Josh Jackson: Peter Has To Become An Observer!
When it comes to risky storytelling, no show asks more of its fans, or rewards them more massively, than Fringe.
This season's total show reboot could have been an utter disaster but in the capable hands of the showrunners, Fringe has added yet another deliciously delicate layer onto an already sumptuous quintuple layer cake. And by tethering Peter to the "past," fans have been presented with two tempting timelines and no idea how they will be resolved.
Same goes for the stars since Josh Jackson told a group of reporters that, for the first time in show history, he has no idea where the story is headed. But, per usual, he has plenty of theories! Which he was more than happy to share recently at Fox's All-Star TCA party where I caught up with Josh to find out what he makes of this new timeline, where Fringe is headed in the coming week's and how Peter's journey should come to an end!
Q: It was a little shocking seeing Peter go to Walternate for help -- where does that uneasy union go this week?
Josh Jackson: It was a Hail Mary pass on Peter’s part – Walternate is the very, very last person that he would ever go to, so it shows the level of desperation that Peter has to ask that man to help. He needs to get home by any means necessary. Fully trusting Walternate, ever, would be a bad choice. While his motivations in this universe are totally different -- he's still an extremely smart, calculating man who clearly has his own agenda. It just so happens that Peter fits into his agenda, but I think if Walternate really needed something and had to sell Peter down the river to get it, he would.
Q: The reveal that Broyles is working with Walternate is just the latest example of how pressing the reset button this season has altered all the characters. What's your take on it?
Josh: I know we've taken a lot of criticism this year for the reset but it's allowed us to do some pretty cool things – one of them is changing the alliances of the characters we know. And while the cores of Peter, Walter and Olivia aren't that different, all the alliances around them have completely changed. Of course it has repercussions inside the story as that tangled web starts to become unbound. There's a whole other layer of bad that's about to be revealed [with Broyles]. The new timeline has allowed [us to bring] back one of our best characters (David Robert Jones, who returns tonight) and give him another shot at destroying universes. That's really cool.
Q: There's been talk of whether or not the end of this season will revert to the original timeline we started in season one, or if it will continue in this one. Do you have a preference?
Josh: I'm not sure. We've spent many, many, many episodes with this group of people now and I'm not sure that it's satisfying to just leave them. I think if we just pull the ripcord on this new group of people and go back to the old people, there would be a significant amount of the audience who would be like, "Uh … why did I get so invested in these people?" At this point, I don't know if it would be a satisfying resolution to just get back to the other place [but] I have no idea where we’re headed this year, which has not been the case before. I've always had a fairly reasonable sketch in my head of what the season is about.
Q: From a character standpoint, what do you think this season is about?
Josh: As I understand the Peter character now, he serves as a mirror to the characters around him. In season two, when the show was more about the family dynamic, he was the reflection for Walter, so you could see his humanity. Without Peter, you don't see that other side. In season three, Peter's job was to reflect Olivia back to herself so she could finally get to the bottom of her crisis: feeling unseen, unknown. Her crisis last year was, I can not love you until I know you see the real me. This year, I think, the thrust of the story seems to be that Olivia doesn't know herself. So Peter's job is to reflect [herself] back to her. I think that now the show is really about Olivia discovering herself. It's more of a coming of age drama for a woman.
Q: Last week, The Observer said Olivia must die. Should fans take that at face value?
Josh: The answer to that riddle is, of course Olivia must die in every timeline because everyone has to die. It was ridiculously ambiguous. It's one of those ambiguous, Observer-y type things which could mean everything or nothing at all. I know that it plays out in future episodes and becomes quite heavily a part of two episodes we just finished shooting, but never take anything they say at face value.
Q: The Observers had been somewhat absent from recent episodes. Will they play a larger part in this season?
Josh: We get really deeply into Observer-ville in six episodes from now – that to me is super cool. Because if this is going to be our last season, we've got to figure out who the Observers are. There's a couple really good episodes coming up where we get out of the monster of the week stuff and really delve into a mini-arc of deep Fringe mythology.
Q: You played with this idea at Comic Con, but do you think Peter should end up becoming an Observer?
Josh: I gotta hope so! Yea. If the show had ended last year, I would have thought that was a super cool ending for Peter. It was kind of a bummer but it was a noble death. Well, we didn't end last year so I've got to be an Observer. That's my vote. Josh Jackson chooses that Peter Bishop should be an Observer [laughs].
Q: What about the show - whether or not Fringe gets another season is still in limbo. Do you know how the writers are planning to address that?
Josh: They say they've always had an end game – they'll never tell me what that is. I theorize [but] this is the first year I can't figure out what the game plan is. I know there's an end game, but I don't know if it’s something that needs four episodes, six episodes, eight episodes or 12 episodes to be implemented. I want to take Kevin Reilly [Fox president of entertainment] at his word, that if they are going to end it this year, they give the [writers] enough of a heads up that they get that whole end game out. At this point, the most important thing to me about Fringe is it finishes properly. You can't bring people on that journey for all these years and just end it. That sucks. We've all seen shows go out like that: "Where the f*** is the other half of the 'To Be Continued?!?'" To not have the finish … would really bum me out at the end of what's been a pretty cool experience.
Fringe airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on Fox.