Review: Fringe – Season 5 / Cert: 15 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Georgina Haig, Michael Kopsa / Release Date: May 13th
Reviewing the fifth and final season of a great show like Fringe is… well, goddarn it, it's a heck of a privilege. Only thing is, we don't want to give away too much and spoil it for anyone who has yet to cross the threshold of Walter Bishop's lab (and if you fall into that category – get in there!). Suffice it to say, in this season the world has been taken over by some super-evolved baldies from the future known as the Observers. Awakening after 21 years frozen in amber (don't ask, it would take all day), the Fringe team of supernatural investigators find themselves in the year 2036. They have a cunning and highly complex plan to defeat the Observers, but unfortunately it gets zapped from Walter's brain and they're forced to piece it together from a series of wonky videotapes that they excavate from their basement laboratory in Harvard, which has also been sealed in amber (seriously, don't ask).
The whole season therefore consists of one long form story, which breaks into various sub-goals as the team go on a number of perilous missions to retrieve stuff mentioned in the tapes, with Walter (Noble) cobbling together bits of Heath Robinson tech as and when needed. Their nemesis, Captain Windmark (Kopsa), can travel at will through time and space, but still manages to be always one step behind them. It's an approach that has its potential pitfalls, especially given that the Observers continue to resemble a troupe of malevolent performance artists, and the plan, when it is finally divulged, turns out to make about as much sense an Ozymandias' scheme to drop a giant alien weevil on New York in Watchmen. But it all works a treat, because at its heart Fringe hasn't changed at all: it's still a captivating blend of weird science and family drama couched in an idiom that is quirky, exciting and unexpectedly touching.
Its darker side comes to the fore in several intense two-handed scenes where issues of pain and trust are debated, and in a story arc concerning Peter and Olivia's daughter Etta (Haig), who has grown up to become, among other things, a cold-eyed torturer of regime collaborators. But there's no end of quirk too, as in an early quest where the team have to track down Olivia and eventually find her still encased in a slab of amber and being used as a coffee table. And all of these strands are woven together in the character of Walter Bishop, the nuttiest of all professors, who takes time off from saving the world to drop acid and who heals himself after being tortured by listening to, of all things, Yazoo's Only You. He's forever delivering the kinds of lines you rarely hear outside of cult B-movies: “Fire up the laser, Astrid, let's get that hand out of amber.” “Please, Nina, you must remove these pieces of my brain!” What a character, what a show, what a way to sign off.
Extras: Walter's brain / Audio commentary / A Farewell to Fringe / Dissected Files / Digital script / Season 5 Comic-Con panel / Gag reel