Anyone who is a fan of sci-fi or fantasy films has no doubt heard of J.J. Abrams. Starting out with the ABC series Alias, Abrams branched out with the mind bending Lost and went onto direct the Star Trek reboot that brought in scores of new fans to the series and genre. But before the latest season of Lost started and Star Trek debuted in theaters, fans of Abrams got to take a look at his latest project: the Fox network’s Fringe. Merging reality together with science that we can only dream of, Fringe made for a fantastic addition to the Fox lineup, bringing a genre back to Fox that it hadn’t seen since the 90s. Judging by the series quick pick-up, nearly commercial free broadcasting and rampant number of fans, it’s clear that Fox (and Abrams) once again have a series with a rabid fan base that won’t easily let go. Fortunately for that fan base the series’ first season was met with an even better second and a third that promises to continue the roller coaster ride that the second ended on.
Return to explore the boundaries of a mysterious mythology that holds millions of viewers in its hypnotic grasp. Season 2 of Fringe contains worlds (and alternate worlds) of excitement complete with shape shifters, cryonic heads, belly-dwelling beasts and people who turn to ashes before our eyes. But the overarching narrative takes three clandestine FBI agents – Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop and Walter Bishop – through a mind-bending investigation of a parallel reality that threatens to destroy ours. The impossible is here in a series that offers “the most satisfying, coherent story arc of any science-fiction-flavored primetime drama” (Mike Hale, The New York Times).
It took me a long while to get into the first season of this show, but once they worked out all the rough spots it really began to shine as a series. By the end of the first season I wanted more and there wasn’t a single episode of the shows second season that I didn’t feel was as good as the previous one (except maybe the one where they removed Charlie…I mean, really? I liked that guy…). By the time we got to the season finale it felt like such an incredibly long journey, mainly just because of how much happened. I mean we got a few filler episodes here and there, but for the most part it was a very long journey to where we ended up. I was mildly shocked by looking at this box set simply because it said it was only the second season—most shows barely progress this much by their fourth season, let alone their second.
Obviously the most talked about element of the series was the finale. While it was something I surmised would happen from the moment we ended up with parallel Olivia’s, I had hoped that it wouldn’t end as such—mainly because it would make the wait for the follow up to it simply unbearable. I do wonder how long they’ll stretch it out as it has the potential to either be something easily discovered or drawn out, depending on which direction they opt to go in. Either way the payoff will be huge for the series and whether they want to change the series direction for a bit or quickly return to the norm remains to be seen…though I can certainly see the benefits for both.
In any case, the finale was but one small part of this box set. Twenty-two episodes comprised the season and the majority of it was hinged around the mystery of Peter’s past and how much he did or didn’t know about it. Once Olivia found out it felt like it was going to be a major turning point of the series…but then it went on hiatus and I completely forgot all about it. When it returned I couldn’t figure out why she was so uneasy around him (I apparently skipped past the recap in my eagerness to start watching it)—but watching it all again on Blu-ray helped make the season flow a lot more naturally. I’m always amazed by how non-episodic these shows are nowadays. I can blame (or praise) 24 for that I suppose—they’re fun to watch week by week, but the real joy comes from when you can watch them in long binges on home video.
In any case the entire second season is included here:
A New Day in the Old Town
Night of Desirable Objects
Of Human Action
What Lies Below
The Bishop Revival
Olivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver.
The Man from the Other Side
Over There: Part 2
It was a fantastic season from start to finish to be sure and as I said there wasn’t a single episode I didn’t enjoy—although the “Brown Betty” episode was kind of awkwardly placed, if only because it was building up to be a grand finale and then we kind of hit this slow episode that came out of nowhere. But overall this second season is a Highly Recommended outing, regardless if you’ve seen the first season or not. While the third season may not be as easy to jump into as the second, it seems to be a fairly welcoming show to newcomers…as long as you don’t join midway through a season anyway.
Fringe’s second season arrives on Blu-ray in a respectable way: loaded with extras and packaged in a very nice cardboard slipcase with a very nicely done reflective foil finishing. Inside the slipcase is a case that houses the discs for the set, all housed in the Viva Multi-Pak style housing. Disc art oddly reminds me a bit of Lost’s and the menus are simple and easy to navigate as always.
Video arrives in the form of a VC-1 encoded transfer for this series and as can be expected from a modernly produced series, the digital clarity here is quite fantastic. The series use of color palettes varies by locations, but whether it’s the more warmly lit persona dwellings or the cool blue warehouses, the series never fails to impress with the visuals. There is a layer of grain present on most sequences and some close ups are perhaps a bit less clear than they could have been, but considering this is a four disc set housing twenty-two 44-minute episodes, I can accept a little bit of quality loss for sake of keeping the pricing on the set reasonable. Unfortunately part of that condensing onto four discs includes the lack of any lossless audio track, as we’re given a standard DD5.1 mix—the same as the DVD release. Still, it’s a 5.1 sound mix that makes use of the shows unique sound effects. Dialogue is clean and clear and center channel focused, while surrounds get pushed around with the action sequences. I really wish Warner would start using at least TrueHD mixes on these TV series sets—they seem to do it with everything. It can’t honestly cost that more to use an uncompressed source…
Commentary on four Episodes by series stars and creative team
The Mythology of Fringe
Fringe: Analyzing the Scene – sidebars on six key episodes
In the Lab with John Noble and prop master Rob Smith
Unusual Side Effects: gag reel
Dissected Files: unaired scenes
The “Unearthed” Episode starring Kirk Acevedo as Charlie
There isn’t quite as much here to check out as the first season, but it’s still a very nice package regardless. The four commentaries are a surprise (we only got three last time), but sadly the featurettes aren’t quite as impressive as last time. They’re still very entertaining and definitely pieces fans will want to watch, but considering the flood of them we got on the last release I’m mildly surprised we didn’t get more of the same on this second season. Still, it’s a nicely rounded out set, especially since they popped the “Unearthed” episode in there (I was thrown a bit that it wasn’t part of the main crop of episodes, but then realized it was a held back season one episode).
Overall a Recommended set even with the standard definition audio mix.
Fringe – The Complete Second Season arrives on Blu-ray on August 14th.