Big events are about play out during the final three episodes of Fringe this season as Fox begins what amounts to an "epic trilogy" tonight with an episode called "6:02 AM EST," according to Australian actor John Noble, who plays the lovable, if complicated, Walter Bishop.
"All year we've been heading toward the fact that there seems to be an inevitable conflict between the two universes," said Noble during a conference call yesterday. "And we've gotten to know the people on both sides now, so we now bring it to a conclusion starting with '6:02.' By the next episode we start to deal with the issue because our earth starts to deteriorate. Events start to happen here which indicate that our world is degrading. And so everyone has to move into another gear and say, 'Okay, this problem is not going to go away. It's now affecting outside. We do have a machine which we believe can assist in the resolution of this problem.' And so the episode basically deals with the lead-up in the first part of that trilogy, leading up to the use of that machine."
Walternate—the alternate version of Walter, who is also played by Noble—will indeed find a way to activate the machine. "And as a result of which our world starts to break down," said Noble. "I mean, seriously break down, as we've witnessed in the alternate universe. Which of course then prompts panic on our side. What do we do? We start to resort to ambering ourselves. We have to find a solution. Walter has to really come to his very best, get his best faculties back together again, do exactly what [William] Bell told him he could do, and resolve these problems with everything he needs to do it. He has allow Peter the freedom to be a hero instead of being a protective parent. It's very dramatic in that scene. And we finish the episode ... as I said, it's a trilogy, these three, but we finish in a very dramatic place as we begin to activate our machine. I don't really want to say any more than that. It'll take the sting out of it. But it's a very powerful episode and the beginning of three extraordinary episodes."
As for the title, "6:02 AM EST," that time is critical, he said. "That time frame plays through the three episodes. Very important to remember as we get to the finale, that time frame."
In this epic episode, we'll also see Noble playing both Walter and Walternate, as the alternate universes begin to crash into each other. It creates challenges as an actor, he said. Sometimes he plays both Walter and Walternate "in the same day. And sometimes it's twice in the same day, with two makeover changes. Normally by the end of those days I just feel exhausted, one way or the other."
Playing the complex Walter Bishop for three years has given Noble an experience unlike any he's had during this long career as an actor, which has included roles in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, 24 and Stargate SG-1.
"Walter's journey is a journey of redemption. And I understood that. In fact, I thought from the beginning of season one that that was a sort of great arc. Walter had a really tough season in the sense that he was, most of the season, alienated from his beloved son. And he found that very difficult, because he had become so attached to Peter. And obviously Astrid stepped in and helped him out, but he had to battle a lot of that by himself. So that was a tough 40 days in the desert for Walter," said Noble.
"And toward the end of it, you'll see that there will be some resolution between Peter and Walter. A much more grown-up relationship will establish. That same beautiful trust that they had until the end of season two, I think it was, when Peter finally realized that he wasn't the son, that isn't back. But there's a different type of respect and love in there now. So it's been a huge arc for Walter, who's been spending a lot of the time really very lost. ... He's been told by Bell and by Nina, 'You are everything you need to be to do what you have to do.' So he's had to accept himself and have the patience to know that that's perfectly adequate. It's a wonderful journey, actually."
That wonderful journey, however, is one that's taken him from playing Walter to the equally multifaceted Walternate to playing an animated version of himself last week. "They keep presenting me with new challenges, don't they?" said Noble. "Somewhere in the next few weeks you'll see another challenge coming up too. For Walter, or for me playing Walter ... Walter is still a work in progress. A most rare thing to be able to develop a character over four years."
As for the actor, Noble has been on an interesting journey as well. "When I'm shooting 22 episodes, my life really revolves around the 14 or 18 hours a day that I do on set. And so apart from maintaining good health, which I do ... I do a lot of that. Any time off that I get, I make sure that I'm doing a yoga class or something. Because really we've found that we have to remain prepped and fit. In fact, Anna Torv said the other night—it was five o'clock on a Saturday morning and we still had two hours to go—she said, 'Isn't it remarkable how fit we are and that we haven't had one day off in three years?' And I think that struck me. That is pretty remarkable, really. So a lot of it is just staying focused on the task at hand. I do find time to play music and do some painting, but most of it is to deal with the work."
And it looks like Noble will have to keep up his good health for at least one more season. Fox has given an early order for a fourth season of Fringe. That move surprised many, considering the ratings haven't been as good as many of us hoped once the series was moved to Fridays.
While Noble wasn't worried about getting canceled, he has considered a world without Fringe. "I was thinking this morning ... imagine if there was no more. Because we have so many stories to tell that it would be a strange, empty feeling for me personally. And certainly judging from when I talk to fans and to journalists ... In fact, we headed off to Paris on the weekend to talk to some fans. The response across the world, not only in North America, is the same. There's a great sense of jubilation. And [executive producer] Jeff Pinkner tells me he has so many stories to tell, he could go forever. So there's a real sense of excitement."
While Noble doesn't know where Fringe will take Walter and Walternate past this season, he believes the show "could run forever. Really. By opening up the fact that we have one identical universe in pure science indicates that there could be thousands of them, should we wish to go down that way. Where they'll go, I don't know. What I do know is they'll remain constant to the central characters that they've created from season one. Somewhere within that wonderful journey you'll still have Peter and Astrid and Walter and Broyles and Nina. Those characters will still somehow meander through whatever wonderful journeys we take. Certainly I don't know. And the writers themselves aren't sure which way we'll go next."
Fringe airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
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