Fringe: The Complete Second Season Release Date: Available now Studio: Warner Brothers Packaging/Materials: Four-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover Year: 2009-2010 Rating: NR Running Time: 16:08:00 MSRP: $69.97 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.78:1 High and standard definition Audio Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Portuguese 2.0 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese N/A The Season: 4.5/5 In the span of a heartbeat, Fringe Division Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) made an unexpected trip to the other side - an alternate universe where the World Trade Center remains intact and where Massive Dynamic founder William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) seems to have permanently set up shop. Though Olivia's interaction with the mysterious scientist no doubt included critical information about the nature of the Pattern - a series of scientific phenomena the government has tasked Fringe Division to investigate - it's all but lost after a traumatic, amnesia-inducing re-entry into her home universe. Walter and Peter Bishop (John Noble and Joshua Jackson) - Fringe's investigatory mad scientist and his more stable son - have possible solutions to restore her memories, but all of them will take time. Meanwhile, there are manifestations of the Pattern still to investigate, though as their frequency and intensity increase, so too does the clarity of their connective ties, all leading back to the alternate universe and an inexplicable vendetta its inhabitants have against those here. Though Walter has always had an uncanny affinity with the bizarre events, it becomes clear his past work and activities lie at the heart of the mounting chaos. What proves unexpected, however, is how central Peter and Olivia are to the equation. Though early episodes in "Fringe's" second season retained a "monster of the week" quality to them, they still contributed to the show's overarching mythology, either thematically or by providing elements that would have some significance in the future. By the middle of the season, the show provided some crucial revelations about its characters and the significance of the Pattern, eliminating most concerns that the program would be miserly with the truth. Indeed, so much is revealed by the season finale that there's some question of where the show will go from here, though the writers have done such a good job so far, such concerns tend to be overshadowed by genuine anticipation for the next chapter. Welcomed character refinements also helped make for a strong second season, namely making Peter more pro-active and physical, qualities which would later help sell his role in the mythology. While Jackson settled naturally into the character, Torv continued to have a forced dimension to her portrayal of Olivia, though improved somewhat from the first season. Noble's performance as Walter had no such problems of course, as he consistently stole the show with performances both humorous and heartbreaking. "Fringe: The Complete Second Season" on Blu-ray includes all 22 episodes that aired on Fox in 2009 and 2010, as well as a first season episode that was not aired until 2010. "Fringe's" third season is scheduled to premiere September 23, 2010 at 9/8c. Video Quality: 4/5 The series episodes are correctly framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. The transfer generally exhibits very good black levels and fine shadow detail, though there are times when contrast can look a little flat. Cinematography can be stylized, changing color rendition and contrast, though overall those areas show good depth and range. Fine object detail in fabrics, and skin textures in particular, are excellent, though scenes in higher contrast environments reveal some edge haloing. Grain structure is often visible, as is a touch of noise at times, suggesting minimal use of noise reduction measures. There is slight softness in some shots, but it could be source-related focusing errors. Audio Quality: 4/5 Primary surround activity in the 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track is in support of the show's score, with some environmental and directional effects depending on the scene. The mix exhibits good balance, with dialogue that is consistently clear and intelligible. LFE activity can be a little inconsistent, showing up for abstract sound effects but sometimes surprisingly absent during things like explosions. Special Features: 4/5 The set of extras provides a comprehensive look at the season's writing and production. The documentary detailing the show's mythology should be a helpful tool for viewers as they track an increasingly complex narrative arc. Commentaries Episode 4 - Momentum Deferred: Commentary with Creative Team composed of Jill Risk, Matthew Pitts, Danielle Dispaltro, Justin Doble, and Charles Scott IV -- With the group dominated by members of the writing staff, much of the commentary focuses on story and character development, and the progression from page to production. Episode 15 - Peter: Commentary with Blair Brown and John Noble, and Damian Holbrook -- Holbrook, from TV Guide, serves as interviewer / moderator and asks the actors about various character and story developments. Sometimes the questions seem fairly obvious, but generally Holbrook is a good voice for the audience and its myriad of questions. Episode 19 - Brown Betty: Commentary with Tanya Swerling, Billy Gottlieb, Chris Tilton, and Jay Worth. The group, representing a different aspect of production from visual effects to music, has a good dynamic and rapport and provides one of the more consistently interesting commentaries in the set. This is due in part to the episode being sort of a novelty piece with its film noir / musical meta-story. Episode 22 - Over There Part 2: Commentary with Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman, and Akiva Goldsman. Highlights from their commentary include alternate universe design choices and shooting a "dopplegangers interacting" scene for the first time The Unearthed Episode (43:57, HD): A first season episode that was never aired confused many viewers when it was finally broadcast on January 11, 2010, in between the tenth and eleventh episodes of the second season. Included in this Blu-ray edition, it is presented with the same technical specifications as the rest of the season. Beyond the Pattern: The Mythology of Fringe (26:49, HD): If tracking the series' mythology through the season proves too much of a challenge, this piece lays it all out for viewers by highlighting the major contributing episodes and critical moments in the characters' story arcs. Fringe: Analyzing the Scene: In each piece cast members provide a bit of narrative context to the scene, then behind-the-scenes cameras take a closer look at the stunts and special effects. Episode 1 - A New Day in the Old Town (4:16, HD): How they launched Olivia through the window of a parked car. Episode 4 - Momentum Deferred (2:44, HD): Making mercury blood. Episode 7 - Of Human Action (3:58, HD): Performing a 50-foot high fall; blowing up a car. Episode 12 - What Lies Below (3:18, HD): Falling onto the roof of a van. Episode 19 - Brown Betty (3:39, HD): Given the uniqueness of the episode, the piece covers its production in general, with greatest emphasis on the production design, wardrobe and hair/makeup. Episode 22 - Over There Part 2 (3:15, HD): Blowing up a Range Rover in the climax of the final episode. In the Lab with John Noble and Prop Master Rob Smith: A look at some of the show's props, including the shapshifter device, neurostimulator, and retractable syringes. Unusual Side Effects: Gag Reel (3:22, SD) Dissected Files: Unaired Scenes Episode 2 - Night of Desirable Objects (:46 and 1:02, SD): Walter asks Astrid to squeeze Gene; Peter finds books that might provide clues. Episode 10 - Grey Matters (1:48, SD): Walter talks to a former patient. Episode 16 - Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver (1:59, SD): Olivia recognizes a victim. Episode 20 - Northwest Passage (1:09, SD): Peter opens up to Sheriff Mathis. Episode 22 - Over There Part 2 (1:42, SD): Walternate and Peter talk about music. Recap The Season: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 4/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5 One of TV's most intriguing sci-fi dramas gets very good technical treatment and a comprehensive set of special features exploring both the show's core mythology and production.