The hype is building. After an eight-week hiatus, Fringe is (finally) returning to FOX on Thursday April 1, and its stars have been busy making the requisite rounds.
John Noble (Walter Bishop) took the time to chat with us about the upcoming eight episodes of Fringe which will close season two. It’s obvious that many of those participating in the conference call had done their homework quite thoroughly during the hiatus, as many of the questions built on one another.
Warning: spoilers coming up!
In the upcoming episode, "Peter," many pieces of the show's puzzle come together. We will finally know exactly what happened back in 1985 and the circumstances in which Peter 2.0 made it into our universe. There is going to be character development and the plot takes interesting turns, turns that even took John Noble by surprise, "The ultimate reveal I think, which is so critical to this episode of 'Peter,' (is) that Walter really did intend to take the child back; that he only went over because the Walternate had missed the cure. That was a surprise, and a wonderful surprise to me."
Playing 1985 Walter was relatively simple according to John Noble, as Walter is far more complex now than he was then. As he explains it, today’s Walter "is a man that is capable of incredible laser-like thought processes, and yet is incredibly childish and random. Sometimes Walter will hide behind his childishness, sometimes he will substitute rage for a childish episode. He is an incredibly complex character." As for the 1985 Walter, he is "quite a likable man. He's married to a lovely woman, and he seems to enjoy his work. He's driven. He's a driven man. He's very smart, and he's very driven to succeed."
The preparations for playing 1985 Walter included Noble getting into a more youthful and energetic mind frame, which was all the easier with the help he got from the production team, "in my preparation to find the Walter that we all know now, I had to go back to him right at the beginning to see where he came from. That process was started before the pilot really — what was this man like before he deteriorated? Physically of course what I had to do was capture the energy, to capture physicality of the man, the vocal physicality. This is my task. I was aided enormously by my hair and makeup and special effects people here in terms of getting the overall look, and indeed wardrobe helped a lot too. The DP shot it through these beautiful lenses to give… a different feel to the episode than we have now. All of those elements worked together to create this version that you see in the episode.
It seems that John Noble enjoyed the experience as much as we are going to, come next week, "It was wonderful to go back and visit the man before he became this damaged creature we know now. It was probably in some ways closer to myself than the Walter we see now. In some ways it was quite comfortable to go back to that place. It was an easier ride than doing the Walter the audience knows and it was nice to be able to play with that more youthful energy."
It’s also going to be interesting to visit fan forums in the days following the airing of "Peter" to see how fans are going to react to seeing Walter as his former, unbroken self. Even more interesting will be seeing the way fans are going to adjust their conception of who he is throughout the rest of the season. Already, fans' perceptions have been seriously altered over the course of the series — in one online fan community, The Fringe Report, fans have even flip flopped between love and hate.
By the same token, it’s going to be interesting to see how this visit down memory lane is going to affect how the characters, including Walter himself, see Walter. Is plunging into the past going to make Walter yearn even more for his former self, a yearning we caught a glimpse of in "Jacksonville" (when he found his old glasses and slipped them on)?
Obviously, Olivia’s relationship with Walter is going to change after next week’s revelation, and she is going to be instrumental in convincing Walter to tell Peter the truth, "We already know from the episode before that Olivia knows he’s [Peter] from somewhere else. There’s this buildup towards Peter finding out. It’s strangulating; really, the tension is enormous because Peter doesn’t know, Olivia does know and she’s pushing Walter to tell him. Then finally he finds out and we literally tumble into these extraordinary last two or three episodes, particularly the finale which is the great… confrontation we’ve been promising for two years."
Most importantly, once Peter finds out, it’s going to bring on a whole new level of father-son tensions. He is going to be stepping away from the team, at least for awhile. And though it’s going to be hard for fans to watch Peter break away even temporarily from the group, it is going to give way to what John Noble refers to as some of Joshua Jackson’s best acting. "When Peter finds out, he is extremely wounded and outraged and bewildered and humiliated, having just finally found some trust in his life and given a little of himself to these two people. He finds out that he’s been duped yet again. Joshua Jackson plays this beautifully actually. We see him as this lost man really who’s lost this new family of his and is just in the wilderness really. We see that for a couple of episodes."
