Fringe Season 4 Review – Warning: Despite best efforts potential spoilers ahead…..
For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Fringe’, please allow me to provide you with a brief synopsis. The Fringe division of the American government consist of Olivia Dunham, Philip Bishop, Dr. Walter Bishop and Astrid. This small unit areæ a team focused on saving cases that deal in the fringe of scienceæie the really crazy sci-fi stuff that youædon’t really believeæcould exist, but then upon watching you suddenly think ‘wow, when they put it like that maybe this could really happen!’ In a time when ‘Out-there’ Tv Shows are being cancelled by networks left, right and centre, ‘Fringe’ (under the tutelage æof Lost-Alumni JJ Abrams) has manged to get 4 seasons, with a shortened 5th season on the horizon, but is this a show that has stretched the imagination to the point of insanity or are we making significant strives forward with our minds?
To think where we have come from the first season, ‘Fringe’ has had a massive shift in dynamics. If you have not seen the first 2 seasons then look away now…..being set in 2 dimensions allows the actors to not only have the opportunity to play their respective characters in 2 alternate ways, but it provides them with a challenge to bounce off of themselves and create relationships with fellow characters in new lights. None of this can be truer thanæfor the wonderful John Noble (Walter Bishop) who plays the mad professor and tyrannical secretary of state to such a level that you truly believe that they are 2 completely different and yet ultimately the same human beings. But with this season of ‘Fringe’ there are character and story arcs even for ‘Walternate,’ shedding some light on how the 2 men became so very different.
For a change the main attention seems to shift from Peter Bishop to Olivia Dunham. Without giving too much away the link back to Olivia’s childhood, which pops up from time to time, but had previously appeared to have been brushed under the carpet suddenly finds itself under the proverbial microscope. JJ Abrams loves to write for strong woman – Evageline Lilly in Lost, Jennifer Garner in Alias and this is still the case for Anna Torv. Over the course of the previous 3 seasons she has been asked to do a few things that other actress may have protested against, whereas Torv just knuckles down and gets on with it. The character of Dunham not being of a paticularly scientific backgroundæallows her to æact as the conduit for the information to get from the Bishops to the audience as she learns and understands through the course of the show and her reaciton to events aid the audience in coming to terms and following the plot. Her performances allow this to occur seamlessly.
Also true to form Abrams continues to test the strain of the Father / Son bond between the Bishops, tested more so in this season as Walter discovers Peter all over again…if you are not sure what I am referring to then it may be an idea to watch the gripping climax of Season 3 once again!
At times this Season does seem to be repeating itself, you get the impression early on that it is on its last legs and is pushing towards a big climatic final season. This was a gamble considering there was no guarantee that ‘Fringe’ would be given a final act, but from what I have read it does appear to have been greenlit. The season generally continues in it’s classic format originally inspired by shows such as ‘The X-Files’ where a new case pops up and the team solve it, but all the while the main threat / storyline seems ever present. There is the welcome return of Jared Harris who follows up his excellent performance in ‘Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows’ providing real intrigue as the potential villain to a world changing scheme, but his return is not the only one…
Like previous seasons of ‘Fringe’ there are episodes that try something completly different and work – Season 4’s example being ‘Letters of Transit,’ but in my opinion one of the standout episodes had to be ‘Welcome to Westfield’ an episode that works incredibly well as a stand alone, but ties in to the overall events magnificently.
As mentioned earlier, this season seems to be focusing on the big climax rather than worrying about the immediate events and once again in Abrams’ works there is elements of future being revealed to us. This is a dangerous method as it can often lead to being pigeonholed into how things are progressed when returning to the normal timeline of events and also it feels as if we already know what’s going to happen when the characters all seem surprised.
In summary ‘Fringe’ has been consistantly coming up with refreshing new ideas, but this season goes to suggest that that well is beginning to dry up. The decision albeit by the network has been made to end ‘Fringe’ at Season 5, but it has been set up with real anticipation. If you have enjoyed previous seasons you won’t be disappointed. If you have never seen an episode of ‘Fringe’ before, then Season 4 is not a bad place to start.