Seemingly on the cancellation bubble since its debut, Fringe is the rare endangered show that not only deserves to be saved but has markedly improved over time. Where Season One was decidedly hit or miss with its mixture of standalone monster of the week and complex conspiracy episodes, Season Two was sporadically great when it focused on the parallel universe and Walter’s desperate attempts to conceal Peter’s secret origin, leading up to a spellbinding trip to the other side as the season closed. Season Three was a chance for the creators to finally convince viewers they had figured out what the show was about, and they knocked it out of the park.
Instead of wasting time on throwaway standalone episodes, each episode of Season Three built on the previous one and expanded the grand scope of the parallel universe concept while tracking the creation of a doomsday device on the other side. This opened up the show to some delicious dual character roles, especially for Walter/Walternate (John Noble) and Olivia/Fauxlivia (Anna Torv). Well, in the case of Olivia it was actually a triple role since she temporarily channeled the spirit of William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) with surprisingly effective Nimoy inflection. John Noble still easily stole the season’s acting crown though, with his charmingly befuddled Walter character a nearly polar opposite to his focused and deadly Walternate.
Meanwhile, Joshua Jackson still drifted along as Pacey…er, Peter, still trying to find his place in the show after three years. In his defense, the show still doesn’t seem to know what to do with him, ultimately just making him a pawn in the war between the two sides and two Walters. Sure, there’s the half-hearted and inevitable romance with both Olivias, but he’s still more a plot point than a protagonist, making the shocking conclusion of the season not all that shocking after all. That’s not to say it’s not a great setup for Season Four, because it’s nearly as good as Season Two’s cliffhanger, but there won’t be much of a gaping hole to fill while they resolve the new direction.
Since the show plays out like a season-long movie, the Blu-ray format is ideal for experiencing its visceral audiovisual thrills in pristine 1080p and DTS HD-Master Audio. The effects approach theatrical quality and the overall production values of the show ensure that the hi-def format is worth the extra investment. The box set is packed with over three hours of extras including a look at the animation process for the innovative “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” episode, commentary on two episodes, a gag reel, and an exclusive Blu-ray bonus that provides pop-up commentaries and featurettes during the “Os” episode.
Fringe: The Complete Third Season is now available on Blu-ray and DVD in just enough time for a viewing marathon before Season Four debuts later this month.