It’s been eight long and cold Lowatus weeks since Olivia thought she had her contact lenses in the wrong way round as Peter glim-glimmered in front of her eyes. It’s time for the lowating to stop and for those “endless cases” to resume!
So, what do the Fringe executive producers have in store for us over the course of the remaining eight episodes of this season? In this Q&A, Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman talk about their goals for the rest of the season, the process of creating compelling mysteries, and something they’re calling “mythalones”.
Mythalones? Could we be about to see a reduction the contentious standalone episodes? Has hell frozen over? Read on dear Fringies.
Speaking of which, did you try to game out where and when to reveal finally reveal to Olivia that it’s been the alternate Peter this whole time? Had you thought about beginning or even ending the season with that moment?
Pinkner: When we sat down to talk about this season, we laid out the tentpole moments of what would happen and where, and that has adjusted slightly. Like light towers in a fog, we didn’t exactly know how we were going to get from A to B to C to D, but laid out where the discoveries would happen in the season and pretty much stuck to it.
Wyman: What’s no fun is not knowing where you’re going. From a strategic standpoint being a writer, you don’t really give yourself or the staff enough of an opportunity to do your best work because you’re constantly thinking, “Where are we going?” But if you have a schematic where you understand the big moves and you know what you’re going to present to the audience this year, it allows you to use those guideposts and really expand inside those ideas. When you have the skeleton of where you’re going, it’s much easier for us, and fans end up getting a much better episode.
Will the rest of the tentpole moments this season be bigger than this last one?
Wyman: Much bigger.
With J.J. Abrams’ other show Lost, people are still asking a lot of questions six years in. But with Fringe, you haven’t answered everything, yet there are some things that have become pretty clear. It seems viewers understand more of what’s going on, such as with The Observer and Peter. Was that one of your goals?
Pinkner: We’ve only barely touched the surface of The Observer or the character introduced this season, Sam Weiss [played by Kevin Corrigan]. What we try to do is have the character and the emotion drive everything. We know the iceberg under the water, but we very much what to point out what the tip of the iceberg is. We know there’s a much deeper and richer story to be told, and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to tell it about The Observers.
Wyman: We’ve given some significant answers to at least make everything make sense on a level of comprehension. That’s the point right there. We believe that the audience is getting more invested in our characters, which makes those reveals and further things all the more enjoyable that they’re with us. They can say, “Wow, if they’re telling us this, there must be so much more,” which is true. Audience participation was really key for us.
Pinkner: We want to use understanding to drive the storytelling as opposed to feeling outside of it. My mom was visiting recently from Baltimore, and her single frustration with the Kindle is that when she reads books, she reads the last page first. And with the Kindle she can’t do that. I feel bad for her with the Kindle, and I’ve known this about her forever, but that notion to me is baffling. She wants to know the ending, and her enjoyment is seeing how they get there. We recognize that allowing the audience in to participate at bottom is what makes participation in the show emotional. Yes, the audience knew this secret so the tension was, will Olivia find out, and when she does, what will she do with it, as opposed to the audience having this secret forever and ever.
Wyman: We wanted to allow the viewer into a secret that other cast members did not know. It gives them a psychological bond with our storytelling, feeling that they’re part of the fabric of the show. And it suggests this impending doom – “Oh boy, he’s going to find out eventually!” – so they’re really engaged on that level. They got to participate with that, and now when they see it unfold the way they’ve imagined already 10 times in their head that it’s going to, if it’s different, they’ll be like “Oh my gosh, that’s so great!” And then a new mystery comes up and a new “I didn’t see that coming” concept.
How will you know if you’re actually doing all this right?
Pinkner: That’s sort of a leap of faith. We knew from the beginning of the show that there was an alternate universe driving our stories. We didn’t reveal that until deep, deep, deep into season one. We knew before we started that Peter was from the other side. We didn’t reveal that to the audience until the end of season one, and then to Olivia until halfway through season two. Some people in the audience who watched carefully figured out that Peter was from the other side somewhere in season one, and perhaps there was some frustration for them in us not revealing that earlier. Perhaps we should have waited longer – we’ll never know that. We do the best we can and sometimes we make errors of judgment, but that for us is the fun.
Wyman: Jeff and I often laugh because you’ll get a standalone episode, and it’s not because we don’t have an idea of where to go. It’s just because that’s our pace. A lot of the hardcore fans are like, “Come on! We don’t like standalone episodes! We want the mythology and we want it now!” It’s like those kids who want to open up their Christmas presents before Christmas. [Laughs] How do we beat this and how do we satiate the hardcore fan and also the person who may want to come to the TV and watch Fringe for the first time? That’s one thing that’s really important to us, that we always welcome new viewers. We’ve found this mix now where we call them “mythalones” – there are good representations of them coming up. You’ll see a great standalone episode with a very compelling case or incident going down within it, but you’ll also learn some very key, heavy things from the mythology.
You can read more here.
Interesting. Particularly the part about “mythalones”. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you’ll know that I believe there have been far too many ineffective standalone episodes. It’s not that they’re ‘bad’ (although there have been a few clangers), but by and large they haven’t resonated with me on the same ginormous level as the myth-heavy episodes.
That said, it’s good to know that more mythology episodes are coming down the pipe. It’s also interesting to see the producers once again confirm their support for standalone episodes, revealing; “that’s our pace”. So it’s nothing to do with FOX quotas? Fair enough, but I don’t believe it’s a question of all mythology fans wanting the answers right away, rather, the issue seems to lie with the majority of the ‘contained’ episodes feeling a bit like Fringe-lite – disconnected from the involving and exciting core of the show. Still, I do appreciate the need to make Fringe accessible to newbies – we all want the show to grow and grow, so the role that standalones may (or may not) play in that process is a consideration. Hopefully they can find the right sort of method.
I am keen to see what these mythalones entail though. I suspect they will be in the mould of “What Lies Below”, or perhaps, Bishop Revival? Two episodes that were not exactly super-heavy on the mythology, but had meaningful character development anchored with connections to the overarching storyline. Personally, I enjoyed these episodes and I’d happily take 5 or 6 episodes of that ilk during a season, alongside the 15 or so mythology/serialized episodes which, I believe, define the show.
Am I asking too much? Nah. Imagine The Impossibilities, remember.
Thanks to everyone who sent this Q&A over to us.