The cast and crew continue their look back on Fringe in the third part of TV Guide’s oral history.
Little did Walter know when he created The Machine that his son Peter would end up being a sacrificial lamb.
Bryan Burk: It was an idea that when we all heard it, we started getting excited about it. You know, there are going to be ramifications.
Jeff Pinkner: Of all the things we did, it was by far the most controversial.
Josh Jackson: That was something that came up much, much, much later in telling the story of that machine and what the repercussions of the machine would be.
Pinkner: We thought, “OK, this may be the wrong way to go,” but it’s such a bold and exciting “fringe” idea that we immediately leapt upon it. We stopped for a couple of days, and we thought really hard, “OK, what are the consequences?” And we knew the dangers.
Jackson: I was happy with the idea that he was going to be erased, because I think to make the cliff-hanger have enough weight, something drastic had to happen.
Pinkner: We almost affirmatively wanted to engage in the question of, “Well, just because these characters don’t remember Peter and because their lives have now gone down a different path, does that mean that those first three seasons that we witnessed then didn’t matter?” The answer ultimately, of course, is yes, they mattered. Because his presence or absence altered their perspectives and the way it altered their hearts and their minds is far more important than the details of what they had for breakfast in a day.
J.J. Abrams: Well, I think that Joel and Jeff — especially Joel in the last season — have been incredibly aware of and beholden to the fans. There’s nothing worse for fans of a show than being told that something that you like or care about or believe in doesn’t exist anymore or wasn’t real or has been somehow invalidated. At every step with the show, the story was always told with respect to people who were watching. We were always aware that the people who were watching the show deserved that and we were grateful for them.
Pinkner: I think one of the jobs of really good storytelling is to make the audience uncomfortable at times. I think that you want the audience to suffer for their characters. If it’s happy all the time, then there’s no modulation when you really need tears and darkness so that this all matters.
But the cast wasn’t sold on this development.
John Noble: I didn’t like it, personally, because to me, to have a Walter there without Peter, he was basically locked in this lab for what function? Because he’s a genius, that’s about all. So I’ll say it, no, I didn’t think it was a great reset. We built a team, and it wasn’t the same. If you take any one of the characters out, it wouldn’t be the same. But we got it back.
Jackson: I was never a huge fan of the paradox that you get yourself into when you start dealing with circular time like that. I felt like Season 4 had some clumsy moments trying to fudge through some of the logic leaps that you have to make. Well, if he didn’t exist, how is he here, and why do some people remember him, and why is only that memory bleeding through, and if he was here until he was 9 years old, then why does the portal even exist? But that’s part and parcel of when they’re swinging for the fences, they’re not all home runs. You have to deal with the double-edged sword of our show being really brave creatively, that not every single one of the ideas is going to be masterful.
Nicole: In this timeline that they created, I didn’t understand what Astrid’s purpose was anymore because before she had been a person who was a friend to Walter and that was a really important way to show the audience different facets of Walter’s personality. But in this new timeline, because Peter wasn’t around, Walter had never gotten to a place where he was able to really interact with people on a more compassionate level. They just weren’t as close in this new timeline as they were before, and so I couldn’t imagine what she was there for.
Noble: I chose to play Walter quite strangely. He wasn’t that pleasant. Walter wasn’t very pleasant or happy, and that was a deliberate choice. I said, “Please put him back. I miss Josh.”
Lance Reddick: I’ll be honest with you, I was a little skeptical. I thought, until it played out and then it panned out, I was concerned that it would show up as just as a device to keep the show interesting.
Pinkner: In a way, it really allowed us to reset the character relationships and say, “Well, what is important?” Ultimately, is love something that can exist across time and space and beyond depth? It allowed us to tell stories on the pragmatic level. It allowed us to reboot the show. Not literally, because this was a show we loved. Nobody was trying to blow it up, but it allowed us to kick-start these characters from a different place.
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