FRINGE Series Finale 10th Anniversary: J.H. Wyman Looks Back on 'An Enemy of Fate' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

FRINGE Series Finale 10th Anniversary: J.H. Wyman Looks Back on ‘An Enemy of Fate’

January 18, 2023 by  

Fringe series finale 10th anniversary

FRINGE: Peter (Josh Jackson, L) and Olivia (Anna Torv, R) prepare for the final and extraordinary battle for the fate of mankind in in the all-new “An Enemy of Fate,” Part Two of the 100th episode and special two-hour series finale of FRINGE airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for FRINGE’s five-season run, with specific details about the series finale.]

On Friday, January 18, 2013, FRINGE said goodbye with a two-hour block, “Liberty” and “An Enemy of Fate.” (The latter, the official series finale, also served as the show’s milestone 100th episode.)

In many ways, FRINGE was the little show that could: It started off as a mostly standalone “weird case of the week” series—with a serialized spine that lightly played into the episodes—before properly introducing the show’s parallel universe in the first season finale. From there, while there were still oddities of the week, the show let its freak flag fly, jumping between universes, resetting timelines, doing strange one-offs (yes, they had a musical hour, as well as a partially animated installment), and trusting the audience would just get it.

But that also meant that FRINGE was frequently a bubble show. Its move to Fridays could have spelled doom in season 3 (back in the days when getting a 1.4 in the demo was dangerous); instead, the show got to end, on its own terms, in season 5.

In honor of the tenth anniversary of FRINGE’s series finale, executive producer J.H. Wyman (who served as co-showrunner alongside Jeff Pinkner from seasons 2-4, before running the show solo in its final season) looks back, via email, at “An Enemy of Fate”—which Wyman wrote and directed—as well the show’s legacy.

Fringe series finale 10th anniversary

FRINGE 100TH EPISODE PARTY and FINALE EVENT: (L-R) FOX Chief Operating Officer, Joe Earley, FRINGE Creator and Executive Producer J.J. Abrams, Cast members Seth Gabel, Anna Torv, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Blair Brown, Joshua Jackson, Executive Producer J.H. Wyman and President of Warner Bros. TV, Peter Roth arrive on the red carpet during the FRINGE 100TH EPISODE PARTY and FINALE EVENT at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel on Saturday Dec. 1st in Vancouver, British Columbia. CR: Michael Courtney/FOX

Looking at the very beginning of the conception of the finale, at what point did you land on where/how the show would end?
I knew where the show was going to naturally conclude (if we were lucky enough to get the chance) long before the fifth season, especially Walter’s sacrifice. It just had to be that way from a cautionary tale aspect. We owed that. HE (Walter) owed that… to a higher power. “The White Tulip” from season 2 was always special. Always meaningful. It was tumbling around with a lot of images and some specifics, story conclusions, character conclusions, etc. It was just a matter of putting it all into place, hopefully in the right order.  

FRINGE was a constant bubble show, and there were multiple times you had to craft endings that could have served as either season or series finales. How did your approach to the final season change as you knew you were heading toward the end-end? 
Yes, if not for the fans’ support that bubble would have been popped long before its time. FRINGE is most impactful and memorable to like-minded people who are interested in the emotional explorations we were interested in. It still makes me emotional thinking about how lucky we were to have fans love the show like they did. They loved the characters deeply, as well as the brilliant actors portraying them. The fandom stuck with us through thick and thin. They supported me under ALL challenges and difficulties, growing pains, and everything in between. I love them, I still do. I point this out because I knew it was the fandom that I wanted to please.

We had thirteen episodes to do it, which was a time constraint on me to begin with to wrap things up in a way that I wanted to. The budget was also lower, and I had to be cognizant of financial limitations in ways that…well, in ways I didn’t have to be in earlier seasons.

Knowing the show was ending stopped a certain progression of formal narrative advancement as far as new ideas in the series—series-expanding ideas. The show was still unfolding, of course, but the new ideas had to cease, and in their place, I needed to focus on the show’s past ideas. I needed to service what came before and build to a conclusion, not a cliffhanger. It’s a tightrope. I, and all the genius writers in our room with me, were acutely aware of this.

