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Since it began airing on the Fox Network, I have thought of FRINGE as one of the best things on broadcast television. I am not alone in my love for FRINGE, the show has been and continues to be critical darling, as well as having a small, but highly dedicated following (including those that DVR the series). Of course, fans have had to reconcile their love for FRINGE with the fact that the television series has never really drawn a large audience. Because FRINGE never brought in the big ratings that networks like to get, the series has been under the threat of cancellation for several seasons. However, I will give the Fox Network credit for sticking with FRINGE, despite the low ratings, even keeping the show on life support the Friday night death slot, a place where most shows find themselves quickly cancelled. FRINGE has not been a money maker for Fox over its four full seasons, but the Network did recognize the quality of the show, with its compelling drama of thought provoking science fiction, so it managed to keep finding it a slot on its schedule. Finally, Fox managed to strike a deal with Warner Bros. to ensure a final fifth season of thirteen FRINGE episodes, which would not only allow the series to tie up its storylines for its small dedicated audience, but also bring the series to a syndication package of one hundred episodes.

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. For my money, FRINGE remains the best hour of scripted television currently airing on either a broadcast or a cable network. I highly recommend picking up the preceding three seasons on Blu-ray as a primer to this outstanding science fiction drama (they can usually be found at discount on Amazon).

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 fourth season cast of FRINGE also features Jasika Nicole as FBI Agent Astrid Farnsworth, Seth Gabel as FBI Agen Lincoln Lee, who comes Fringe Division late in the game, Jared Harris as Season Four's main antagonist David Robert Jones and Michael Cerveris as a mysterious figure referred to as The Observer (or September). Season four also comes with some very cool surprise guest appearances.

Seasons one, two and three of FRINGE reveals numerous threads concerning the nature of "The Pattern," weaving together many answers, with the Fringe Division ultimately managing to prevent the very nature of reality from unraveling. However, season four of FRINGE is a game changer; throwing out much of what we have seen across the first three seasons- the situation is essentially the same, yet many of the circumstances of how the characters find themselves in that situation are very different. 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. As always, I keep my description of the season's story arcs as ambiguous as possible, because to say anymore would certainly do a disservice to anyone wanting to discover the mysteries of FRINGE on one’s own. What I will say is that season four of FRINGE, is that it offers one mind-bending episode after another.

FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON ($70) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired during season four: Neither Here Nor There, One Night In October, Alone In The World, Subject 9, Novation, And Those We've Left Behind, Wallflower, Back To Where You've Never Been, Enemy Of My Enemy, Forced Perspective, Making Angels, Welcome To Westfield, A Better Human Being, The End Of All Things, A Short Story About Love, Nothing As It Seems, Everything In Its Right Place, The Consultant, Letters Of Transit, Worlds Apart, Brave New World Part 1 and Brave New World Part 2.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. As with the preceding three seasons on Blu-ray, the 1080p presentations contained in the FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON blow the 720p broadcast versions of the show out of the water. Gone is that all of the artifacting and other peculiarities that I associate with the over-compressed network feeds of my local cable system. This is another handsome edition of high definition episodes that display excellent levels of image sharpness and clarity. The picture is almost always highly defined, with some of the process work and television level CGI coming in a bit softer than principle photography. Depth and dimensionality are terrific, plus the image demonstrates excellent texturing and fine detail. Colors are strongly rendered, but there are individual shots and scenes where lighting does impact saturation, causing hues to be a bit more sedate. Blacks are on the money, as are the whites. Contrast and shadow detail are very strong 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 FOURTH SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. FRINGE remains one of the more solidly mixed dramas airing on broadcast television, so the lossless soundtracks maximize the potential of these episodic sound designs. With its action and sci-fi elements, FRINGE makes genuinely good use of all the discrete channels. However, FRINGE is still a television production, and therefore, concessions have been made for the necessities of broadcast, so the episode sound designs never reach the heights of a motion picture. The sound design for the episodes is largely dialogue driven, with an emphasis on the forward soundstage and center channel for the talky passages. Channel separations are quite good for both sound effects and music. The rear channels effectively augment the forward soundstage, with active effects during the action sequences. In addition, there is a nice complement of ambience and fill coming from the rears. 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. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Featurettes and other programs include the following: The Culture Of Fringe (thirty minutes), A World Without Peter (twelve minutes), The Observers (twelve minutes), Have You Seen Walter Lately? (two minutes), Beyond The Fringe: "Peter And The Machine" Excerpt (Comic Book sampler) and Beyond The Comic Book (four minutes). A Gag Reel closes out the standard extras. An authorization code is provided for an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the episodes, which are just a stream away.

Nearing the end of its run, FRINGE remains the best hour of scripted television airing on either a broadcast or a cable network. Season four offers one mind-bending episode after another. The Blu-ray presentations are totally first rate across this collection. Absolutely Positively Recommended. If you are not watching FRINGE, you should be- do yourself a favor and pick up seasons one to three on Blu-ray (again, they can usually be found at discount on Amazon).


Fringe: The Complete Fourth Season [Blu-ray]


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 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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