It's kind of hard not to be a little saddened by this news: Fringe executive producer Jeff Pinkner, who has been with the show since it first began, is stepping down as showrunner.
The announcement came on Tuesday afternoon from none other than Fringe co-creator J.J. Abrams himself. “We’re so excited to begin work on a fifth season of Fringe and to be able to deliver the 13 final episodes to our passionate and devoted fans,” Abrams said in a statement. “For four years, J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner have worked tirelessly as a team to keep all the worlds in order on Fringe. We’re thankful for the invaluable contributions Jeff has made to the show and of course wish him well and look forward to working together in the future. J.H. Wyman’s importance to Fringe cannot be overstated, however, and I'm thrilled that he will continue as showrunner for the concluding chapters of our story. We can’t wait for our fans to see what we have in store for them in the wild conclusion of Fringe.”
Fringe fans were naturally taken aback by Pinkner's sudden departure from the show, on which he had been serving as co-showrunner since the show's second season. Fringe mainstay J.H. Wyman, who has shared that title since season 2, will take over as the sole showrunner of the series. Pinkner will not be credited as executive producer for the final season, and will have no involvement whatsoever.
Wyman took to Twitter to reassure fans that Pinkner was the only one leaving. "I will be here until the last frame. We always encourage everyone to pursue their creative paths," he tweeted.
Since taking over, Pinkner and Wyman had formed one of the most reliable showrunner duos on television, consistently interacting with fans and providing plenty of hints as to the direction of the show. Wyman, who is writing the fifth season premiere alone, is at least continuing that trend; on Tuesday evening he revealed the title of the premiere, "Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11," to followers of his Twitter feed.
It's hard to imagine what would have motivated Pinkner to leave, considering his considerable involvement in the series since its inception (he helped to pen the show's very second episode). With only thirteen episodes left, either the split wasn't amicable or he got a really good, time-sensitive offer from somewhere else. It's probably best not to speculate; with Fringe coming to Comic-Con for the last time next month, fans will undoubtedly get these answers (as well as a few hints about the show's upcoming final season).
Fringe's fifth and final season season will premiere on September 28 on FOX.