Universal // 1985 // 1059 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 14th, 2007
-- Some nerdy high-schooler from the season finale, "Short Walk to Freedom"
It's been a long wait between releases, but Universal has finally graced the fans of early 80s Cold war helicopter action with the second season of Airwolf. Buckle up kids: Stringfellow Hawke is back to ram a Hellfire missile up your exhaust intake.
Season two finds one major change for the Airwolf regulars: the addition of the obligatory female co-star. Now buttressing Jan-Michael Vincent, Alex Cord and Ernest Borgnine is freckle-faced redhead Jean Bruce Scott, an attractive actress with the misfortune of having three consecutive male names. Scott joins the cast as Caitlin O'Shaughnessy, a helicopter pilot for the Texas state troopers who benefits from a mission of good will from Airwolf and, as a result, ends up as an employee for Santini Air. The thing is, when you work for Dominic Santini (Borgnine), you not only receive a decent wage, some nominal health care benefits, and the amusement of Dom's near-senile mutterings, but you're also privy to the biggest secret in the world: the location of Airwolf, the high-tech super-copter that's the envy of every totalitarian and communist regime west of the Erie Canal.
Season two picks up the adventures of Hawke, who, when he's not taking orders from the white-clad Archangel (Cord) of the clandestine government agency The Firm, relentlessly hunts his brother St. John, who's been MIA in Vietnam for years. And in this season, he comes this close.
Five discs, 22 episodes, limitless ammo!
* "Sweet Britches"
* "Moffett's Ghost"
* "The Truth About Holly"
* "The Hunted"
* "Sins of the Past"
* "Fallen Angel"
* "Flight 093 is Missing"
* "Once a Hero"
* "Random Target"
* "The American Dream"
* "Inn at the End of the Road"
* "Santini's Millions"
* "Prisoner of Yesterday"
* "Natural Born"
* "Out of the Sky"
* "Severance Pay"
* "Short Walk to Freedom"
Brother, was I geared up for this set. Ever since I rediscovered my love of Mach 1 helicopters that blow dirtbag Commie fighter jets out of the sky from my experience with Airwolf: Season One, I've been waiting like a kid on Christmas Eve for the forthcoming sets to be unleashed. Universal was slow on the throttle, but eventually, a year and a half since the first season hit the shelves, the studio cleared the second season for lift-off.
All you wannabe flyboys can breathe easy: the sophomore outing for Hawke and friends is just as hardcore and entertaining as the maiden voyage. Among other exploits, Airwolf sees action against Cuban fighter jets, Laotian guerilla patrols, drug-running businessmen, an artificial intelligence unit, whacked-out dam-destroying freedom fighters, a jealous country music promoter, a Mexican cocaine cartel, a washed-up Vietnamese warlord, a right-wing militia armed with a nuke, Airwolf's equivalent high-tech chopper, the HX-1 (think K.A.R.R.), Dom's mentally-unstable niece and the cyber-ghost of Moffett, Airwolf's evil creator.
The game-plans for the episodes remain largely unchanged: with sinister synth music, we meet the villain of the week and the special guest protagonist (usually a) a feisty girl, b) a drunken loser or c) a lovable computer programmer), Dom and String and Caitlyn inevitably get drawn into whatever plot the bad guys have cooked up, and, after some time-padding plot maneuvers, the final eight or so minutes are devoted solely to aerial combat as Airwolf takes to the skies and blows the snot out of the episode's designated aircraft. After some obligatory trading back and forth of photon torpedoes (for all of its strengths, Airwolf seriously lacks in the visual effect department; all missiles are rendered as bright, glowing orange bolts that don't look like they had been launched from a Cold War-era attack helicopter so much as from a starship, with a giant Klingon giving the orders to fire), Hawke goes to his trusty belly-mounted Hellfire missile and smokes their respective asses...just as the righteous Airwolf theme song hits its final note.
Lots of good episodes on these discs. My favorites:
Hawke and Dom obliterate a group of extremists who have camped out in the desert and built a nuclear weapon, which, amazingly, has escaped NSA detection. A Hellfire detonates the nuke before it can nail Moscow, enveloping Airwolf in a mushroom cloud. Major logic gaffe aside (that EMP pulse would have curtailed Dom's exhortations swiftly), it's a great show.
* "Fallen Angel"
Alex Cord's screen time is severely limited in this season -- a major quibble -- but he gets plenty to do in this episode, which finds him escaping the confines of an East German prison with the help of Airwolf's chainguns.
* "Flight 093 is Missing"
Set aside the questionable physics and the eerie name of the airplane and this disaster-themed episode that has Airwolf prowling the seas for a commercial jet that's been disabled and hidden underwater by terrorists is highly entertaining.
* "Once a Hero"
We need a St. John episode, and this one's a doozy. Hawke infiltrates Laos to follow-up on a tip that his brother's being held in a prison camp and more gunfire than you can shake a maw khang at ensues.
Bio-terrorism is the name of the game (with a touch of Dawn of the Dead) as Hawke and Caitlyn square off with the Russians at an obscure testing facility for control of lethal germ agent.
Sadly, as the season progressed, the writers appear to have run out of steam. There are some major clunkers rounding out the set. In "Out of the Sky," Hawke falls for a country singer and has to deal with her psycho boss (Dom Says: "String, my achy-breaky heart can't take this."); a loony Firm employee goes off the grid in "Severance Pay" when he's denied job benefits (Dom Says: "String, tell that guy to get Cobra!"); Hawke and Dom bring the riff-raff of mining community and the wealthy company owner together to sort out their difference in "Eruption" (Dom Says: "String, I've got better things to do, like stuff and mount my eyebrows!"); finally, the season ender, "Short Walk to Freedom" goes all Red Dawn as Caitlyn and Dom and some dorky students fend off a Central American drug cartel (Dom Says: "String, sweet Trapper-Keeper!")
The addition of Caitlyn may have been demographic-driven, but she's a decent character. Jean Bruce Scott is perky and her character supplements the established rapport between Borgnine and Vincent well. She could have very easily been annoying, but the writers and actress handled the thankless transition well. Unfortunately, a by-product is less time for other supporting characters, and Alex Cord's Archangel gets the most pruning. Bummer, because he's my favorite in the series. Well, second-favorite, next to those missiles.
And in the end, that's what Airwolf is all about: exploding helicopters. The aerial photography is often exhilarating -- when the producers opt for new footage rather than recycled stock material, which there is a fair share of in the series. But exploding helicopters are exploding helicopters, and while Airwolf's overmatched airborne nemeses couldn't hit Lake Superior with one of their missiles, their fiery deaths can be counted on for good times.
Style-wise, this set is only slightly better than the Season One offering. Discs are distributed in slim discs and the packaging is attractive. Too bad the episodes look so mediocre. The full-frame transfer is spotty, with plenty of dirt and grain showing up throughout. And the less said about the mono audio, the better. The lack of extras continues and, yes, it is disturbing.
A bare-bones DVD release will force the content alone to justify a purchase. Thankfully, this bad-ass red-meat Commie-blasting techno-action is even more fun than I remember it back in the day.
Not guilty. And @#$% you Cuba!
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1059 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Season One Review