When I first saw the cast of Fringe at Comic-Con in New York in February, they mostly seemed nervous and uncertain in the spotlight. The banter among the cast wasn’t all the smooth either. After taking in a few season one episodes, I could see why. Despite the promising premise of FBI agents dealing with growing unexplained scientific phenomenon, aka fringe science, this show still hadn't found its footing at that time.
By the time the season one finale stunner (guest starring Leonard Nimoy) had aired, those issues of identity seemed to be fading. The producers and cast conveyed that as well in the press room at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. This time, they were more confident and sure of where they were going in the upcoming season.
"We know what the show is to a much greater degree," explained executive producer Jeff Pinkner. "Always in a first season show, you're trying to find it, trying to find the voice, trying to find what works and what doesn't work. Like most shows that I've been associated with, the characters and actors playing them start to become more one."
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman agreed. "I think in general we're much better prepared for this season than last."
"It's really a trial by fire, and if things are going really well by the end of the first season, everything starts to slot into place," said executive producer Bob Orci.
The guidelines that were set early on in the series still apply today and seem to be serving the new focus well. “We made a rule very early on that our show would not have aliens because X-Files had done that so well,” explained Pinkner. “And we made another rule that all the science would be plausible based on the science that’s currently accepted or at least photoscience. The stories come from two different directions, we’ll come up with an idea that we love and go ‘okay now go make the science work,’ or we’ll start with the science and the say ‘okay where’s the story?’”
While sending the message that season two was well laid out, no one was specific with spoilers to ruin surprises, either. Even though three episodes have already been shot, none of the guests were talking specifically about what was in them. "If you saw our season finale, Olivia ended up in the other universe and she's going to come back," said Pinkner. "There's gonna be consequences of what's been done to her and what's happening to her. In many ways, she's going to become affected by the cases in this world."
Anna Torv (Olivia) only gave a hint when asked if we would see Olivia's "superpowers" next season. "I know we will, I know for sure we will." How are the scenes with Leonard Nimoy going to play in this season? "We know, but I can't tell you. You do get to find out, you do eventually see the rest of that scene, but in a really cool way."
Joshua Jackson played the game of dodge pretty well himself when talking about Peter's direction. "It's like the Star Wars thing, use his powers for good rather than evil. He starts to invest this shady knowledge that he has and his personal immorality. He doesn't have a moral attachment to things being good or bad. He's presented with a problem, he knows the solution, it doesn't really matter if he breaks some eggs along the way. I think he's sort of figuring out his humanity as the second season is going on."
Jasika Nicole (Astrid) had something to share regarding her character and a new agent being introduced. "We're actually going to start talking about the aspect of religion and how you balance that out with science... what do you do when you have your faith that you've grown up with and that's a huge part of you? How do you combat that against these things that are happening and all this death and destruction. You hear someone's in charge of it and it's not God that you know of or the God you're familiar with."
Questions of character relationships came up often, but not much was hinted there either, especially with Peter and Olivia. “Olivia’s character has so many walls and she was in love with someone who burned her badly she’s going to be very not willing to trust again,” said Orci. “Peter for his own reasons has his guard up so and I think if they get there organically wonderful but we’re not going to force that.”
What about the developing father/son relationship for Peter and Walter? "That huge reveal about Peter not being one of us at the end of the first season is inevitably going to lead to a breakup," said Jackson, not giving more than that.
One thing that was certain, the show's move to Vancouver changed the landscape a little. Wyman so far was pleased with the changes. “Vancouver allows us to do much more because our money goes further with the Canadian dollar and the production value goes up. The things we’re planning to this year really do take a certain amount of fiscal responsibility to be able to do so we figured we definitely could get much more money through there. We’re ecstatic, it was a smooth move, all our keys are still with us, and we found great people there.”
"Vancouver is my hometown, so in a way it's moving home, so personally it's not difficult at all," said Jackson. He notes though not everyone made out as well as he did. "Eventually television becomes the people that make it, more so than the actors and the writers. It becomes a machine and the cogs of the machine are all of us doing our bit and putting in. To move the show, we had to lose 140 people who were employed on our show. There's a certain degree of bittersweetness because without their hard work we don't get season two, and in a just world you don't repay that hard work with a pink slip."
Just like with most of the other TV shows at Comic-Con this year, they acknowledged their presence here was for the fans. All this second season planning wouldn’t have been possible without the support they’d gotten. "It's so difficult these days to find time for appointment television," said Wyman. "When you're asking someone in this busy, busy time to commit to your show, the five minutes that they have in their day to sit down, why choose my show? I want them to feel that they're appreciated."
Appreciated or not, taking the Thursday at 9pm time slot where there are many other appointment television shows will be Fringe’s greatest challenge this fall. At least they’re going in with a solid vision and a cast that is feeling more comfortable with their roles and each other. That’s a great way to start a second season.