One of the best new series of 2008, "FRINGE," is having its first season made available on blu-ray and dvd by WARNER BROS. J.J. Abrams has done it again, and while "LOST" deserves its acclaim, "FRINGE" is every bit as good, and as addictive. While the first couple of episodes presented a couple of concerns as to whether the main characters were developed enough, things tightened and improved with each episode, leaving the final episode's last few seconds as gripping a cliff-hanger as there has ever been on any series thus far!
Anna Torv stars as FBI agent, Oliva Dunham. As the first episode unfolds, an airliner has been victim to some kind of horrific bioterrorist plot and, while tracking down suspects, Olivia and her boyfriend/partner, John Scott, is blown up in an intentionally set explosion. Olivia seeks the aid of a gifted but crazy scientist, Walter Bishop. Unfortunately, in order to secure his temporary release from the mental institution/prison, Olivia also needs the assistance of Bishop's long detached son, Peter. Olivia's boss, Phillip Broyles, impressed with Olivia's drive and superior ability to get things accomplished, opens up to her about his concerns of the "pattern." The airliner and other strange situations, are occurring all over, and it appears that a giant corporation, "MASSIVE DYNAMIC" may somehow be involved, using the world's population as the setting for advanced experiments with potentially earth-shattering consequences. Creator J.J. Abrams has credited "THE X FILES" as an inspiration for the series, and one has to be grateful he was a fan of that series, since there hasn't been anything of its nature close to as good as it since that series ended almost a decade ago! As great as the writing is(the team responsible for "THE TRANSFORMERS" writes a lot of these)it's hard to imagine a better cast. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that of Joshua Jackson! From the first episode, he makes it easy to forget the trappings of his "DAWSON'S CREEK" character and buy into him as a leading man. It's on par with what Mark-Paul Gosselaar did in shedding "Zach" from "SAVED BY THE BELL" for the multi-layered detective part he assumed in "NYPD BLUE." Olivia's boss, played by Lance Reddick, brings the same commanding presence he displayed in every on-screen moment of "THE WIRE." Blair Brown, of "ALTERED STATES" brings a menacing, yet classy presence as the seemingly nefarious spokesperson for "MASSIVE DYNAMIC," while still an underling for its even more mysterious CEO(himself sure to bring a smile with his debut appearance at the season's finale cliff-hanger)!
Each episode pairs up Olivia with Peter and the team, as they investigate often horrific crimes or mysteries. These episodes serve as self-contained episodes, however, even as disconnected as they may at first appear(one episode involving a scientist's wife needing to attract and murder men to survive, another a sewer dwelling lab creation comprised of a lion and snake), the ever-building connecting links with MASSIVE DYNAMIC continue to build.
While "FRINGE" certainly pays homage to the best aspect of "THE X FILES," it's a fantastic series on its own. The characters are well developed, and viewers develop a real stake in the success of their mission, let alone their survival! While "X FILES" had its share of humor, and even a few episodes devoted to self-contained darkly comedic scenarios(the Christmas ghost story with Ed Asner, ..the movie being filmed about "THE X FILES" with Garry Shandling as Mulder), the humor in "FRINGE" feels more natural and has less of a wink at the audience.
"FRINGE" manages to evoke memories of the best in sci-fi and horror on tv and film. There's actually a considerable amount of time devoted to a "deprivation tank" paying homage to the great sci-fi, cult-film, "ALTERED STATES." And, to Abrams' credit, "FRINGE" doesn't hide its love for sci-fi/horror of the past, it revels in it, reminding older viewers of what made "classics" classic, and letting new viewers know the sci-fi/horror genre can be every bit as excellent and addictive as any other.
WARNER BROS has provided the correct 1.78:1 aspect ratio(16:9 enhanced for dvd) for both dvd and the 1080p/VC-1 blu-ray. The differences between blu-ray and dvd are like night and day. Colors are solid on dvd, but richer on blu-ray. While grain is present on both formats, it's less intrusive on the blu-ray. Detail is impressive in either format, but the dvd presents edge enhancement on more than a few occasions and contrast is notably better on the blu-ray. Again, both look good, but the blu-ray typically looks "great!"
WARNER BROS. has provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for both formats. It's a huge disappointment to find the blu-ray didn't come with a lossy mix! Still, the sound design of the show is generally well complimented with both formats. The mixes are generally on par with one another, however the 5.1 mix of the blu-ray feels more aggressive in scene-to-scene comparisons. While the series is dialogue-heavy, surrounds pack a punch when displayed, and more notably so, along with deeper bass on blu-ray.
Some great extras are offered. Three commentaries are provided, with an "extra" available on the blu-ray via BD-LIVE. The best commentary is offered for the "pilot episode," featuring Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Some deleted scenes(less than ten minutes) are interesting, yet with the individual episodes running longer than usually allotted for a series, there wasn't much more to be explained, or missed.
A production diary, and look at casting ends up being more entertaining than these kinds of features have been for other releases. So much so, they really deserve to be checked out before any of the other extras. The blu-ray also offers a featurette in HD, "FRINGE PATTERN ANALYSIS," wherein scientists and experts discuss the reality or potential for reality behind six select scenes and the series concept as a whole.