Fringe: Season Three [Blu-Ray]

Fringe: Season Three [Blu-Ray]
Television's most adventurous, investigative sci-fi series stretches its creative muscles even further in season three, delivering more consistently entertaining, icky and mind tickling pulp than The X-Files was ever able to. Parallel dimensions figure ever more prominently into the dense, but never sloppy or especially convoluted, plot, the effects of the crumbling walls of reality between the two worlds now bleeding into the weekly paranormal procedural episodes. Duality is a major theme this season. Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is trapped in the alternate dimension, being brainwashed by Walternate (John Noble) to believe she's really Fauxlivia. Meanwhile, Fauxlivia has infiltrated Olivia's life, wearing her clothes, doing her man and her job. All of the principle cast, except for Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), have a genetically identical version of themselves to play, but one that's made difference choices in a different environment. The opportunity to toy with notions of nature versus nurture is not lost on show-runners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, who show up as guides to many of the special features in this excellent Blu-Ray collection, spilling secrets and pearls of wisdom on their creative process. All of the cast members continue to impress, but it's Australians John Noble and especially Anna Torv who do the majority of the heavy lifting this season. Talk about most improved actress in a series; the subtle personality variations imbedded in Torv's performances as alternate Olivias impersonating each other – one knowingly, the other convinced she is her other self – are spectacular demonstrations of a great actor in peak form. She even handles a particularly "out there" late season plot twist with skill and grace, grounding a move that could've been considered shark jumping. These acting challenges are explored in "Duality of Worlds: The Other You," with cast and writer interviews and a look at how much effort went into finding Fauxlivia's wig. In "Visualizing an Alternate World," we're treated to examples of the richly detailed background of the other dimension: Martin Luther King is on the 20-dollar bill and Dogs is a famous hit musical. Features "The Machine of Destiny" and "The First People" are decent depictions of how props important to the series' mythology are created, but "The Psychology of Duality" and "Creating an Extra Sensory Soundscape" are exceptional examinations of the psychological intent of the writers, and how score and sound are carefully composed and integrated into the show. Lance Reddick (The Wire, Lost), who plays agent Broyles, brings the funny in a gag reel, showing that his comedy chops extend further than his hilarious work in the "LSD" episode, which is the recipient of a feature of its own and a somewhat uneven commentary track with a producer, editor and VFX designer. A superior commentary for "The Plateau," with Jeff Pinker, the episode writer and editor, can be found on the first disc. Trumping all the other features combined though is a "Maximum Episode Mode" for "Osmium." This is a well-designed TV equivalent to the popular film feature approach, with an introduction from Pinker and Wyman, picture-in-picture interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, special effects and stunt breakdowns, along with excursions into on-set visits and the science behind the fiction. Unafraid to pose answers to its tricky questions and always willing to take risks, this third season of Fringe is science-fiction television at its best. (Warner)