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Blu-ray Review: Fringe – The Complete First Season

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Written by Senora Bicho

Fringe is the latest creation of J.J. Abrams whose previous television work includes Felicity, Alias, and Lost. Being a fan of all of those shows, I was eager to see to check it out. Abrams doesn’t hide the fact that he is fan of the The X-Files and this show is clearly homage to it. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, writers of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, co-created the show and have worked with Abrams in the past on Star Trek (2009) and Mission: Impossible III.

FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is assigned to the special unit that investigates strange phenomena. Her first case involves a mysterious fatal toxin that killed a plane full of people. When her partner, John Scott (Mark Valley), becomes infected she learns of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) through the course of her research for a cure. Dr. Bishop is known for his work on fringe science, a classified U.S. Army operation focusing on things like invisibility, re-animation, and mind control. Dunham wants to meet with Dr. Bishop but the problem is that he has been locked up in a mental institution for many years after a lab accident and the only authorized visitors are immediate family. Therefore, Dunham enlists his son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), to arrange a meeting. Peter is estranged from his father and we learn early on that it is a difficult relationship.

Through the course of the investigation, Dunham learns that this is not the first case of its kind. These types of occurrences are happening all over the world and have come to be known as “The Pattern.” A large global company, Massive Dynamic, appears to be closely linked to all of these events. The bulk of the season involves the story arc involving “The Pattern,” Massive Dynamic’s involvement, and how the main characters fit in. There are also standalone cases. Abrams wanted a show that could cater to the serious fan who wants to dig deeper and look for the clues tied to the underlying story while also providing the opportunity for viewers to be able to come and go as well.

The cast was superbly selected. Torv is gorgeous but also brings a down-to-earth charm and vulnerability to the role. I was initially disappointed with the choice of Jackson since I was never a fan of Dawson’s Creek and wasn’t sure if he could pull off this type of role. I was dead wrong. However, he is perfect as the renegade genius trying to reconnect with his father. Nobel is the shining star, his character is complex and multi-dimensional. He is a real mad scientist with warmth and an innocent, childlike quality. In extreme moments, he provides comic relief that diffuses the tension. The supporting cast includes the fantastic and intense Lance Reddick as Phillip Boyles and Jasika Nicole is the adorable young assistant Astrid Farnsworth. Blair Brown has a recurring role as Nina Sharp the CEO of Massive Dynamic.

One of the big mysteries of the season was who was the head of Massive Dynamic. This revelation fell a little flat when they showed the actor’s name in the opening credits; why would they do this? He only shows up in the last minute of the finale but it could have had a much greater impact had it been a complete surprise.

I am happy to report to fans, that in addition to the 20 episodes, this collection is packed with bonus features. Exclusive to Blu-ray, “Fringe Pattern Analysis” provides an expert’s perspective on notes, photos, and diagrams from six key scenes. “The Massive Undertaking” offers episode-specific featurettes available on select episodes along with “Dissected Files/Deleted Scenes.” “Fringe: Deciphering the Scene” highlights a particular scene from each episode. “Evolution: The Genesis of Fringe,” “Behind the Real Science,” “Fringe Visual Effects,” “The Casting of Fringe,” and “Gene the Cow” are more in-depth featurettes on these various areas. There is also a production diary and gag reel.

The video is presented in 1080p at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The details are mostly very sharp and rendered with great texture. Occasional softness creeps in, but appears to be due to the source. The colors are solidly displayed with minor black crush. Also evident is grain and limited contrast adjustment, but nothing that should detract from the visual experience.

However, audiophiles will understandably be annoyed that the set only comes with one option: Dolby Digital 5.1 instead of a lossless soundtrack. The surrounds get some use, but don’t create an immersive experience for the viewer. The dialogue is understandable from the fronts. The LFE is serviceable, but should deliver more oomph to the action proceedings.

Fringe is a science fiction thriller that allows the viewer to decide their level of involvement. The show hooked me right away but almost lost me with a couple of really outlandish cases, such as being able to images off of a dead man’s eyeball. I am glad that I stuck it out because once the season settled in around episode five, it became intriguing and exciting. I am not sure how satisfying it would be to just catch an episode here and there. My interest in the show is tied to the growth and depth of the characters and their involvement in the grand scheme. I would highly suggest watching all of season one before embarking on season two.

But you had better hurry, the new season starts on September 17th.

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  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Fringe is a great show and, like you mentioned, an amazing homage to the X-files. It isn’t a far stretch to imagine Olivia existing in the same world and working in the same FBI where Mulder and Scully lived and worked, which made me start daydreaming, early on during the first season, that there would be a reference to Mudler and/or even a small role.

    Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

    While the cast is great, I have to admit I had a tough time with Torv’s performance at the beginning of the season. But she’s getting there; she and the rest of the case seem to have finally sunk deep into their roles by the end of Season 1.

    The only exception is Noble, who, like you mentioned, is definitely a shining star.

    I’m looking forward to Season 2!

  • Page 48

    “Fringe” is certainly sci-fi, but has yet to live up to its very generous ‘thriller’ billing.

    By way of comparison, “Alias” was a thriller. Now, the real burning issue is, when will “Alias” debut on blu-ray??