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With each passing episode, I become more and more convinced that FRINGE is the best hour of scripted television currently airing on either a broadcast or a cable network. A compelling mixture of character drama and thought provoking science fiction, FRINGE will probably be remembered as one of the shows that redefined and reinvigorated science fiction television. Already in its third season, with a full season order of episodes for its fourth, FRINGE it a critical darling with a small, but highly dedicated following (including those that DVR the series) that has managed to win the show the continued support of the Fox Network. However, said network support can only last so long, and FRINGE could use an infusion of new viewers to keep the series on the air beyond season four. Hopefully, those reading this review have an interest in FRINGE and will make it point to spend a portion of their Friday evenings watching the series when it airs new episodes.

As you might have guess by my above statements, FRINGE is my favorite television show, and the single series that I absolutely refuse to miss. Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, FRINGE is a mishmash of genres, refusing to be defined by any single one. FRINGE mixes elements of science fiction and character drama into the tried and true realm of the police procedural, but softens the mix with the personality quirks of a central character, who adds an element of comic relief; something that never undermines the drama or science fiction elements. Certainly, FRINGE has a lot in common with another influential sci-fi based series, namely THE X-FILES, which also aired on the Fox Network. However, FRINGE remains a very different show from THE X-FILES, although both were and are compelling in their own ways.

The premise of FRINGE focuses on the Fringe Division of FBI that was established to investigate a series of events known collectively as "The Pattern." All incidents involving "The Pattern" are wildly different, yet share a common element, namely, each has the appearance of a disastrous experiment in fringe science. FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is the lead investigator for the Fringe Division, and she has assembled a rather unique team. Olivia’s team includes Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a brilliant, but disgraced scientist named, who spent seventeen years in a mental institution before being "recruited" by Olivia. Although Walter is quite literally a "mad scientist," his history of working with the government in the area of fringe science makes him the only man capable of understanding the science behind "The Pattern." Walter’s son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) is nearly as brilliant as his father, but his unconventional background makes him a jack-of-all-trades during the investigations, not to mention the fact that his presence is only thing that can keep Walter’s mind focused on the work.

Overseeing the Fringe Division is Homeland Security Special Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), whose job includes discovering the end game behind all instances "The Pattern," while running interference with the government bean counters. Fringe Division has also been getting help from the private sector, thanks to Massive Dynamic, a powerful global technology corporation that is on the forefront of the majority of the world’s scientific breakthroughs. Massive Dynamic CEO Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) has put the corporation’s resources at the disposal of Fringe Division on numerous occasions, and while Nina appears to be fully cooperating with the government, Olivia suspects Nina’s loyalties really lie with Massive Dynamic’s mysterious founder… who was once Walter’s lab partner. The third season cast of FRINGE also features Jasika Nicole as FBI Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth, Kirk Acevedo as FBI Special Agent Charlie Francis, Seth Gabel as Lincoln Lee, Ryan McDonald as Brandon Fayette, Kevin Corrigan as Sam Weiss and Michael Cerveris as a mysterious figure referred to as The Observer.

Across seasons two and three, much has been uncovered about the specifics of "The Pattern," with many questions being answered… although many questions remain unanswered. Of course, I remain hesitant to reveal too many details about the bigger puzzle behind "The Pattern," but solving it becomes paramount to preventing the very nature of reality from unraveling. As I stated above, FRINGE involves elements of thought provoking science fiction, with the series creative team utilizing theories from quantum physics as the springboard into its core mythology. However to say anymore would certainly take the joy out of discovering the mysteries of FRINGE on one’s own. What I will say is that season three of FRINGE, is that it offers one outstanding episode after another.

FRINGE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON ($70) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired during season three: Olivia, The Box, The Plateau, Do Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Amber 31422, 6955 KHz, The Abducted, Entrada, Marionette, The Firefly, Reciprocity, Concentrate And Ask Again, Immortality, 6B, Subject 13, OS, Stowaway, Bloodline, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, 6:02 AM EST, The Last Sam Weiss and The Day We Died.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from FRINGE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Like the preceding two season collections, the 1080p presentations contained in the FRINGE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON Blu-ray set continue to blow the 720p broadcast versions of the show out of the water. The first thing one will notice is that all of the artifacting and other peculiarities associated with the over-compressed network feeds are nowhere to be seen on the Blu-ray. Additionally, FRINGE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON looks even better than the preceding season sets, which were no slouches in their own right. Image sharpness and clarity, as well as fine detail, texturing and depth are all very impressive. Close-ups can look amazing; you can see every line, freckle, blemish and imperfection in the actors’ skin. Even tiny, fine blond hairs on actress Anna Torv’s skin were clearly discernable. Digital effects shots and background plates can look softer than principal photography, plus there are odd shots that contain soft focus and smoke, which produces diffusion. Colors are usually well saturated, but the intensity of hues is lighting dependent. Flesh tones appear true to life. Contrast and shadow detail are very good for a television level production. The elements from which the episodes are transferred appear very clean. Grain/noise is noticeable, but generally mild, although darker sequences do display more than those that are brightly lit.

All of the episodes that constitute FRINGE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. As I noted on the previous season set, FRINGE is a solidly mixed television production, whose sound design makes genuinely good use of all the discrete channels. However, this time around, the episodes are offered with lossless soundtracks, as opposed the lossy tracks contained on the previous two season sets. As a result, season three episodes are warmer and more spacious sounding than from seasons one and two. Of course, FRINGE being a television production, concessions have been made for the necessities of broadcast, so the episode sound designs never achieve a theatrical sweep. Episodic sound remains dialogue driven, with a forward focus towards the center channel during the talky the passages. There are good channel separations for sound effects and music. The rear channels nicely augment the front, with active effects during the action sequences, in addition to providing the usual complement of ambience and fill. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is quite strong, especially where the musical component is concerned. The bass channel is fairly robust and reinforces the music and sound effects. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. Portuguese language tracks are also encoded onto the episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Running Audio Commentaries are featured on two episodes: The Plateau, with writer Monica Owusu-Breen, executive producer Jeff Pinkner and paranormal author Timothy Good and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, with FRINGE insiders Jay Worth, Luyen Vu, and Tanya Swerling. Next up is a Glimmer To The Other Side with Warner Brothers immersive Maximum Episode Mode, which is offers viewers an enhanced version of the episode OS that features, commentary, picture-in-picture pop up windows containing a look behind-the-scenes, as well as access to relevant ancillary programs (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Featurettes and other programs include the following: Under Duality Of Worlds on will find The Other You, Visualizing An Alternate World, A Machine Of Destiny and The Psychology Of Duality, other programs include Constructing An Extra-Sensory Soundscape, Secrets Of Fringe: The First People and Animating The Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Episode. Unusual Side Effects AKA a Gag Reel and Network Promos close out the standard extras. FRINGE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

FRINGE is the best hour of scripted television airing on either a broadcast or a cable network. Season three offers one outstanding episode after another. The Blu-ray presentations are totally first rate across this collection. If you are not watching FRINGE, you should be. Absolutely positively recommended.


Fringe: The Complete Third Season [Blu-ray] (2010)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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