Althoug intense family drama such as the one the Bishops are currently going through is not (thankfully) part of your every day family supper conversation, there is something else in Fringe’s storyline that almost anyone can relate to: Peter’s questions with regards to his place and role in the greater scheme of things. Fringe’s executive producers, Jeff Pinkner and JH Wyman, addressed this question during last week’s conference call interview with members of the press.
Granted, not many of us are transplants from an alternate universe; however, everyone does ask themselves questions related to the reason for their existence. And so, Peter’s journey is one that we can all relate to, despite his rather unusual circumstances: “you have to go through darkness to get to light so that’s his journey right now,” Wyman told us. “Just keep in mind when he first showed up on the team, this was a guy who was sort of rudderless and had absolutely no concept of who he was. He was a conman with very many personas and didn’t really commit to anything and didn’t really have substantial relationships in life that he could connect with. So if anything, I guess one could argue that he’s found a family, sometimes that he doesn’t want, but he’s found and has become a more dimensionalized human being.”
And come to think of it, Peter’s unusual circumstances are precisely the reason why his journey is so relatable; taken out of our normal, one-universe context, it allows for a certain objectivity when reflecting on it, an objectivity we can often lack when reflecting on our own experiences.
It seems the Fringe production team is taking full advantage of the character of Peter to reflect this common theme: “That journey is like real life. Sometimes dark, terrible things happen and you have to move through them. They don’t go away very quickly. They actually form who you are once you pass through the other side. It’s a difficult journey, but once you get through the other side you come out at least stronger and more enlightened.”
Wyman was on a roll, and his passion for his creation shone through: “I love a character, and I know that Jeff does too, that basically is trying to do the right thing but is having setbacks on an emotional level or on an intellectual level. He’s confused, but he’s trying to be a good person. He’s trying to do the right thing. He’s trying to get answers and trying to find happiness which we think everybody is today. Everybody goes through that so he’s sort of like this walking metaphor for us of people like, yes, every time you think you’ve got something great something comes around the corner and it can set you off balance and you have to deal with it. So that’s how we see him. I think that he’ll find happiness in increments and where they really count.”
Which, of course, is why Fringe is neither obsessed with becoming a cult sci-fi show nor with limiting itself to being a procedural show: “everybody defines procedural differently,” Pinkner explained. “There will absolutely be a story in each episode with a beginning, middle and end. There will be cases. Our team is charged with solving cases, which we love, those stories reflect on the themes that the characters are going through. So we’re not suddenly changing the storytelling of the show. It’s expanded and now we have two universes and all the things we’ve talked about but we’re going to be exploring cases on this side and that side.”
The executive producers also touched upon the type of episodes fans can expect this year: “In monster-of-the-week versus mythology,” Wyman explained, “we realize there was this sense of frustration from our core viewers and our big fans that say come on we want to see the mythology. But of course it’s very important to kind of constantly try to attract more viewers and to try and not make the show alienating; if you haven’t watched season one and season two, that you’re done. We didn’t want to get that because we think that would be a tragedy because we believe that anybody can come into Fringe.”
The executive producers feel stuck “in this really hard place where the studio and the network want standalones for that very reason.” With standalones the network can say, “Well, anybody can come and watch; I heard about this cool show, Fringe, you ought to check it out.” without people being completely lost.
“That’s a problem,” said the producers. Their solution came in the form of “White Tulip” and similar episodes, which help explain the mythology in a standalone episode. “We realized what we need to do to satiate both our hardcore fans and our financial responsibilities.” They created something they call the “mythalone.”
“Old viewers get a payoff in the concept of mythology but the new viewer can sit down and watch it and still enjoy an episode. So that’s where we live now. That procedural element in ‘White Tulip’ is part of our DNA so we’re always going to have that. It’s just that we caught on. We really didn’t want to frustrate our fans.”
Creating the hybrid mythology-standalone episode type isn’t as easy as it sounds. “It sounds really simple when you say it now. . .but I’ve got to tell you it took us a long time to get there and realize it. Now that we have that our template for telling stories that we think satisfies both parties.”
Of course no interview about Fringe is complete without a reference to our beloved mad scientist, Walter. Pinkner and Wyman couldn’t quite answer any question with regards to what awaits Walter without giving a little bit away: “Walter is Walter. Walter has been damaged. Walter is still just as interested in exploring as he ever was and we can be spoilery for this phone call. Walter’s plate around has gotten much, much, much, much bigger. This is an opportunity for Walter. One of the themes that we constantly go back to is Rip Van Winkle. Peter has been robbed from his life. Part of Olivia’s life was taken away and changed. Walter missed 17 years of his life during which his partner and best friend, the Lennon to his McCartney, was continuing to explore things that they had talked about and now Walter has the means of discovering and exploring what those things were.”
Pinkner and Wyman were obviously very excited about Fringe’s third season; more on this interview is to come in the fifth and final article about their conference call interview, which will focus on their personal favourite episodes in Seasons 1 and 2, as well as more we can expect from Fringe’s Season 3.