Not every storyline on every show is going to hit the mark. In fact, some are going to fall flat on their damn faces, even on the best shows. For the most part, Fox’s sci-fi police procedural Fringe has pulled off some bizarre, intricate narrative arcs, but even they’re not immune to the occasional failure. Fans know it, and even the people involved in the series wish they had a mulligan or two.
Showrunner J.H. Wyman considers the storyline from the fourth season that saw series stalwart Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) blinked out existence as “one of our missteps.”
That’s one way to put it. While Fringe has pulled off a number of outrageous plot twists and major craziness over the years, they all generally follow the internal logic established in the show. Peter’s disappearance, however, never really fit with the world of the show.
No matter how they tried to justify it and explain the reasoning behind it, his absence threw the show into a down cycle. They tried to fill the space by focusing more on other characters, but Fringe relies so much on the characters, and the relationships between them—especially between Peter and Walter (John Noble), and Peter and Olivia (Anna Torv)—that there was something missing.
Not only did this impact the narrative, it threatened to alienate an already woefully small (though steadfastly devoted) fan base. Wyman says, “I learned a great deal from that. It didn’t work. People didn’t like it and felt it was sort of stupid and didn’t get it. I totally agree.”
Though evaporating Peter may have been the weak link, the Fringe chain remains strong. Halfway through the fifth and final season, the show is stronger than ever. Maybe Wyman would like to have that one back, but in the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse. Wyman concludes, “People may or may not get what we did, but it is what it is. It’s not a pizza. You don’t get to order what you want on it. [Laughs]”