Fringe Oral History: How the Series Changed Forever with One Sacrificial Act
Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv | Photo Credits: FOX
In the third part of our farewell to Fringe, producers and cast discuss the most polarizing story line of the series: The Season 3 cliff-hanger featured a scene in which Peter Bishop, who we had come to know and love over three seasons, mysteriously vanished into thin air. The Observers then explained that he had, in fact, never existed. (Come again?) This controversial creative move ended a season that included Fringe's foreboding move to the Friday "death slot." Still, the show soldiered on for another two seasons, much to the credit of its passionate fan base.
TVGuide.com talked to stars John Noble (Dr. Walter Bishop), Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop), Anna Torv (Olivia Dunham), Jasika Nicole (Astrid Farnsworth), Lance Reddick (Phillip Broyles), Blair Brown (Nina Sharp), Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee), series co-creator J.J. Abrams, executive producers J.H Wyman, Jeff Pinkner and Bryan Burk, Warner Bros. President Peter Roth and Fox's Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly about the bumpy road to the series finale. This is the third in a four-part oral history. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.
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.
Seth Gabel: It's pretty incredible how passionate people are about the Peter character and seeing the worldwide response and the videos of, "Where is Peter?" I thought it was pretty remarkable.