Tonight's Fringe is like a pilot for a new and totally excellent showS

This past season, Fringe got bogged down in exploring an alternate timeline where Peter Bishop didn't survive his near-drowning in 1985. As a result, Walter Bishop was sidelined, and everybody else was grumpier. In retrospect, it hasn't been my favorite season of the show — although recent episodes have shown more of a return to form.

The good news is, tonight's episode of Fringe is a pitch (to Fox, as well as to the viewers) for how the premise of the show could be completely reinvented. And it's the most fascinating hour of Fringe since the show's creative peak, back in 2010. The other good news is, tonight's episode doesn't require you to have seen Fringe before — and it certainly doesn't reference anything that happened in the past year. So if you strayed away from Fringe, you don't have to worry about being confused.

We're still waiting to see if Fringe gets a fifth season (probably a shorter one, like 13 episodes instead of 22). By all accounts, we should have heard something last week or early this week — but no news is probably good news, in this case. It's possible that Fox is waiting to see how people respond to tonight's pitch for season five's storyline — in which case that's all the more reason to convince any friends who you suspect might have a Nielsen box or whatever to watch.

I'm not going to give any spoilers here — just know that tonight's episode turns the show's mythology on its side, in a way that actually works for the most part. And John Noble is given free rein to steal the show as much as he wants, which is usually a formula for greatness. If you want more spoilers, we posted some clips in morning spoilers today.