By Jeff Jensen
May 11, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Cate Cameron/Fox
  • TV Show

A few weeks ago, Fringe zipped forward to the year 2036 and showed us a world ruled by The Observers, time traveling super-powered bald men from the 27th century with a passion for fedoras, hot sauce and flasks of ice water. Can Walter (John Noble), Olivia (Anna Torv), and Peter (Josh Jackson) do anything here in the present to avert this fate? If you’ve seen the season four finale, then you now know – SPOILER ALERT! – that you’ll have to wait until the cult fave’s fifth and final season for the answer. “That’s certainly the suggestion at the end,” says exec producer J.H. Wyman, referring to two revelations in the closing moments that would seem to pave the way for Observageddon. “The idea that September says ‘They’re coming’ and that Olivia says she’s pregnant really does set us up for what we saw in ‘Letters of Transit.’ At the same time, I will also say that everything you’ve seen over the past four seasons is hugely important to season five.”

Fringe is known for bleak cliffhangers that set up or tease the next year’s capture-the-imagination sci-fi idea. But the exec producers say that with “Brave New World,” they were going for something more emotional, less mythological. Hence, this year, our heroes got something like a clean victory/happy ending. Walter defeated William Bell’s wannabe god scheme to create a “brave new world” filled with strange creatures (and very few humans), while Olivia cheated death (from a bullet in the head, no less!) with her recently-conceived baby intact. Also: Astrid lives! Wyman calls the episode “the calm before the storm… a gentle closing of the door” to this part of the saga.

Wyman and co-showrunner Jeff Pinkner say that they conceived the season four endgame not knowing if Fringe would get picked up for a fifth year. “We wrote [the season finale] as if it would potentially be the last [episode] ever,” says Pinkner. “We would have thought of something – written a graphic novel or something on the Internet – to wrap up everything [if the show was canceled]. Call it blind ignorance or naiveté or being stupid, we have said, every season, ‘Okay, this is it,’ and left it in the hands of the audience and the press to drum up enough support for us to come back and do it again.” Pinkner and Wyman also say they wanted to use season four’s last act to clear some decks – shutting down the bridge linking the parallel worlds; killing off recurring villain David Robert Jones (Jared Harris, bound to Mad Men and more movies ) – so the swan song season would be free to focus on “other matters.” Will season five take place in the present, or will the series spend more time in Observer-controlled 2036? The producers declined to answer, though Wyman noted that they would adhere to their policy of only jumping around in time if and when the story demands it.

“Brave New World (Part Two)” included one cryptic moment that fans should bookmark and mull. Early in the episode, an agent working for the villainous William Bell trapped September using gold symbols called “stasis runes” — technology, we were told, from the future. How did Bell come by those golden glyphs? Mystery! “Bell is always ahead of the game, always one step ahead, he knows more about The Observers, clearly, than anyone,” says Wyman. “Where does his knowledge end?”
Asked to comment on this reporter’s theory that Bell has long known about Observageddon, and that everything he does, no matter how awful it may seem, is in service of thwarting The Observers and the oppressive, hopeless future for humanity that they will bring, the producers wished me a happy hiatus, then vanished into a wormhole. Or maybe they just said “no comment.”
Make sure to check back this weekend for more Fringe coverage, including Ken Tucker’s review of the finale.
Twitter: @EWDocJensen

Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, and John Noble star in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama
  • TV Show
  • 5
  • 09/09/08
  • On Hiatus
Complete Coverage
Available For Streaming On

Episode Recaps