This highlights one of the strengths of Fringe — character development. Said development can lead to events that some fans might not be happy about (notably, the almost-kiss between Olivia and Peter in "Jacksonville"), but in retrospect, these events are logical conclusions of what has already occurred. While Anna Torv’s Olivia used to annoy the living daylights out of me, I have come to realize that was really only a reflection of who she was and what she was going through, rather than bad acting.
And so, the big reveal doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the still fragile relationship between Walter and Peter, nor between the Bishops and Olivia. As John Noble explains, the three have developed an interdependent relationship that is going to be altered but ultimately will not be severed, "What’s going to happen — and it won’t happen this year necessarily — there will be a hint of it in the finale — is that a relationship will be rekindled between Peter and Walter. It will be different but I think there is sufficient richness and sufficient texture in what they have already to get them past this hurdle. That’s my belief. And similarly with Olivia, the relationship that’s been created over the two seasons is stronger. It will survive this breach of trust. It will. I think there’s a fantastic relationship between Peter and Olivia. It’s not a love relationship in terms of the sexual, romantic kind. I think the three are locked together in some sort of interdependency and that will survive this terrific challenge."
But while many of our questions are finally going to be answered, "Peter" will also set in motion new questions and create new threads to be followed. One question the show will still need to explore is that of the nature of the bond between Nina and Walter. While the story of the relationship has been worked out by the writers, and it is going to be hinted at numerous times throughout the rest of season two, the fans are certainly not going to be finding out anything more yet. Hopefully it’s going to be addressed in season three… either that or I’m going to be heading a fan protest (I’ll keep you posted).
John Noble also shared some details about what else is waiting for us during the rest of the season. Notably, the musical episode that fans have been talking incessantly about (check out a list of fan suggestions for songs) isn’t just going to be about Walter telling Ella a random bedtime story, but rather an exploration of his mind, "[This story] is exceptional in the sense that it is a mind trip of Walter’s and that’s when we go into this musical episode that’s been talked about. Walter is trying to grapple with the fact that his son is gone, he doesn’t know where he is at that point. So we have this mind trip… [it] is an amazing episode to be honest with you."
The filming of that episode isn’t going to be hard on the ears, as the cast was discovered to have hidden musical talents, "Lance Reddick is a superb singer and musician. We realize now that Anna Torv has got a beautiful voice. That’s just the starting point. Jasika Nicole is also from a musical background. It was quite a reveal to us how much talent there was in the company. I was certainly not the A-lister in that group of people… In the early days, I certainly did some music theater, even dropped into a couple of Operas in small acting roles. Not the highlight but it was very interesting. It was good fun to do them."
John Noble also hints that we are going to be seeing a lot more of the alternate universe in the upcoming episodes. This includes getting to know Walternate a lot better, which I’m sure is going to be a showcase of John Noble’s acting capabilities: “Bear in mind, that’s two versions of Walter but you’re also introduced briefly to another, and that’s Walternate. So you’ve got three quite distinct versions of Walter. I’m playing Walternate this morning who is quite different from [our] Walter in many ways.”
John Noble didn’t tell us much more about Walternate, except that "He's a very powerful man… I can't really say more than that, but he is different… It's the same man, but with different choices made in life. And we often talk about that on Fringe, don't we? [What] the parallel universe is like, the choices you make will help impact the rest of your life. So Walternate is in a different profession than Walter and a far different person, and he's physically different."
Since, thankfully, Fringe has been picked up for a third season, the upcoming episodes are going to be setting up the "great promised confrontation we’ve been promising for two years" and we'll be able to see the fallout of those confrontations next season. Noble shared some of what he knows with us about what happens next year, most notably that "There will be substantial time spent on the other universe and when you get to the [season two] finale, you’ll see why we have to do that. So we’ll have this whole other universe playing at least for the first third of the [next] season. That’s all I can tell you at this stage."
That, however, is more than enough to make us anticipate next week’s return even more!