Post Mortem: Fringe Boss Talks 'Quiet' Finale, the Final Season's 'Huge Payoff' and [Spoiler]'s 'Fate'

Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 4 finale of Fox’s Fringe.

Fox’s Fringe on Friday night served up a season finale that wrapped a rollicking-good yarn involving William Bell, his God complex and his elaborate plan to lord over a new (dino-mite?) dominion fashioned from a third universe. By the hour’s end, said scheme was snuffed by the extinguishing of Belly’s power source – that being Olivia the Cortexiphanatic, who then was revived thanks to Walter’s icky-gooey inventiveness [Shudder] and Liv’s heightened healing ability.

In the coda, a recuperated Olivia revealed to Peter that the nursery she spoke of the week prior was going to be very much needed — she’s pregnant! – before we cut to the actual dropping of shoe: September the Observer materializing in Walter’s lab to report that “they” are coming. “They,” as anyone who watched the time-trippy Episode 19 knows, are the aggressive pack of Observers hell-bent on ruling Earth all while wearing jaunty hats.

TVLine spoke with executive producer Joel Wyman about that season-ending hook and what it’s teeing up, and the excitement he and EP Jeff Pinkner feel about wrapping the show on their own terms come fall.

TVLINE | The “button” for this finale, the final moment, was one of the quieter ones the series has had to date. Is that a trade-off you made by revealing what you did in Episode 19?
Exactly. It was quiet. Whereas the seasons that came before, it was always such an accelerated, “Let’s jam you to watch next season!” thing, this was more of an emotional crescendo. Traditionally we end the seasons with chapters, and this was a gentle closing of the chapter.

TVLINE | But as much as may have been revealed in 19, is it safe to say we don’t have a true grasp for all that’s coming?
September [in the final scene] was referring to the Observers [coming], to the events of 419. But going forward, it’s a who, what, where, when and why, for sure. It’s also a crescendo of everything that has come before it. Season 5 is designed to be very important, a huge payoff for loyal fans. They will feel like, “Because I invested in every single episode, and I have so many questions, I want these questions answered. And I want everything to be made sense of, but taken on a journey that just can’t be stopped. I want it to end in a place where I feel like everybody kind of belongs where they are and got what they’ve earned.” There will be a sense of satisfaction for those long-term viewers that go, “Wow, I really feel good. I feel OK about what has transpired, what I have watched. But I also can imagine life after that for our main characters.” So that’s what Season 5 is — and it’s a big responsibility! [Laughs]

TVLINE | Along those lines, are you and Jeff pretty excited to have that final season order, to march toward the finish line you’ve always had in your head?
Oh my god…. Look, if not for you guys [in the press] and the fans, there’s no way we’d still be here — so a big thank you for that, for caring enough to recognize that we’re trying really hard here. We’re always amazed that [Fox] went forward with this, because it’s no secret the ratings were what they were. But we stuck to this point of view that we’re never going to change the storytelling based on anybody’s input. This is going to be a story we tell 100-percent from our hearts, authentically, good or bad — and if we’re fortunate enough to get where we want to go, that’s a small miracle. So when got the 13[-episode final season order] – which we knew about maybe an hour before everybody else – it was like, “Finally, I get some canvas to finish this picture.” And truthfully, I was more relieved for the fans.

TVLINE | I, as I know you do, think the world of John Noble. For years he’s be an outstanding ambassador for your show. But he did tell us a few weeks ago that something a little bit extra or different had been shot in case this was the series finale. I know you rebuffed that idea when I asked you about it last week, but can you then clarify what John might have been speaking about?
I think we’re talking about two different things. These guys [on our cast] are doing their best given what they know, since traditionally we’re very secretive. We had talked about a couple of ideas, Jeff and I – “Well, maybe we could take it this way, or take it another way” — but we still wanted to be true to the main idea. So there was a thought there that maybe we should do a whole different thing if we get picked up or if we don’t. We felt, ultimately, that we weren’t going to film anything that we thought would be completely different. We talked about it, and there was something shot that we used in a different context that nobody could have possibly imagined. So that’s where the confusion lies with John. We just basically said, “Know what? We found a way to cover both angles, and we’re OK with it.”

TVLINE | How much time will have passed when we pick back up in the fall?
Let’s say this, without being too spoilery: Episode 419 is obviously crucial, and I can say that everything that you’ve watched for the first four seasons is very important to what is going to happen in [Season] 5. Episode 419 is an absolutely imperative part of that story.

TVLINE | But what I was getting at is, in the Season 5 premiere is it, for example, five months later? Is Etta maybe a six-year-old… ? Or is that the question you were answering?
That’s what I’m trying to not spoil. [Laughs] But it will make sense. It’s fair to say… that you were really, really right on the money when you were saying that 419 sort of took away the need for some huge hook at the end of Season 4. Take what you will from that!

TVLINE | It hit me right before this call that Olivia’s announcement to Peter about the baby came right before September showed up to warn Walter. Can we draw a correlation?
Interesting…. What do you mean?

TVLINE | Meaning, are the evil Observers now on their way because of the baby Olivia is having?
Um…. [Laughs] Let’s say that yeah, we saw in 419 what the result of that is, that Etta is in the future a major thorn in the side of the Observers. So it’s definitely all a part of fate.

What did you think of the Fringe finale? And any forecasts for the final season?

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