One of the most interesting concepts on Fringe is the group identified as the Observers, who hover in the background at notable events. At first, the members of the FBI’s ‘Fringe’ division, Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson), barely notice them, but the Observers’ presence is now becoming obvious and it’s time for the team to discover who they are and what they want.
I recently asked the show’s producers Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman about the Observers and their place in the series.
How did the Observers come about?
Joel Wyman When we fist started imagining the show and what the series would look like, the Observers was one of the first ideas that came up in our earliest conversation. When you start to imagine a world, you start to think what would be really fun, and sometimes you just want to surprise yourself, and give yourself a cool puzzle.
One of the one’s that came to mind was what if there were these characters who all they did was watch, and our team, Olivia specifically, realized that there are these events that seem significant to them. But when they realize there’s a guy who seems to be at all of these events around the world, sometimes two, almost simultaneously watching, that they take on a whole new heightened significance.
What was the process of developing the Observers and how they look and how they act?
Jeff Pinkner We were looking for something that was sort of iconic and at the same time, we were fascinated with the idea of all the little things that go on under our nose every day; the construction workers, the guys working on telephone poles, those weird marks on the sidewalk that you don’t quite know what they’re for, the last couple of remaining payphone booths, when all the rest have been removed. We wanted the Observer to have a quality of being invisible.
We put him in the first three episodes of the show and then finally revealed him in the fourth, and people looked back and went, ‘Oh my God, he was right there, he was right under my nose and I didn’t see him.’ And then the notion of some of his characteristics came up, the bald head, the no eyebrows. We imagined how it would be that somebody who wasn’t of our world would end up in our world. And the fact that his senses were largely deadened, and so it took a lot of stimulation for him to feel anything, so that led to the hot tempers and some of these other characteristics of his character.
We’ve had the episode August and we had an Observer named September. Are we going to find out where this is going to lead us and what this means?
Joel Wyman Yes. You definitely will. It’s funny because Jeff has pointed out on several occasions that Josh Jackson did an interview last year where he actually let slip one of the names of one of the Observers. Our fans are so great at figuring things out, heading us off at the path, and I think they’re going there, but nobody really got it, so it’s sort of out there already.
We’ve now had an episode about the Observers.
Jeff Pinkner Yes, what was special about it to us and what became really important to us is in the world of the mythology of the show, there had been all kinds of things that had just been hinted at or alluded to. We’ve seen the tip of the iceberg and now we see a lot more below the waterline in that episode.
Joel Wyman For people who are interested in the Observers, it definitely qualified them to a certain degree for everybody. It definitely opened up a whole other line of concept and a whole other line of understanding for the viewer to sort of say, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s really interesting.’
What kind of journey are we on this season?
Joel Wyman It’s a journey of self actualization for our characters, that’s kind of what separates last year from this year. Jeff and I always refer to last year, specifically as a prologue for the series, where you get to understand the characters initially. You get to understand what’s going on, you learn something about the pattern, and you lean everything that you would need to situate yourself and enjoy the series.
In this season, we’re really looking to get deeper into our characters and have people really participate with them and watch their evolution, whether it’s Walter’s emancipation this season and how he’s having more of his own awakening; whether it’s Peter discovering things about himself and about the others that he works with and his place in the world; and Olivia, in the same regard.
You get to really see the cases a little bit more this year through the eyes of our people, whereas last year I think that if there were subtleties that we would place in that a lot of people would really be able to get it. Because they didn’t have a point of reference or a point of contact, whereas now, because we have so much contact that even the smallest little lines could have a tremendous amount of meaning which frees us up a lot to be a little bit more subtle and tell a lot more story.
In Season 1, it was sort of a family coming together, and in Season 2, the family secrets come out…