After a first season that pleased both critics and a newly formed collective of fans, Burn Notice quickly joined the ranks of the USA fleet of shows that have started on and flourished on the unique cable network. There are few networks like USA where these quirky and out of the ordinary shows can spawn and flourish and they’ve done quite the superb job of crafting these shows that are refreshingly original. It started early on with Monk and continues with new seasons of Psych and Burn Notice and even with the new series Royal Pains which promises to be an interesting outing as well. So for Burn Notice’s second season it had a lot to live up to…and with the introduction of a new season-long baddy for Michael to contend with, it only got more interesting as the season progressed.
Covert intelligence operative Michael Westen has been punched, kicked, choked and shot. Now he’s being burned, and someone’s going to pay! When Michael receives a “burn notice,” blacklisting him from the intelligence community and compromising his very identity, he must track down a faceless nemesis without getting himself killed in the process. Meanwhile, Michael is forced to double as a private investigator on the dangerous streets of Miami in order to survive.
So that above synopsis is a bit generic. It can apply to season one or two, but that’s a key thing to keep in mind when it comes to speaking about Burn Notice’s second season. While we get plenty of character progression in the form of the relationships between the characters, the series doesn’t really move itself along at any great pace. It still revolves around Michael trying to figure out who burned him (and why) and, on the side, he attempts to help the people of Miami who seem to have a never ending flow of evil people to contend with.
But as generic as the seasons may sound when compared, it’s really no more cookie cutter than the latest season of House–after all, that was just about the same staff of doctors lead by the same grumpy, pill-popping Einstein of medicine…just with the insanity amped even more. And while Burn Notice doesn’t ever really get any crazier or wilder, it remains at a steady pace of simultaneously calming, romantic, exciting, and all around appeasing plots that never get old.
With the show already into its third season on the air, I honestly had a hard time even remembering what this second season was about; it all came down to trying to remember the overall story arc with Carla (Tricia Helfer) annoying Michael to no end and then…well, her eventually meeting her own end. It was a predictable season of sorts, although the appearance of John Mahoney in what I can only assume will eventually be a bigger role (as of this typing he’s only appeared in the season two finale—kind of a small role for someone who came from something as big as Frasier).
Revisiting the series on Blu-ray though…I…still have a hard time picking things out of the season. This is due to my binge watching the sixteen episodes as I tend to do when I’m sent seasons to review, but it’s also really just due to the format of the show. You aren’t really made to remember important plot pieces from episode to episode, as it’s all recapped for you and small things happen throughout the entire season that it doesn’t really matter if you miss an episode or piece—it’ll crop up eventually.
Now you may call that lazy writing or just uninteresting television but…honestly, as much as the actual burn notice is the setup for the series, it’s more just about the characters on the show. Michael’s constant mission to help those who need it, Fi’s mission to…well, do whatever Fi wants and to look pretty and lust after Michael and Sam’s just there to be the typical Bruce Campbell character: suave, hilarious, and awesome. I’m a bit biased as I happen to be a big Campbell fan, but he’s really one of the funnier and more entertaining elements to the show.
So there’s plenty to enjoy about the series and it all stems from the elements I can’t even remember: the small bits where Michael recants the ins and outs of being a spy, the techniques he’s learned and how he applies them to the situations that he’s put in, either via the clients he takes on or because of the people he’s tracking (one thing I do remember: that whole hiding of the plans inside of a ceiling light fixture—that’s just awesome). There’s also the awesome Charger that he drives in the show, something I’m always pleased to see (especially since it frequently comes under explosions or gun fire).
Overall Burn Notice’s second season is a real popcorn fest. It’s an easy, breezy show to view and doesn’t tax the mind or nerves too much. Perhaps it’s the beautiful locations, attractive people on the screen, or the witty and original dialogue and stories but…Burn Notice really is just a solid show all around and goes down like a iced treat of some kind on a hot summer day: smooth, enjoyable and just what you needed to relax. Highly Recommended.
The first season to arrive on Blu-ray and…now my shelf is thrown off since this is stacked up next to the two thin-pak season 1. But, that’s what you get for adopting the format I suppose…hopefully the first season will pop up on Blu-ray at some point so they can match, but as is this second season arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray, single width case that houses the three discs inside. Also included is an insert advertising the third season of the show, which, as previously mentioned, is now airing on USA.
Video arrives in an AVC encoded transfer @ 17mpbs…which is actually a pretty low bitrate for a 1080p series that is as colorful as this series is, so that is a minor cause of concern. Of course after noting this low bit rate given on the back cover art, I was surprised to find that some of the episodes were actually in the mid 20mbps range, which was a tad bit better. Still, the main hindrance of this release is the low bitrate, as the series is absolutely just loaded with grain. Fox hasn’t tried to DNR it away, however, so at times we get a solid looking picture as long as too much isn’t happening on screen…while at others things can get a bit hairy. I’m not sure why the series is so grain laden (it approaches 24 levels at times), but it does detract from the experience on some occasions…but honestly, after the disappointing transfer that the first season held due to the same reasons, this is still an incredible step up. It’s certainly a solid looking series and the transfer definitely eclipses the standard definition feed I watched the second season in, so this was a whole other experience to watch it on Blu-ray.
The audio, however, is flat out impressive. A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix accompanies every episode and the series just sounds absolutely bombastic at times. While the show isn’t really known for full on shoot outs, there is some superb surround work to witness throughout the sixteen episodes. Having said that I would’ve settled for a less space hungry audio transfer and settled for a TrueHD if it meant better video…but, hey. Either way you cut it, the video and audio transfers on this set are miles ahead of whatever was broadcast through your cable company, HD signal or no.
Extras are actually not too shabby this time around, although they still aren’t all that amazing. Included:
“Bad Blood” audio commentary with Bronwen Hughes, Ben Watkins, Rashad Raisani, Matt Nix, Rob Benedict and Method Man
“Double Booked audio commentary with Tim Matheson, Jason Tracey, Craig O’Neill and Matt Nix
NIXin’ it up on “Burn Notice” featurette
“Lesser Evil audio commentary with Matt Nix, Bruce Campbell and Michael Shanks
The three commentaries are a nice touch, especially since we get no big making-of extra here. The NIXin’ It Up piece is a bit lackluster but still entertaining and the number of deleted scenes included is impressive as well. The gag reel is a bit short, but overall it’s a solid set of extras for the season and, again, the commentaries are a nice bonus.
Overall Burn Notice – Season Two comes Recommended on Blu-ray. It’s a solid release all around; not amazing, but still worth picking up, whether you’re a fan of the show or a newcomer.
Burn Notice – Season Two is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.