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Reviewed by Will Harris
t’s probably a fair bet that some viewers who’d originally given up on “Fringe” came back at the end of Season One because of the announcement that Leonard Nimoy would be doing a few episodes of the show, starting with the season finale. Talk about your entrances, and talk about an ending that virtually guaranteed that those returning viewers would also be returning for Season Two.
After being forced to spend endure several months of being pegged as little more than an “X-Files” knock-off, it must have been a tremendous relief for the show’s fans when it presented a season finale that opened up a whole new universe of story ideas…literally. Now, in fairness, it’s not like casual viewers didn’t have good reason to see similarities between the two shows: they’re both about FBI agents exploring cases involving unusual events and occurrences. With “Fringe,” though, virtually every one of those cases turned out to have a direct connection to an overall story arc revolving around a corporation called Massive Dynamic, a mysterious scientist named William Bell, and a bunch of bald-headed dudes who always seem to be around when some seriously bad shit is going down. It wasn’t until that season finale that we really began to understand the depth of the series, but when a show wraps up its season by revealing the existence of a parallel universe in which the Twin Towers are still standing, it’s clear that everything up to this point has been mere prologue.
Speaking of that parallel universe, it’s where we left Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) at the end of Season One, but she returns at the beginning of Season Two. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a rough return, owing to the fact that she reappears right where she was when she left: on the verge of flying through the windshield of her vehicle. Worse, she has no immediate recollection of where she’s been, resulting in a series of meetings with a strange bowling alley attendant (Kevin Corrigan) who helps her prepare for the eventual return of her memory. (The process isn’t an easy one.)
The Season One finale offered another revelation which helped to steer Season Two: when we saw Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) kneeling at the grave of his son, Peter, who’d been alive and well and played quite nicely by Joshua Jackson for the previous 20-plus episodes, we realized that our Peter was actually the Peter from the parallel universe. It was a secret which Walter had kept for many years, but during the course of Season Two, it’s discovered by Olivia – having visited the other dimension, she finds that she can spot an aura around people and things who’ve been there as well – and, ultimately, by Peter as well. Prior to the latter development, however, here’s a fantastic flashback episode (“Peter”) which poignantly details the history of how Parallel Peter came to our dimension and why Walter made the decision that he did.
Season Two of “Fringe” still contains several episodes which appear on the surface to be “X-Files”-styled cases with no direct connection to the overall story, but, as noted, almost anything related to the so-called fringe sciences ultimately ties back into one of Walter’s past experiments (he’s been a busy boy over the years), and these episodes also lend themselves to guest stars, including Martha Plimpton and Peter Weller. There’s even a sidestep into the noir detective genre, thanks to Walter favoring Olivia’s niece with a story, but not only does it allow for an interesting digression, it also gives Anna Torv and Lance Reddick a chance to sing.
As Season Two of “Fringe” begins to wrap up, it does so by bringing together various plot threads from throughout the season and, at long last, giving us more of a look into the parallel universe than just the cursory glances that we’d gotten up until that point. (It also gives us a lot more Leonard Nimoy, which is never a bad thing.) Things once again conclude with a cliffhanger, and if it’s not quite as dramatic as the one which ended the previous season, it’s still enough to inspire fans to come back for another year.
Long before the end of its first season, “Fringe” had already proven that it was more than just an “X-Files” retread. Season Two, however, confirms that the series is a sci-fi force to be reckoned with.
Special Features: Fans will likely be most pleased with the opportunity to watch “Unearthed,” a previously-unaired episode from Season One, and they’ll be even happier that it’s been taken out of the original running order and placed amongst the final disc’s bonus material. (It originally caused some confusion because it features Agent Charlie Francis, who was, uh, out of commission by the time the episode aired.) There are also several “Analyzing the Scene” featurettes, which were highlights of the previous set, along with “The Mythology of ‘Fringe’” and “In the Lab with John Noble and Prop Master Rob Smith,” the latter giving you a tour around Walter’s lab. In addition, you’ve also got deleted scenes, a gag reel, and four commentaries, the highlight being the one for “Peter,” although the inclusion of my fellow TCA member Damian Holbrook as commentary moderator immediately brings back flashbacks of when he hosted the “Fringe” panel at the 2009 New York Comic-Con. Oh, the horror…