauxlivia (Bolivia-Altlivia….), and not getting to see her this final season is just something that bugs me, hopefully we’ll get at least a reference or a quick look at the alt-universe before the show ends, cause I would really, really, like to see that. Other than that I can’t wait to see the Observer infested world, I’m ready for season 5 to begin.

    • wilderowens says:

      I kinda feel like a lot of the Alt Universe story was wrapped up when they made peace with the other side’s Fringe Division. The final string was the Robert David Jones storyline, which can be settled without the alt universe. I agree though, it would be great to have them make an appearance in the last season but I’m just happy they get to wrap things up at all.

  7. Emy says:

    Fringe has the best characters on tv, glad the story will still focus on them.

  8. panda says:

    I love this show.

  9. Dannyboy says:

    I know he’s not the showrunner or anything on Fringe, but can someone please tell me why every JJ Abrams show starts with this amazing idea, builds it into must-see TV and then at the end of the series life dissapoints. If you have an amazing idea you should work the end out first. Alias, Lost, now Fringe. No time for the alternate universe indeed. Of course the ‘emotional things’ to do with the characters are important but set within the context of the show. I hope this is a trick like they did with Leonard Nimoy and it’s all going to wrap up properly at the end, otherwise it will just be another Bad Robot production that starts well and ends with a cop-out.

    • Eh? The shutting-off-the-altverse thing was very poignantly and beautifully dealt with in Worlds Apart. It’s hardly a cop-out. And it definitely makes sense that they don’t have time to concentrate on the alternate universe, because it’s thirteen episodes only, and trying to fit it in would just result in a humongous mess. I’d much rather they just deal with the core characters.

    • Hana says:

      C’ mon, does anyone REALLY believe we won’t see the Alt-U again? I’m fully expecting a big Zeppelin shadow to fall over our main characters at a climactic Season 5 moment.

    • Mikael says:

      I do agree to a point. They knew Lost was going to end at Season 6 during Season 3! They should have had EVERYTHING figured out by then. It really seemed like they had no idea how to finish the series. With Alias (still one of my favorite shows ever), they set up the final season beautifully. It seemed like it was going to be a return to the pure perfection of seasons 1 and 2. But I’m pretty sure they didn’t know going into season 5 that it would be the last. I think they found out early enough to put an ending together, but not early enough to end it well. I have a feeling that Fringe won’t disappoint though.

  10. Hana says:

    OK, so, am I the only Fringe fan who doesn’t feel a sense of entitlement here about “getting the proper ending”?

    This show has already rewarded me a hundredfold over the last four years. I’m enjoying the last season, and have few expectations, except that I trust Joel Wyman to do what he’s already said he wants to do, and that is have an ending that is not “WTF-y,” is hopeful, and leaves room for us to imagine the characters having a future. That is all.

    I’m certainly not going to sit there with my arms crossed and expecting THE PERFECT ENDING.

    • Mikael says:

      I agree. The show could have easily ended after Season 4, stopping the universes from collapsing into each other, which was primarily the point of the show. Season 5 is like a 13 episode bonus, and I cannot wait to enjoy it.

  11. How did Joel know I was from Des Moines?

  12. tvdiva says:

    I am so grateful and thankful that Fox let Fringe go out on its own terms. As viewers, we had five great years together with quality storytelling and fine acting. I could not ask for more.

  13. NCSouthernBelle says:

    I can’t wait for 9:00!!!

  14. Liz says:

    I, myself, loves the parallel universe more than observers’ story line. I’m in love with all these characters that even if this last season was unable to satisfy me, I’m already so grateful to have been experiencing the epicness of S2 and S3 of Fringe.

  15. BEBE says:

    I ADORE FRINGE AND CONSIDER IT SUPERIOR DRAMA,SCI FI OR OTHERWISE.THERE ARE A FEW OF US WHO ENJOY INTELLIGENT TV SHOWS. WHAT WILL REPLACE IT WITH?ANOTHER REALITYSHOW FOR THE DUMB MASSES?( A LARGE PART OF MY FAMILY ARE IN THIS GROUP SO I DO NOT MEAN TO.SOUND SO DEROGATORY) THEY ENJOY THEIR SHOWS BUT I LOVE MINE.THERE ARE SO MANY REALITY SHOWS AND SO FEW SHOWS WITH REAL SUBSTANCE THAT OTHER PEOPLE LIKE ME CAN WATCH.MAYBE OUR NUMBERS AREN’T AS HIGH AS THE NETWORKS WANT.,BUT WE ARE CONSUMERS AND DESERVE SOME CONSIDERATION TOO. .

  16. Hi!Would you like a cup of tea? The Smiths are my neighbors.This is the most wonderful day of my life, because I’m here with you now.He is taller than I by ahead.There is a chair below the window.There is a chair below the window.Feel better? Don’t let this get you down.Li Bai is one of the greatest poets that have ever lived in China.

  17. Alesa says:

    This is one of the best shows ever! It’s intelligent and makes the viewer think. To me this is a serious rip off for the fans this ending. There were so many directions this show could go and could carry at least 10 seasons. Watching this last season its so hurried and convoluted. Where’s the explanation of why and how the world got overtaken by observers, how Peter, Olivia, and Walter were ambered? There are so many questions that need answered

  18. Kat says:

    I agree with a few fans that we were blessed to have the opportunity of watching 5 seasons of Fringe. It could have not made it on TV at all. Perhaps J.J. Abrams will come up with another idea that he can develop to its natural ending. I will miss Fringe but so many of my favorite shows have been cancelled that I now expect quality shows to have low ratings. Quality is NOT for the masses.

  19. ronval says:

    ici aussi en France nous sommes fans de Fringe. Merci de nous avoir donné une série sci-fi de qualité toutes les autres séries vont nous paraître bien fades maintenant.

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