Apr 17, 2014

[TV] Fringe: Season 5

So it was only while reviewing the Fringe tie-in novel, The Zodiac Paradox that I realized that I had never gotten around to writing a review of the final season of Fringe. I thought I had addressed it, but repeated searches of this blog reveal that no such post exists. So I guess not.

So this is my effort to finally rectify this gap in the Geeky Guide record to complete my reviews for what remains to be a pretty awesome show. My partner Tobie and I became major Fringe fans over the course of the show and while there were a number of arguments against the manner in which the show wrapped up.

Now just because we're fans doesn't mean we can't look at the show with a critical eye. I understand that the show took a rather unusual direction in this final season. But it still made a pretty good resolution to things. And with a show that reached the geeky heights that it did, I doubt there would have been any ending that would have truly satisfied fans.

Synopsis: Fringe is a science fiction drama series created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. It's interesting to note that together with this fifth and finals season, the entire series spanned precisely 100 episodes.

This fifth season is set in 2036, some 20 years after the events of the fourth season, which is even further into the future than the events glimpsed at the end of the third season. The mysterious Observers that had been glimpsed across the prior seasons of the show have traveled from their 27th century future and have take control of the Earth. They now rule the Earth in a rather Orwellian manner with a modest resistance group doing their best to keep the fight alive.

And now the resistance group has finally located what they had long been searching for. This involved our usual heroes - Walter Bishop (John Noble), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), and William Bell having trapped themselves in amber deliberately. On addition, the various components of their master plan to overthrow the Observers have also been scattered in various locations. And thus as the resistance fighters free the various members of the team, they also endeavor to figure out what Walter's original plan was - naturally he can no longer remember what it was.

Fringe was never a traditional TV show. It was bold and daring and told highly unusual stories that seems to be similar to shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or The X-Files, and yet remained highly unique. It was a show with very strong characters, complex relationships and a meta-plot that just continued to raise the stakes higher and higher season after season.

This fifth season remained true to that tradition - it found a way to take the storytelling of the show to a new level that remained rather unexpected and quite peculiar. We spend a better part of the first few episodes just coming to terms with how much things have changed in this dark future. And once the team is back together, it gets closer to business as usual as they do their best to save the world.

In many ways, this final season almost felt like a dark reboot of things. We go through the process of learning about the world and being reintroduced to the different characters. We slowly understand the problems that the world has been facing over the past few years and in time we'll get to the final solution.

No, this season is not an amazing collection of answers to all the different questions raised over the course of the past four seasons. In fact, it sort of side-steps a lot of those past questions and jumps us forward into a whole new world with even more questions. And while we sort of better address the mystery of the Observers and how they came to be, I understand why a lot of folks weren't satisfied with the way things resolved.

I think what still dragged this season down was just how long we all felt like we were in the dark in terms of the final plan - thus a lot of the episodes left us feeling lost as to what the overall goal was. As much as each episode has always had its share of plot points and a direction for things, it always felt like our Fringe team heroes generally had a decent plan for moving forward and would work towards that plan. But this time around, it just didn't quite go that way, and so things lost direction and steam.

Still, the fifth and final season of Fringe is still a pretty interesting way to wrap things up, even though it's not quite the greatest way to end a show for a mass market audience. But we'll still love the brilliant characters that gave the show life and we'll miss them quite dearly. For now, this final season gets a good 3.5 almost magical Observer abilities out of a possible 5.

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