Tuesday, September 24, 2013

'Fringe' Season Five (2013)

Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble
Created by JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

After saving the universe from power-mad William Bell in Season 4, the Fringe team has settled into something of normalcy. New parents Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) take their young daughter Etta to the park. In a flash of light and a crack of thunder, the invaders come: the strange men from the future known to the team as the Observers quickly conquer the world. Etta is lost in the fray. The Fringe team joins the resistance, and then they disappear.

21 years later, an adult Etta finds her parents, and her grandfather Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his assistant Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) frozen in amber. She frees them, and brings the team up to speed: the Observers control the world, and are slowly converting the atmosphere to something more suitable for their kind. Humanity lives under their thumb, and the oppressive forces of the human Loyalists. Travel is restricted. Freedom is a myth.

The Fringe team quickly gets to work with the resistance. Before they were frozen, Walter had concocted a plan to defeat the Observers. But the information has been stolen from him by an Observer named Windmark (Michael Kopsa), who sucked it telepathically from his very mind. Fortunately, Walter detailed the plan on a series of video tapes frozen in amber under his old lab in Harvard.

Now the Fringe team is desperately working to unlock the mystery of Walter's plan. With the Observers closing in, time running out, they'll put everything on the line for the sake of the future.

The fifth season of "Fringe" is much in line with the rest of the series: great concept, mediocre execution. The problem is that the show just never follows through on any of its great ideas, always scraping by with the bare minimum to be just cool enough to keep me watching.

Here, we find our heroes living in a dystopian future. But you'd barely ever know it since they still have their nice apartment, 2013-model cars and cell phones (only sometimes referred to as "comms" for some reason) and still somehow manage to travel back and forth between Boston and New York in the blink of an eye.

We're told that Harvard University has become some kind of high-security Observer base. So of course, our characters decide to move into it and spend months there completely unnoticed... save for the occasional moment where everyone freezes when a truck pulls up outside. It's patently absurd. Multiple conversations take place in which characters talk about how they need to remain hidden while in their basement lab, but the lab draws large amounts of power from Harvard's electrical grid, the lights are on all the time and Walter even listens to music on his old turntable.

Ultimately, the final season of "Fringe" boils down to a scavenger hunt as the team struggles to piece together bits of Walter's plan and all the necessary ingredients for it to work. Unfortunately, the plan itself involves some wonky time travel rules in order to work, and the whole thing just left me frowning.

And yet, the show is still capable of putting together some compelling arcs for its characters and the production is often rather impeccable. So although it tends to be frustrating, it's still fairly entertaining. The actors own their roles and really commit to everything asked of them, which is good. The dialogue between them tends to be snappy and heartfelt.

The real gem of the show is, as always, the performance of John Noble as Walter Bishop. In this season, Walter struggles once again with recognizing his growing ambition and fearing that the man he will become will be one devoid of love or compassion. This leads to some wonderful moments between Walter and the other characters, specifically Joshua Jackson as his son Peter. The relationship between these two has always been one of the best aspects of this show, and that's no different here.

Decently entertaining, with moments of brilliance mixed in with frustrating idiocy, the final season of "Fringe" wraps things up in typical form. Fans will find a lot to enjoy here, though newcomers shouldn't bother to jump on board at this point.

See Also
Season One
Season Two
Season Three
Season Four