Over the course of any television series, there are bound to be some hiccups and missteps. Even a relatively short-lived show, like Fringe—set to wrap up a five-season run this Friday, January 18th—has one twist that the cast and crew just don’t much care for. In this case it was the decision, at the end of the third season, to blink Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) out of existence.
It’s admittedly difficult to maintain continuity in your television program when one of your lead characters never existed. We’re not talking a character dying. No, he was simply retroactively never there in the first place. He climbed into Walter’s (John Noble) giant mystery machine, and snap, he’s no longer a part of the fabric of the universe.
Part of the appeal of the move was because it seemed like such a big, “fringe” idea. For a show known and loved for taking big risks, and for tackling massive challenges—they did kill off one of their main characters at the end of season four and pulled off bringing her back to life—this one may have been a bit of a stretch.
One sizable obstacle Fringe faced on this course was creating a world where Peter had never existed, but maintaining that all of those episodes starring Jackson still mattered. According to executive producer Jeff Pinkner:
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.
However, even though the creative, behind-the-scenes types were into the idea, it was a hard sell to some of the cast. Jasika Nicole and Anna Torv—who play Astrid Farnsworth and Olivia Dunham, respectively—were skeptical, but trusting of the writers. Jackson pushed for the idea, though even he admits that it caused some unevenness in the next season as they tried to work around it.
Noble had the most serious issue with the choice. The father and son are so linked in the show, and Peter’s presence had such a huge impact on Walter’s character, that to remove Peter from that equation indelibly changes the person that the scientist is. As Noble says, “I chose to play Walter quite strangely. He wasn’t that pleasant. Walter wasn’t very pleasant or happy, and that was a deliberate choice.”
Bringing Peter back, and bringing back the memories of the other timelines, was always part of the plan. And fans of Fringe are glad about that fact. Things got weird there for a while, and not in the usual, good way.