When "Fringe" last graced our screens one long month ago, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv) were left at cross-purposes once more. Following a fairly hefty info-dump from a mortally wounded Observer, Peter took two steps back in regards to his feelings for this timeline's Agent Dunham, apparently wary of making the same mistakes that landed him with a (now nonexistent) illegitimate lovechild with the wrong woman all over again.
HuffPost TV visited the Vancouver-based set of Fox's sci-fi drama earlier in March to find out whether Peter and Olivia's luck is set to change, or whether the star-crossed pair are still dancing around their destiny. Though we suspect it might be easier to rob Fort Knox than to extract spoilers from this cast, Jackson, Torv, John Noble (who plays Walter Bishop) and Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee) were every bit as accommodating as we've come to expect -- and undeniably charming, as well -- even while dodging our questions. The four managed to offer up some tantalizing hints about what's to come, especially in terms of episodes 19 and 20 (the latter of which HuffPost TV was on set for); but we're saving those tidbits until closer to their air dates.
For now, read on for some teasers regarding the March 23 long-awaited episode, "A Short Story About Love," which was directed by executive producer Joel Wyman. And don't forget to check out our exclusive video interview featuring all four stars -- there will be plenty more where that came from in the weeks ahead. Light spoilers ahead.
Though the stars of "Fringe" have been well-trained in the art of deflecting probing questions at this point, there was one fact that none of the actors were afraid of vocalizing: Their admiration for producer Joel Wyman in his directorial debut.
"I wish we would've had him earlier. It's always nice to have the executive, and somebody who's in the writer's room day-in and day-out and knows the show so intimately, come in and jump behind the camera and are just a font of information ... Unlike us, who are just a brick wall of interview," Joshua Jackson said with a laugh.
His co-star (and interview partner), Seth Gabel, agreed. "I love working with writers that are directors because you can talk to them about things, thematically, that are in the script, and actually have them play out in the show," he said. "[Joel] was really into that. He wanted to do this fun thing that actually related to Lincoln's feelings about Olivia and how they were changing based on everything that's been happening. We played so many things that weren't in the script, that were between the lines in just looks, and he told me how he was gonna shoot it so I could really play with what the character was thinking and know that it would actually be seen in the end, and not end up on the cutting room floor because it wasn't in the script. So I think there's a lot of really fun, quiet moments that are gonna be in [this week's] episode."
Anna Torv also had only the best things to say about working with Wyman. "It was really lovely to have a writer on set ... For the crew to sort of put a personality behind the name that you constantly hear about, it was a real pleasure. I think that the episode -- I haven't seen it yet -- but it was a lot of fun to shoot and a real nice kind of creepy episode."
John Noble was similarly effusive in his praise of Wyman, and recalled being a big fan of the episode's narrative. "I remember it was a beautiful, beautiful story. I had a lot of interesting stuff in it. I think the thing that interested me, strangely enough, was the very human nature of it ... We know that the strongest memory, probably, that we have is the smell of something. What they did was take that very point and turn it into a bizarre and frightening story; what if you were being misled by pheromones, essentially? It becomes a monster movie, really."
As usual, Noble said, Walter "loves all this [gory] stuff ... He thought it was great as he was digging around in corpses. I spoke to Joel afterwards and he said he thinks it was one of our most disturbing episodes. It was very interesting and really disturbing to me."
Torv was also enthusiastic about the fact that, in this episode, "the case of the week does track with what's going on [with the characters]," noting that Peter/Olivia fans could look forward to some "good payoffs" between the unlucky couple. The will they/won't they aspect of that central relationship has proven to be both a hook and a source of frustration for some fans, but this episode should provide a few of the answers we've all been waiting for.
"I like the idea that Peter and Olivia ... are supposed to be together no matter what timeline and no matter what universe," Torv admitted, before reiterating what the show's producers have been emphasizing all season: She thinks of this timeline's Olivia as the same Olivia she's been playing since Season 1. "I said that right at the beginning of Season 4. I didn't ever treat this one as a different character."
The actress did admit, though, that while we may get an idea of whether this timeline is truly the place where Peter is meant to be, a reunion between the couple might not be instantaneous. "I don't know what the resolve is with Peter and Olivia. They sort of seemed, for a very long time, to be constantly putting us together and then pulling us apart," she noted, before teasing, "What is Peter and Olivia without the obstacles? I don't know what they would possibly do if they had no Fringe event to go to. Just sit around watching reruns of 'The X-Files'?"
Noble, on the other hand, was far more confident in Peter and Olivia's destiny, observing that the writers are well aware that the fans are wholly invested in that relationship. "These are really difficult concepts ... What we've had to do with them is really complicated. Will an old memory, almost like an erased memory, come back through?" he mused rhetorically. "The [Peter and Olivia] decision -- I can't really tell you what it is, but we wouldn't have gone down this path unless it was a good decision, so that may be telling you something! We deal with that whole concept. From the arc of the story and from the emotional satisfaction of the story, I think we need to see a Peter and Olivia that are linked, whether it be romantically as a couple or as parents. We need to see them working together. To me, it's very uncomfortable when they don't work together. That was deliberate by the writers, I know that, but it certainly made me uncomfortable. We certainly don't want to leave people sitting there going, 'This is really uncomfortable.' It's a crime that happens in storytelling sometimes, particularly if series aren't finished off. We won't be falling into that trap, but we will be resolving that without being cheesy about it."
Jackson was far more circumspect than his co-stars during our interviews, so we're choosing to believe that Peter has some seriously meaty character development on the horizon. "I feel like I'm becoming a politician," he laughed apologetically. "I can speak much and say nothing." He would say that this week's episode furthers the Observer mythology that was established in the most recent run of episodes. "Through learning more about the Observers and what they mean in this Olivia's life, and as September reveals a couple more things to Peter, it leads the storyline down a very particular path," he hinted.
The actor also took the opportunity to comment on where a potential fifth season might lead the show, if "Fringe" is allowed another year to wrap up its storylines and go out with a bang. "It seems like they gave us a test run of what Season 5 would be if we did get a fifth season," he hinted. "We just finished an episode (19), which I think is what the template for the fifth season would be, what the story would be going forward. So I think they've figured out a way to extend the story, but I think the idea is to finish off this story this year, so that if it does have to be the end that it'll be a satisfactory ending. The thrust for everybody is to make it a satisfactory ending -- nobody wants to end the story with a cliffhanger and then shaft all the people who've given us four years of intense viewership right here at the end."
While we're keeping our fingers -- and everything else -- crossed that the genius minds behind "Fringe" are allowed another season to finish their story, we don't intend to take the next eight uninterrupted episodes for granted either. Weigh in with your thoughts and predictions for tonight's return in the comments below!
"Fringe" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.