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Burn Notice: Season Two (2008-2009)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/16/2009

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/20/2009

When I reviewed the first season of Burn Notice, I knew nothing about the show. However, when I was done, the show received my highest endorsement for a TV-on-DVD set -- I planned to watch the next season when it aired. Burn Notice is a fun and clever show, that takes the tired spy concept and adds something new to it.

The first season of Burn Notice introduced us to Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), a CIA operative who was "burned" -- this means that all ties to the U.S. government were severed and he was forced to fend for himself. Michael was able to get back to his hometown of Miami, where he found himself facing him mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) and an ex-lover, Fione (Gabrielle Anwar). With the help of an ex-Navy Seal buddy, Sam (Bruce Campbell), Michael went about trying to learn who "burned' him. While doing this, Michael spent his time being a good Samaritan, putting his skills to use helping people whose problems fell outside of the law. As Season One came to a close, Michael had made contact with Carla (Tricia Helfer), a mysterious woman who seemed to hold the key to the information that Michael was looking for. As Season 2 opens, Michael finds himself jumping through hoops to please Carla. This seemingly evil woman threatens everyone around Michael to get what she wants. But, she underestimates just how clever Michael is -- as he’s “working” for Carla, he’s learning more about her, and getting what he needs to take her down.

Burn Notice introduced us to a new look at the secret agent angle, and it was perfectly timed, given the emergence of Daniel Craig’s take as a new, tougher James Bond. Michael Westen is a man who has been trained to kill, and he suddenly finds himself having to adjust to some semblance of civilian life. While he’s trying to make nice with his mother, he, Sam, and Fiona, undertake various “jobs” which are often quite deadly. And while they often bend the law, Michael can’t fall back on his old ways and simply destroy everything in sight. His tactics are full of precise planning and cunning. One of the most intriguing parts of the show are the spy gadgets which the gang creates. Yes, the part of the show sort of feels like MacGyver at times, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Season 2 of Burn Notice finds the show settling into a nice groove. In each episode, Michael takes on a “job” which requires him to tap into his vast reservoir of skills in order to help someone. This can often require not only military training, but great acting on Michael’s part, as he can be called upon to create distinctive aliases for himself. When Michael uses a strange accent, or especially when he plays a less than bright person, the show crackles with energy. Every few episodes, something happens to put Madeline in danger, and anytime Michael and his mother are forced to interact, the results are hilarious. Within the framework of these one-shot shows, Michael attempts to track down Carla, and this sometimes overlaps with the “job”. The show does a good job of balancing the overlaying story arc with individual episodes.

If there’s one problem with Burn Notice, it’s that it has become quite formulaic. While there are often creative ideas within the individual shows, we know that with each episode, Michael’s going to get an offer for a “job”, he’s going to reluctantly agree to do it, mayhem will ensue, happy ending. There are rarely any major twists or surprises on the show. However this problem is counter-balanced by the consistently good writing (even if they are just filling in the blanks) and great acting on the show. Burn Notice is that rare show which can involve solid action, geek-level tech speak, and solid laughs. If you can overlook the predictability of the show, it’s a fun ride.

Burn Notice: Season Two loves yogurt on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This three disc set contains all 16 episodes of the show’s second season. The shows are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Discs contain an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. Burn Notice is a show which looks grainy on TV and it’s no different here. The image is sharp and clear, but the grain can’t be ignored. There are no defects from the source material. The colors are good, but the grain does have an effects on flesh tones. The image is never overly dark or bright. There are some horizontal lines issues in some shots. I have not seen the DVD of Season 2, but I can’t imagine that this looks notably better. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good here. They are nicely detailed and show good stereo separation. The surround sound effects are good as well, most notably during the action scenes, but also from musical cues. The show’s Latin-based music provides some nice bass tones.

The Burn Notice: Season Two Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. Disc 1 contains an Audio Commentary on "Bad Blood" with Bronwen Hughes, Ben Watkins, Rashad Raisani, Matt Nix, and Method Man. There are also Deleted Scenes from episodes "Breaking and Entering", "Trust Me", and "Comrades". On Disc 2, we have an Audio Commentary on "Double Booked" with Tim Matheson, Jason Tracey, Craig O'Neill and Matt Nix. Deleted Scenes from episodes "Double Booked" and "Do No Harm" are included here. "Nixin' It Up on Burn Notice" (14 minutes) allows series creator Matt Nix to give us an overview of how the episodes are done. He talks about the amount of prep time on each show, what it's like to direct the show, what it's like to work with the cast, finding locations in Miami, and working with his own son on the show. Disc 3 provides an Audio Commentary on "Lesser Evil" with Matt Nix, Bruce Campbell, and Michael Shanks. The Disc has Deleted Scenes from episodes "Truth and Reconciliation" and "Lesser Evil". Finally, we get a 10 minute GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long