Premieres Sept. 28, 9-10 p.m., FOX
The 19th episode in each season of Fringe is typically reserved for something unusual. Or, rather, something more unusual than usual for a sci-fi drama that traffics in things like serial killers who slurp memories from frozen brains. But last season’s wild-card outing had another peculiar distinction: It was a gamble to save Fox’s low-rated cult fave from cancellation.
Titled ”Letters of Transit,” the story transported viewers to a dystopian future ruled by Fringe‘s pasty-faced and fedora’d mystery men, the Observers. Exec producer J.H. Wyman called the episode a ”backdoor pilot” for a fifth season. Says star Joshua Jackson, ”It was an audition reel. It was ‘Give us one more chance; this is how cool it could be.”’
Mission accomplished. And so Fringe will come to a close this winter after a 13-episode final run. Expect plenty of emotional pyrotechnics — and no twist endings. Says Wyman, who’ll be running Fringe solo after longtime exec producer Jeff Pinkner opted to leave this past spring: ”I want something that ends in a way that is completely understandable, something that makes me feel something, something that makes people think, ‘I spent four years of my life investing in these people, and it was worth it.”’
Fringe‘s last hurrah will be set in Observageddon 2036. Peter (Jackson); his mad-scientist father, Walter (John Noble); and their cohort Astrid (Jasika Nicole) — recently awakened from a 20-year snooze sealed inside blocks of amber that kept them perfectly preserved — no longer work for the FBI investigating weird science run amok; they’re rebel freedom fighters trying to purge the planet of its time-traveling invaders, who are led by the unabashedly nasty Windmark (Michael Kopsa). The premiere begins not long after ”Letters of Transit,” which reunited Peter with his now-adult daughter, Etta (Georgina Haig), and will reveal what happened to Peter’s wife and Etta’s mom, Olivia (Anna Torv). ”I am not giving anything away,” says Torv, 34, ”except that I’m actually in the fifth season.”
Gone is Fringe‘s mix of season-long plotlines and monster-of-the-week tales. All 13 hours form one fast-paced saga, with the last three serving as the finale. ”It’s about building momentum toward this poignant, crushing, and hopefully fulfilling ending,” says Jackson, 34, who then laughs. ”Yeah, we have really low expectations.” Noble — who took time off in July to treat a sleep disorder — believes that the farewell season accomplishes his dream that the show be remembered as an uncommonly intelligent, boldly creative enterprise. ”Having even reached season 5 tells me we are in rare company: We have told a great story that means something to people,” says Noble, 64. ”If we can complete this final chapter, and do it as well as I believe we can, it will be a great payoff.”