Fringe series finale 10th anniversary

FRINGE: Astrid (Jasika Nicole, L) and Walter (John Noble, R) discuss the plan to defeat the observers in the all-new “An Enemy of the Fate,” Part Two of the 100th episode and special two-hour series finale of FRINGE airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX

The final episode balances a lot—deeply emotional showcase scenes, high-stakes action, the show’s brand of humor…while also delivering payoff to season/series-long arcs. As the writer and director, what was your process like in making it all work?
Again, tightrope. Of course, first and foremost, I needed to deliver on everything we laid out for the viewers from the beginning. Like you said, deliver on all the season arcs. We had our own brand of FRINGE storytelling. FRINGE humor. Our own way of handling emotional situations for our characters. Our own unique FRINGE creepiness. How we handled our action, etc.

We had to do all of that, plus pay off the promise of what came before, right? The balance between plot speed and slower moments with characters to give the characters the time they deserved, as well as emotional ends that make sense as logical conclusions to their individual journeys. All while keeping people leaning forward, riveted to see how their characters are going to come out of this—or IF they are going to come out of this and resolve their issues. 

I wanted it to be emotional enough to maybe bring the fandom to tears with the characters as the clock ticks out, but keep it all going narratively, you know? It was finding the balance between spectacle and drama. I don’t think I slept much…the stakes were so high. As I said, I really wanted the fans to know how much I appreciated their commitment to the show. 

Fringe series finale 10th anniversary

Credit: Fox/WB screengrab

Was there a particular scene or sequence that meant the most to you from the episode? 
As a director, I’m going to naturally love the dynamics of all these scenes. They are just different. I must say, the Walter/Peter “You are my favorite thing” scene was just…it left us all gutted. John Noble and Josh Jackson just crushed it and…wow…to be in that moment with them, to just watch them take their time in these characters and deliver what they did for me, for the fans…it was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever conceived or shot. I would never get bored of watching that. Criminally underrated performances. I would even say, criminally underrated performances throughout the entire series. For them and the other cast members as well. I still don’t understand how that escaped people as brilliant award-worthy work worth recognizing. Travesty, really. 

Of course, the Fringe experiments making a comeback was tons of fun to shoot. I mean, who doesn’t love floating observers?   

There’s the beat at the end of the finale, after Peter gets the letter from Walter (who has vanished to reset the timeline), and he has a look. I know in the past you’ve mentioned you know what it meant…is that something you’d like to share?
No… I’ll leave that up to the individual viewer. (But you knew that!) 

What do you feel the show’s legacy is now?
I believe the show stands as a work of art, and love, and meaning. We crafted it that way. Even after ten years people are discovering it for the first time. You’d be surprised at how many times I’ve been stopped and told they were huge fans of the show, and their girlfriend made them watch it recently, or husband, or mother—young people binging it on DVD. I’m always humbled, and it means so much that it still could intrigue people, and, well, move people.

We were always interested in the emotion, the relationships, not just the strange Fringe science and far out ideas. It was always about the value of family and human connection, about our common longing to connect, our need to mean something to someone, you know? All our characters wanted that. It was about love, and hope, and believing that the impossible was possible. These are important things that are strong enough even to change fate.

In a way, the entire show was a metaphor for the power of emotion over intellect. Ultimately, I always write about the same thing, that life is valued by the human connections that we make. This is all important. Especially in the ever-present rising cacophony of the technological revolution. It’s important to try and tune it out and connect now more than ever. Even across a universe, or two. I hope FRINGE will be remembered as a show that got some of that across.

Fringe series finale 10th anniversary

FRINGE: Peter (Josh Jackson, L) and Olivia (Anna Torv, R) fight the observers in the final and extraordinary battle for the fate of mankind in in the all-new “An Enemy of the Fate,” Part Two of the 100th episode and special two-hour series finale of FRINGE airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the finale?
Arriving at a finale is bittersweet. It’s hard because you’ve arrived at the finish line, but so much is riding on that line. Five years of making a show and you’re going to send off the characters and the fans with a resolution. You can’t please everyone, but you want to, you know?

The journey of FRINGE was special and magical in so many ways. I had the best cast, the most committed cast, every one of them. The crew achieved things we really had no right to achieve, but for their incredible hard work. I mean everything from my writing team, casting, to production, postproduction, the executives at Bad Robot, Warner, and Fox. Everyone on the show knew what we had was special and worked their asses off. It was incredible. Everyone knew how lucky we were to be given the chance to tell these amazing stories and investigate these rich themes.

For me, it felt like we formed a disparate family. Just like the beloved characters in our show. It takes a village…I was able to accomplish so many artistic dreams standing on their shoulders. I’ll remember every minute of it. 


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