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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2010

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"Fringe Season 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-october-2010-fringe

Synopsis

FBI Agent Olivia Dunham finds herself investigating very strange and bizarre cases that involve an area called “fringe science.”  Assisting her are junior agent Astrid Farnsworth (Nicole), Peter Bishop (Jackson) and a kooky but brilliant scientist recently released from a mental institution, Dr. Walter Bishop (Noble).  It turns out Dr. Bishop and his colleague Dr. William Bell experimented with many questionable theories during their younger years and managed to unleash or at least learn of some pretty weird science.  Some cases involve people with un-natural abilities or strange medical conditions.  Others center around mysterious creatures or never-before-seen technology.

Season Two begins a larger story arc involving a parallel universe and attempts by people on both sides to travel between worlds.  We learn that Olivia has certain abilities previously unknown to even herself.  By the end of the season a full-fledged war is brewing between forces from both universes and even some of the main characters are not what they seem.  Even the elusive Dr. Bell (Leonard Nimoy) makes an appearance to warn of the coming conflict.  While Olivia and her colleagues try to unravel the plot, Peter has his hands full keeping his father in line and focused on the tasks at hand.  The last few episodes set up a tremendous cliffhanger that will make you salivate for Season Three!

Specifications

  • Fox/Warner Brothers
  • 2009, Color, Not Rated, 16 Hrs 8 min (22 episodes)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  Not Specified
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Starring:  Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole and John Noble
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes, and gore
  • Sex:  No
  • Language:  No

Commentary

I lamented the demise of the X-Files in 2002 both for the ending of the series and the downward spiral in quality of the last couple of seasons.  When I first heard about Fringe, I thought it would be a simple clone of the concept but I was pleasantly surprised.  Even though there is a distinct “monster of the week” element to the show, the main characters are quite different than Scully and Mulder.  Dunham is a hard-nosed FBI agent who actually has an open mind as she works to prove herself.  Anna Torv does an excellent job in the part.  She is especially adept at hiding her Australian accent.  John Noble plays the exceedingly eccentric Dr. Walter Bishop.  His expertise is crucial to the solving of the team’s cases.  After spending 17 years in a mental institution he is slowly adapting to the real world and developing a new relationship with his son.  He and Joshua Jackson, as Peter Bishop, have an on-screen chemistry that makes their relationship totally believable.

Creator JJ Abrams promised “no aliens” when he conceived Fringe.  The story arc is instead about a parallel universe.  As we learn more, it’s obvious that there is something big in the works.  By the end of Season Two, things both come to a head and set us up for the future.  This story element is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen.  The concept is certainly not new having been explored on the various Star Trek series.  Fringe presents it in a whole new way.  Instead of characters trying to alternately avoid or interfere with events “on the other side,” Fringe creates a conflict between the two.  Agents from both universes believe they are enemies and try to subvert each other with stealth rather than an all-out confrontation.  Season Three is airing now and has set several episodes solely in the parallel universe.  If you like any kind of science fiction, you will love Fringe.  It will appeal to all tastes from the hardcore sci-fi nut to the casual entertainment seeker.  I highly recommend adding this set to your library.

Technical

I’ve always been impressed with Fox’s broadcast HD quality and these Blu-rays are equally well-done.  Fringe has a film-like look and feel that very few TV show discs can match.  Color is nicely saturated with a very natural look.  Color temperature varies from warm to cool depending on content and is always appropriate to what’s happening on screen.  Flesh tones are accurate with excellent detail in the actor’s faces.  Some CGI effects show softness but by and large, they’re in the same league as many movies.  Dynamic range is very wide with inky blacks and nice bright highlights.  I sometimes saw crushing of detail in darker scenes but it was not bothersome.

Inexplicably, Fox only includes a lossy Dolby Digital sound track on this release.  It’s too bad because it’s of pretty good quality.  The depth and detail are there but somewhat veiled and flat thanks to the compression.  Music comes across nicely but again, its full potential is not reached.  Like most TV shows, the sub and surrounds are not used much.  It’s a shame to say this release “sounds good for Dolby Digital” because it deserves better.

Extras

Bonus features are decent with the inclusion of four episode commentaries by members of the cast and crew.  There are documentaries on production and the science behind what is seen on the show.  A tour of the lab set is available with John Noble as host.  Also included are deleted scenes and a 3-minute gag reel.  Finally there is an extra episode from Season One that was inserted without announcement into the Season Two broadcast run.  Since it breaks the flow of the story, the disc set wisely leaves it out of the sequence.  It is there to enjoy on disc 4.