The musical episode wasn't the only thing on the minds of those participating in Tuesday's conference call with Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, the executive producers of Fringe.
Warning: while what you are about to read does contain spoilers, they are once again quite mild. Fringe's EPs lead by example, not revealing much about upcoming episodes. I know, I know. I also was rather disappointed yet, at the same time, quite impressed.
The topic of spoilers was touched upon during the conference call. While they do consider it flattering that there are individuals who are so into Fringe that they will try to get their hands on the material early, keeping future Fringe plots under wraps is important to the team and the executive producers; and apparently said team is very invested in the project. Consequently, everyone at the show has been doing a great job at keeping the materials safe and sound. I don't know about you, but knowing that there is a dedicated, invested team that works together to keep things going and doesn't feel the need to show off and put the material at risk makes me like the show even more.
Jeff Pinkner also pointed out something very interesting: while a couple of years ago, whomever had a piece of information would hurry to share it with the world, it seems that the pendulum has now swung the other way. These days, it's more common for people who discover secrets to keep said secrets to themselves. I certainly hope that this is the case. I would love it if the discussion surrounding a show really became about the story, the plot, the characters, the underlying philosophy, inspiring reflections about day-to-day issues, rather than degenerating into gossip about the show's lead actors.
Come to think of it, this touches on the two most respectful ways of treating a show. The first is to trust the team behind it enough to work on your patience and wait for whatever officially comes though (this is a tough one for me to admit, since I'm a bit of a spoiler junkie!). The second is to not bring the show down to the level of mere gossip and speculation, especially a show like Fringe which deals with complex notions such as the nature of perception.
The fact that the Fringe team is so dedicated makes it all the more efficient at presenting the deep concepts the show is known for. The multiple layers of the story as well as the hints and clues sprinkled throughout each episode are all the more consistent and imaginative that they come from the show's various departments, rather than being dictated from the top down. While the general story is pretty much set in stone, and the EPs know where it's going, the details of how the story will get there are moulded by everyone on the Fringe team, each bringing in their expertise to polish the show even more.
Because of this approach taken by the EPs and heads of Fringe, the show's complexity has been able to increase as the seasons progressed without affecting the quality of the show or without adding any cheese to the show (the kind that makes you go ::headdesk::). One example is the creation and development of Fringe's Easter eggs. A minimal number of these clues are decided by the show's creators; a few are added by the writers as they develop the script; but most are added during the production process, and are based on where they would fit best rather than an imposition from the top. There have even been some Easter eggs that were added in the post-production process. I was amused to find out that the Fringe team is known to make changes to the episode's visual effects up until the day it's aired.
One of the challenges of watching Fringe is to find the Observer. For the uninitiated, the Observer, wearing a black suit, sporting a black fedora, and carrying a black suitcase, is, well, an observer of major events. He's important to the mythology of Fringe. While there have been a couple of episodes dedicated to expanding our understanding of who the Observer is, his contribution has mainly been to be observing major events in every single episode since the pilot was aired. But while his role seems simple enough, spotting the Observer is definitely not simple enough. He's never where you think he is going to be. Ever. You think you have understood the logic of where the Observer is in episodes until a new one is aired and the Observer isn't where he is supposed to be.
Dratted fedora-wearing, briefcase-toting, jalapeno-loving fiend.
This probably has to do with the fact that The Observer's appearance isn't scripted, but rather is something that is figured out during the production process through consultation between the various departments. Visuals, special effects, props, all work closely together and figure out how to give fans their next Observer-induced headache.
This collaborative process also gives way to some rather brilliant ideas, some of which are now regular features while others are a one-time deal. Another weekly occurrence is the clue planted in each episode as to what the next one is going to be about, and this is largely driven by the visual effects department. In the episode "Olivia. In the lab. With the revolver.", fans quickly realised that the five signature Clue weapons were hidden throughout the episode. This fabulous idea was driven by the episode's writer and the prop master. It's obvious by the passion and enthusiasm with which Pinkner and Wyman talk about the Fringe production process that they are very happy with the team they work with.
Speaking of Easter eggs: Fringe fans, don't think you're going to have time to go into Fringe withdrawal this summer. According to Pinkner, there are definitely clues we have missed. Shocking, I know, but exciting at the same time. Both Pinkner and Wyman were mum on the topic (and heartily chuckled at my dismay), keeping the game afoot by not giving away much about what might have missed.
Here is what they did admit: Fringe is built in a way that, as time goes on, fans are going to be driven back to earlier episodes over and over again, and they are going to realise that things were planted right from the beginning — and by beginning, they mean the pilot. And Wyman gives us this tantalizing tidbit: there is one detail in the season finale that is planted, one that is very telling about things to come in season three. However, this thing is very, very hard to find, and both are going to be extremely impressed if someone does.
What's that I hear? Oh, the sound of a thousand Fringe fans snapping to attention and presales of season two DVDs skyrocketing? Thought so.
The team is this meticulous about everything that has to do with the show because they take the notion of world building very seriously. Their objective is that by the time the series ends, whenever that may be, they want to make viewers reexamine everything they have watched from the beginning. It does make sense, since perception is the main theme of the show and one of its main characters is crazy. The latter is something the Fringe team has played with before, and will probably continue doing so.
Speaking of season finales, Pinkner and Wyman acknowledge that it was a bit of a challenge figuring out a way of surpassing the season one finale. That finale was effective because it presented concretely the idea of an alternate universe, something that had been hinted at throughout the entire season but that had never been shown. The two executive producers are confident they managed to do that again with this season's finale; it's going to be be opening a whole new chapter on something that has been talked about all season and that we are now going to concretely see for the first time. Pinkner and Wyman call it a satisfying conclusion to what fans have been investing in this year while the beginning of something new for season three… and beyond.
I like this reference to 'beyond'.
Speaking of season three, a lot of speculation has been going on about the location for its filming. Pinkner and Wyman loved being in New York City (who wouldn't!); the city has so much texture that added to the overall look of Fringe and the quality of its light is apparently amazing. But there are no short-term plans to move the show back to NYC, although both Pinkner and Wyman admit that they wouldn't mind if it did. Not that things aren't going well in Vancouver; Pinkner and Wyman admit that Canada has been phenomenal to them, and that their crew has been absolutely fantastic. Hopefully the loonie will stop its rather dizzying climb against the greenback and we'll get to keep filming of the show here.
The final four episodes of Fringe's second season run through every Thursday evening, 9PM EST, until May 20.