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Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season(TV) (2012-2013)
Fringe revolves around three unlikely colleagues – a beautiful, young and determined FBI agent (Anna Torv), a brilliant but off-the-wall scientist (John Noble), and his sardonic, roguish son (Joshua Jackson) – who team up to investigate a series of peculiar deaths and disasters.
For more about Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season and the Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray release, see Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown
Directors: Norberto Barba, Joe Chappelle, Brad Anderson, Jeannot Szwarc, Akiva Goldsman, David Straiton
» See full cast & crew
Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray Review
All good things must come to an end...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 7, 2013
I think it's time we, the insatiable, network-bashing citizens of geekdom, start asking ourselves a few tough questions, even though it calls for a bit of devil's advocating and a willingness to risk being branded a heretic in the Fringe forum thread. So brace yourselves accordingly, dear readers. In a survival-of-the-fittest television ecosystem, is mid-series cancellation always the worst fate that can befall a struggling show? How often does the final season of a beloved classic utterly or even partially fail to deliver? How often does a finale disappoint? How often is the destination of a multi-season journey less satisfying than the one imagined in a diehard fan's mind? Could it be that Fringe -- despite being spared an earlier cancellation and given the rare opportunity to tie up loose ends and grant a proper ending to its twisty, Cortexiphan'd existence -- would have come to a more fitting, more rewarding conclusion in our collective imaginations?
For some, the answer will undoubtedly be, "absolutely not!" They are the small but tenacious band of Fringe freedom fighters who adore showrunner J.H. Wyman's fifth and final season; apologists who shrug off any and every criticism, reminding the critical that Wyman and his writers were afforded too few episodes to wrap up a saga that needed, nay, deserved at least four more seasons; dutiful viewers who trembled, wept and cheered as the story came to its all too abrupt but emotional close. For others, the most honest answer will land somewhere closer to, "it wasn't what I hoped for." They are the betrayed Fringe fanatics; betrayed by a ratings-hungry network that made it increasingly difficult for the series to operate at full creative capacity; betrayed by a writers' room that didn't seem to know quite what to do with the show's final season or, at the least, how to overcome the burden Fox placed on their shoulders; betrayed by one of their favorite series, which might have been more accurately dubbed Season 4.5.
A word of warning: mild spoilers ahead. Fringe's fifth season takes what would have been a three or four-episode arc in previous seasons and stretches it to the point of breaking. Worse, it transforms the series into something else entirely: a modestly budgeted, hit or miss post-apocalyptic invasion thriller more akin to Falling Skies or Revolution than the infectious X-Files/Lost hybrid we've all come to know and love. It offers pat answers to once mind- bending questions, one-note solutions to once grand mysteries and a cozy, predictable ending that isn't nearly as complete as it might first seem. Only the remnants of Fringe Division and its allies -- Olivia, Peter, Walter, Astrid, Philip, Nina, Lincoln and September -- prove compelling. For some, that will be more than enough. For others, it will only bring things halfway home. Me? I've been with Fringe from the beginning; for better or worse, through sickness and in health, till cancellation do us part. But Season Five left me wanting, and unfortunately not wanting more episodes. It left me wanting a sharper storyline, a more shocking unraveling, a fonder farewell and a more hypnotic, more fulfilling swan song.
The plot, as it were, is a tad barebones by Fringe standards, and the series writers draw out each step forward and major reveal as if it isn't already abundantly clear where the final season is going and the broad strokes of what needs to happen along the way. Picking up where "Letters of Transit" left off, the central members of Fringe Division -- Olivia (Anna Torv), Peter (Joshua Jackson), Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) -- find themselves in 2036 after being sealed in amber twenty years earlier. Since the team's hibernation, the Observers, posited as 27th century human invaders at the end of Season Four, have taken control of the planet, established an Orwellian dystopia and rule every aspect of the remaining population's lives.
Reunited by their now-adult daughter Etta (Georgina Haig), Olivia and Peter race to help Walter and Astrid acquire several videotapes that, piece by piece, bit by bit, outline a plan to defeat the Observers Walter and September (Michael Cerveris) devised and recorded two decades ago; a plan dear, sometimes delusional Walter can't remember. Soon the time-displaced rebels are locked in a battle for the past and the future with their new overlords, one that will lead them to components of an unknown device, an extraordinary young child named Michael (Rowan Longworth), a mystery man named Donald, old friends Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) and Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick), and a deadly Observer, Captain Windmark (Michael Kopsa), hellbent on bringing the Fringe fugitives to justice.
Absent, though, is much of the bizarre macabre and sci-fi horrors that made earlier seasons of Fringe so grotesquely memorable. (Although an Observer lobotomy and its outcome, as orchestrated and conducted by Peter, is particularly gruesome.) Rapidly declining are the unforeseeable surprises, the unexpectedly sympathetic abominations and victims of science, and the week-to-week cases that first made the series the addiction it's become. The world is already fleshed out, the Observers revealed, and the writers often fail to offer anything refreshing, or really anything of lasting substance. The fifth season's mysteries revolve around identity and purpose, little more. Who is Michael? Why does he exist? Who is Donald? What is the machine Walter is compiling parts to build? Whatever happened to good ol' September? Who lives? Who dies? Most everything else has already been explored -- William Bell and such -- or isn't shrouded in enough secrecy to keep things from drifting into repetitive waters.
