When Fringe first aired I had written it off as an X-Files clone but without Gillian Anderson to keep me interested. Boy was I wrong. After watching the second season I can safely say that this is one of the tightest-plotted dramas out there that features some of the hardest science I’ve seen in a television program in a very long time.
Even though I went into season two cold, I picked up on the important points right away. Olivia Dunham works for the FBI’s Fringe Division, a special subset devoted to investigating cases that fall on the “fringe” of theoretical science: pyrokinesis, shape-shifting, alternate worlds, et al. She is aided by special consultants Peter Bishop and his imbalanced-yet-brilliant father Walter. The three form a rather unconventional family of sorts. The main conflict of season two is the incursion of people from an alternate universe and as the season plays out we learn important history about Walter, Olivia, and Peter.
There are so many great aspects to this show that it’s difficult to decide where to start. The acting is superb with John Noble often stealing the show as the haunted, imbalanced Walter. His facial expressions alone are incredible but his ability to be consistently amoral-yet-lovable is astounding. He’s a repentant Dr. Frankenstein driven to a nervous breakdown by his terrible actions. At times he’s childish (other times sweet and loveable) but always brilliant.
Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson are just as good as Olivia and Peter, but because their characters are more balanced than Walter, they don’t have the opportunity for brilliant moments of quirky acting. They provide the anchor to Walter’s often diminished mental state, and the three work so well together that it’s easy to forget that these are actors and not real people; it’s the highest compliment to pay an actor, I think.
The characters alone make this show worth watching, but the stories are just as good. I can honestly say that there wasn’t an episode in this season that I didn’t like. The way each episode seamlessly juggles poignant character moments, far-out SF concepts, action, and an overarching seasonal plot is very impressive, and in particular I like how no plot point is drawn out too far. I’ve seen shows in the past where plot points go on for far too long and become more tedious than entertaining. Fringe doesn’t make this mistake: every new wrinkle or development is given enough time to be properly fleshed out and realize its full potential yet never overstays its welcome. The only other program I’ve seen that juggles these different elements so successfully is Supernatural.
And then there’s the science. Not to belabor the comparison, but unlike X-Files, Fringe has stringer standards for science based on the advances we’ve made since then. The concepts they play with are amazing but not impossible given what we currently know about genetics, chemistry, and physics. For a science nerd like myself this is pure joy. Science serves as the backbone to almost every aspect of this show. At its heart Fringe is about the wonders and dangers of scientific progress, and it doesn’t give any easy answers.
It’s actually not fair to compare this show to The X-Files, mainly because Fringe is so much better. There’s a uniformity of concept and purpose to this show that X-Files never had, and the quality of story, acting, and idea are far greater. Fringe stands on its own, and it does so very well. This is the kind of show Science Fiction fans have dreamed on, and now that I’ve finally given it a shot, I’ll be watching it every Thursday night.
Each episode is presented in Widescreen with no other specifications given. The only audio track is in English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. In terms of quality each episode looks and sounds great.
There are plenty of great special features on this disk, but my favorite has to be the Unearthed episode, which plays with the concept of possession.
The Unearthed Episode
The Mythology of Fringe
Fringe: Analyzing the Scene Sidebars on 6 Key Episodes
In the Lab with John Noble and Prop Master Rob Smith
Commentary on 4 Episodes by Series Stars and Creative Team
Unusual Side Effects: Gag Reel
Dissected Files: Unaired Scenes
Now that I’ve seen Fringe I can’t believe I almost missed out on the series. The acting, the stories, and the concepts are amazing, making this now one of my favorite television shows. Even though season two is accessible to new viewers like me, if you haven’t watched the show I’d recommend starting from the beginning. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. If you are a fan of the show then I highly recommend picking up this new set. Best. Science. Ever.
Warner Home Video presents Fringe: The Complete Second Season. Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, and John Noble. Running time: 968 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: September 14, 2010.