Tonight's episode of Fox's Fringe promises to tell all about those Observers, the ultimate sci-fi watchers, but executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. (Joel) Wyman gave us a look farther down the line and hinted at the surprises yet to come.
They talked with us during a conference call about the freaky, pasty-white, eyebrowless bald dudes in dark suits and hats, why they all seem to be named after a month, and why we are not going to want to miss tonight's ep, "August," which airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
The episode offers us plenty of goodies about the Observer, including the fact that there is more than one of them running around. In "August," an Observer abducts a young woman and the Fringe team goes after him. But there's more to the story, promise Pinkner and Wyman. (Big spoilers ahead!)
Why you should watch this episode: "It's free. It's free entertainment," said Pinkner with a laugh. "In the mythology of the show, there's all kinds of things that have just been hinted at or alluded to. We've seen the tip of the iceberg, and now we see a lot more below the waterline in this episode. But what makes it special to Joel and I, certainly, is that it's a story driven 100 percent by emotion, and it's a story where this character, who in many ways is unknowable and other, is driven by emotion, and at the end of the episode hopefully you feel something."
"It's definitely for people who are interested in Observers," said Wyman. "It definitely qualifies them to a certain degree for everybody. It will definitely open up a whole other line of concept and a whole other line of understanding for the viewer. ... To us, the best science fiction deals with very human conditions. Isaac Asimov or a great writer like that, the more out there and sci-fi it becomes, the more it reveals human condition, and this is one of those episodes that we feel very passionately about in that regard, because the entire episode reveals itself to be about a very human emotion. The way we chose to tell this episode is through the eyes of somebody who's not human, and we really tried to reach for that."
How the idea of the Observer evolved: "We were looking for something that was sort of iconic, and at the same time we're fascinated with the idea of all the things that go on under our nose everyday," said Pinkner. "The construction workers, the guys working on telephone poles, those ... weird marks on the sidewalk that you don't quite know what they're for, the last couple remaining pay phone booths when all the rest have been removed. We wanted the Observer to have the quality of being invisible, and we put him in the first three episodes of the show and then finally revealed him in the fourth, and people looked back and went, 'My God, he was right here, right under my nose, and I didn't see it.' Then the notion of some of his characteristics: the bald head, the no eyebrows, we imaged how it would be that somebody who wasn't of our world would end up in our world, and what the process of getting here would entail. The fact that his senses were largely deadened, and so it took a lot of stimulation for him to feel anything. So that led to the hot peppers and some of these other characteristics of his character."
With Observer names like September and August, can July be far behind? "It's funny, because Jeff had point out on several occasions that Josh Jackson did an interview last year, where he actually let it slip the name of one of the Observers, and our fans are so great at figuring things out and heading us off at the pass of 'I think they're going there.' But I think nobody really got it. So it was sort of out there already last year."
If last season was a prologue, is this season chapter one? "It's a journey of self-actualization for our characters. That's what separates last year from this year," said Wyman. He added: "In this season we're really looking to get deeper into our characters and have people really participate with them and watch their evolution, whether it's Walter's emancipation this season and how he's having more of his own awakening. Whether it's Peter in discovering things about himself and about the others he works with and his place in the world. And Olivia the same regard."
From William Bell to bombshell secrets, stay tuned, because there's more Fringe ahead: "In the next handful of episodes coming up we deal with an outbreak type condition. We deal with one of our favorite themes in the show that we constantly come back to ... perception, and how what we see with our eyes might not necessarily be the truth," Pinkner said. "Our eyes may blind us to certain things, and we tell an episode that's really big and fun and crazy about what it is that we think we're seeing isn't necessarily the truth. In a couple episodes we drop a bombshell for our characters, and one of, like, the big dormant secrets, ... one of the bombs under the table, as it were, goes off, and perhaps it will blow apart our team, and certainly it will change the nature of their relationship. We delve a little bit more directly with the fact of the alternate universe and what's going on over there and how it may affect our world. ... We have a really kind of cool episode coming up that deals with Walter's memory and William Bell specifically."
A plan is in place: When it comes to Fringe's longevity, the producers have no control. But they do have a plan just in case they get the chance to tell the story they want to. "If we're lucky enough, we have six seasons that we're really excited about," said Wyman. "It's such a great show to work on, because we're only limited by our imaginations, and once you start to get into this wonderful framework of these characters and stuff, it's so much fun. So we're constantly saying, 'What about this?' and 'That will be a season-three thing.' Then before you know it, there's so many things on the season-three pile that you realize that it takes shape and you go, 'This is really great.'"