Fringe: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)
One of television's most intriguing and provocative science fiction shows comes to an end as Fringe
bows out with this set of 13 episodes (on four discs, plus bonus material) from its fifth season. It's been quite a run, as the members of the multi-agency task force at the center of the action (principally Anna Torv as FBI Agent Olivia Dunham, John Noble as the brilliant but erratic Dr. Walter Bishop, and Joshua Jackson as Walter's son Peter) have gone from investigating bizarre phenomena (slugs as big as footballs, teethed parasites that can crush your heart) to figuring out the nuances of a parallel universe and, in this series end game, trying to save the world from their most implacable foe yet. That would be the Observers, a highly advanced species of humans who have invaded Earth (the storyline, which takes place in the year 2036, was introduced in the season four episode "Letters of Transit"). Pasty, shaven-headed (humans call them "Baldies"), and sporting identical dark suits and fedoras, the Observers have sacrificed emotion for intellect, are able to read our minds, and are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to make it more breathable for themselves. It's a totalitarian nightmare, but our heroes have a solution, of course. Having preserved themselves in amber since the Observers showed up in 2015, they are now free and, joined by Olivia and Peter's now twentysomething daughter (Georgina Haig) and helped along by a couple of renegade Observers, they spend most of the season on a kind of doomsday scavenger hunt for the various elements of a device that will defeat the invaders.
With so much at stake, the overall tone of the show changes somewhat in this final season, with an action-adventure element marked by numerous chase scenes, gunfights, and last-second escapes from the bad guys. At the same time, this is a much more emotional Fringe; as is often the case in such tales, it's human elements like trust, sympathy, and love that distinguish us from other species, and while the finale is filled with complex pseudo-science, it's also very moving, especially when it comes to the relationship between Walter and Peter. Bonus material includes interviews with series creator J.J. Abrams and other members of the cast and crew, episode commentary, deleted scenes, and more. --Sam Graham