The newer characters don't add a whole lot to the final run either. Etta is wasted, and Haig doesn't manage all that intriguing of a performance anyway. She's essentially a catalyst for Olivia and Peter, and when she quickly serves her calling, her development stalls. The sinister Observers are the biggest scene stealers, but they're all but ripped straight out of Dark City; hardly the complex villains to which series fans are accustomed. Michael is as bland a walking MacGuffin as you might imagine a mute, emotionless child would be, and the Donald reveal shouldn't catch anyone off guard. Nor should Walter's videotapes, one of the most shameless and lazy expositional devices I've ever seen a smart science fiction epic like Fringe roll out. Rather than craft a story of true, riveting discovery (again, as previous seasons have), Dr. Bishop drills a few feet farther each week, recovers the next videotape in his collection, and listens to his past self give his future self instructions on what to do or where to go next.
And although all that may make it sound as if I despised Season Five, I have to be honest: I didn't. I was perpetually disappointed -- Fringe no longer felt like Fringe to me -- but I still felt a strong sense of love for and loyalty to the characters. For all the squandered potential, watching Olivia and Peter deal with loss, be it the loss of years with their daughter or the loss of some of those closest to them, was heartbreaking. Seeing Peter and Walter connect as never before, perhaps for the first time as unhindered father and son, was even more gratifying than I anticipated. Laughing with Astrid and Walter, tensing up whenever the Observers would close in, hoping beyond hope that the Fringe team would pull off the impossible... these were still the people I've developed an intense affection for over five rocky seasons. Where the scripts lacked plot subtlety and prowess, they still excelled in character interaction, dialogue and relationship mapping. Whenever both the journey and the destination proved to be less than exhilarating, the actors would step in and save the season from a gristly death.
As endings go, Fringe and its fifth season serve up a decent one. The only downside? It isn't a great ending, or even a great season. It's competent, but it was capable of so much more. I blame a network that couldn't make up its mind, and while I appreciate the 13-episode chance Fox gave Wyman to put a bow on all things Fringe, the version that was playing in my head -- and I suspect, if we're all being honest, the version that was playing in most of your heads as well, different as each one may be -- was much better.
Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Much like its predecessors, Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season arrives on Blu-ray with a strong but less-than- ideal video presentation with a few notable flaws. Crush is rampant, delineation is quite uncompromising and noise spikes somewhat erratically on occasion. None of it amounts to a significant distraction -- especially since the series' hyper-exposed palette and stark contrast leveling is the chief culprit in each instance -- but clarity still takes a hit as darkness rises or night descends. The only real encoding issue? Brief bursts of macroblocking (seen in the bright skies here) that disappear as quickly as they appear and, for the most part, will go unnoticed by most viewers anyway.
Otherwise, everything looks exactly as it should. Colors and fleshtones have been stripped down and washed away to visually striking, thematically relevant ends, replaced by grim dystopian grays, blues and browns, bloodless primaries, and deep, inky blacks, punctuated only by the warm, rich amber hues of Walter's makeshift lab. Wherever the series' heavy shadows fall, detail is consumed without prejudice. However, wherever light strikes, detail flourishes; so much so that Fringe once again delivers one of the crispest, most revealing television presentations out there. Closeups are outstanding, fine textures are often masterfully resolved, and edges are typically razor sharp, without too much in the way of ringing. It has its trials by softness, particularly whenever the team switches on flashlights and goes spelunking in a murky, grimy abandoned building, but that again is an eyesore that traces back to the source. In all, artifacting, banding and aliasing are kept to a reasonable, altogether negligible minimum, and fans of the series will find the fifth season's presentation to be every bit as satisfying as those of previous seasons.
Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is easily the series' best audio mix to date; fierce and aggressive when called upon, attentive and diligent at all times, and delicate whenever subtlety and a gentle touch is required. Dialogue is clean, clear and intelligible at all times, regardless of how intense or violent our heroes' predicament becomes, and effects are presented with style. Wet, fleshy gore increases the ick factor of key scenes dramatically, rippling implosions and hearty LFE-boosted explosions show off plenty of low-end kick, and the rear speakers grab hold of anything that might make the soundfield more immersive or unsettling and use it to its full potential. Directionality is convincing, almost to the point of having a wicked sense of humor. Pans are perfectly transparent and dynamics are impressive as well, as is prioritization, which takes everything from the quietest whisper to the most pulse-pounding beat in the fifth season's score and strikes a fantastic balance. Yes, Fringe's sound design is a bit too on the nose -- a bit too loud and pulpy for the sake of the next organized shock -- but it's also presented here with first-rate proficiency and power. I was thoroughly pleased, especially since I didn't feel the urge to use the words "well, at least for a TV show" at all.
Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fringe's fifth and final season left me a bit too cold, and Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid were my only solace. The story was too one-dimensional for the series, the setups too repetitive, the payoffs too predictable and the mysteries too contrived. Even so, the character beats stand as some of the show's finest, and I shed a tear or two by series end. On the whole, Wyman and company brought things to a decent close. Just not a great one. Warner's Blu-ray release is much better, so long as you ignore The Complete Fifth and Final Season's much too short and underwhelming supplemental package. With an able- bodied video presentation and a first-class DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, Fringe's Blu-rays go out on a high note. I wish I could only say the same for the series itself. Ah well, love it or loathe it, it's been quite a ride, and I'm glad I stayed on board.
Fringe: Other Seasons
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Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fringe: The Complete Fifth Season and The Complete Series Blu-ray... - January 23, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray releases of Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season and Fringe: The Complete Series, a 20-disc box set that bundles all five seasons in as yet unrevealed packaging. Both sets arrive on May 7, 2013.
Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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