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Fringe (Season 5)

Fringe (Season 5)

By Jonahh Oestreich • May 18th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Warner Home Video

Release date (UK):
May 13th, 2013
Certification (UK): 15

Running time:
540 minutes approx (13 episodes)

Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Showrunner (Season 5): J. H. Wyman

Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Jasika Nicole

Fringe Season 5 Cover

“Destiny can be changed, but you have
to have the will to change it, even if
it requires sacrifice.” ~ September

From its first moments, Fringe has explored the abyss between superior intelligence and deep emotions. Sometimes more apparent, sometimes less, the show’s hard science fiction tales have never lost sight of the “soul factor” — the impact of paranormal events or life-altering experiments on its characters and their relationships.

The fifth — and final — season is no exception, in fact, it’s a rather emotional finale to a series that has tackled grand themes such as parallel universes, time travel and artificial intelligence. Even one of the Observers, this elusive and somewhat men-in-black like hive of super-intelligent beings, couldn’t resist one particular feeling any more, albeit a most negative one.

Yet, the last 13 episodes are far from being just an emotional good-bye to devoted fans. Most of the stories are strong, though some plot lines are dropped or lack closure. One of Fringe’s hallmarks, the sense of ambiguity, is again as strong as can be. Certainly not the ingredients that would capture a mass audience but after all is said and done, Fringe remained true to itself up until the last scene.

Season 5 is set in the dystopian future of the year 2036, where the dominion of the Observers has created a post-doomsday, almost Orwellian-type world with a subjugated population. There are the Loyalists who do the Observers’ bidding, and Fringe Season 5the Resistance that knows no mercy when it comes to fighting the invaders from the late 27th century.

The main characters, “mad” scientist Walter (John Noble, as incredible as always), his son Peter and FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv) as well as Walter’s assistant Astrid (Jasika Nicole) have survived the invasion of 2015 in “Amber” — a substance that puts everyone and everything inside it in Limbo. Once freed from their 20-year protective prison, they set out to execute a plan to defeat the Observers — a plan Walter conceived of before the invasion which he was warned of by a friendly Observer, September.

Although this season appears to be a closing chapter made for Fringe fans, and is by no means a no-brainer, it might attract newcomers to the show as well. There’s a strong spiritual element, borne not least by the Observer child Michael who, with his Fringe Season 5mere presence, influences the story and its main characters in subliminal yet compelling ways. The season also picks up a number of threads from previous seasons whereas others remain obscure or unsolved.

With the Observer boy Michael, representing a perfect confluence of superior intelligence, deep emotions and out-of-this-world abilities, Fringe probably dares the last of its rather rare jumps from science fiction to science speculation. By way of time travel, Michael’s unique genetic make-up (in the literal, technical sense — even if characterized as “anomaly”) is supposed to make scientists over 100 years in the future think again as they are about to genetically “create” a new human race, thereby sacrificing all emotions for the sake of predominant intelligence.

Rather than the scientific conundrum of time travel, the story struggles more to overcome its narrative pitfalls. If the boy prevents the Observers from being created in the first Fringe Season 5place, much of the overarching plot of the previous seasons would become obsolete, and the attempt to “re-set time” this way would alter the past much more fundamentally than just preventing the Observer invasion from happening. However, I don’t believe many people, if any, have yet understood the first thing about time “travel” so there’d really be no point in arguing much about a plot device that allows to explore the human condition from a unique perspective.

Whether or not we can solve the puzzle with conjecture and imagination, Fringe one more time plays out the ambiguity of everything it has told and conjured. The show almost always moved along the borders of the truly scientific fringe and hardly ever touched supernatural themes like ghosts, vampires or zombies. Though it’s been more like an epic thought experiment than a chilling esoteric journey, Fringe Season 5there’s a certain paranormal residue that just doesn’t allow for black-and-white answers or clear-cut conclusions.

After all, Fringe hasn’t been short of a proper dose of humor either, and its jokes made it quite clear the show isn’t taking itself too seriously. There are some things Walter does just “because it’s cool” and with them he shows a kind of playful madness that would seem appropriate for a man with an IQ close to 200, and who had part of his brain removed in order to expunge the evil parts of his mind.

Despite the narrative paradoxes Fringe has produced over five seasons, the series also explored deeply human values such as family, trust and love, with a strong focus on complex, interesting characters and their journeys. Here at least is clarity and closure in the end, and not much left to tell and ponder. That’s perhaps all that matters as Fringe could complete its human story.

Ultimately, Fringe has been an experiment in itself whose results we may only be able to appreciate a few years down the line if and when there will be more filmmakers — and networks — that dare to conquer the fringes of storytelling.

Fringe Season 5

Jonahh Oestreich

Jonahh Oestreich

One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh has been working in the media industry for over 20 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.

You can follow Jonahh on Twitter @Jonahh_O.

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