Judge David Johnson got his burn notice in the mail yesterday. He also received a love letter from his feet.
Our reviews of Burn Notice: Season One (published June 25th, 2008), Burn Notice: Season Three (published June 7th, 2010), Burn Notice: Season Four (published June 9th, 2011), Burn Notice: Season Five (published June 27th, 2012), Burn Notice: Season Six (published June 24th, 2013), and Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe (Blu-ray) (published August 18th, 2011) are also available.
Spies don't get fired. They get burned.
USA's cult action hit blasts onto Blu-ray for its Second Season. Fans of slick, fun TV take notice.
Facts of the Case
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, Changeling) was one of the best spies the CIA had, until he was unexpectedly "burned"; his resources cut off, his money evaporated, and his identity punted. Trapped in Miami, Michael picks up work here and there, specially suited to his skillset, employing the help of his gun-slinging ex-girlfriend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar, For Love or Money), and Sam (Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness), a wiseass former government operative.
Season Two finds Michael powering through 16 episodes worth of one-off problems to resolve for clients—squashing a human trafficking ring, foiling a bank robbery, aiding a former flame against a ruthless gunrunner, taking on a Haitian dictator—and a season-long arc figuring out who burned him, and why they refuse to leave him or his family alone.
I watched the pilot episode of Burn Notice and came away with a lukewarm reaction. When the Season Two assignment showed up on my doorstep, I cringed at the prospect of sitting through nearly 700 minutes worth of television I wasn't interested in.
Allow me to apologize for underestimating how cool and entertaining this series is. I had an absolute blast tearing through this season and cannot wait to continue watching the show as it progresses to Season Three and, hopefully, beyond.
Burn Notice works because it gets all the touches right. You know, those aspects of a show separated by mere degrees of failing or succeeding. Take the humor. There's plenty, most delivered by the iconic Bruce Campbell, but it never slips into goofy, broad comedy or slapstick. This is, after all, a spy show and that thriller feel is preserved, spiced up with effective comic punch. The characters are another element which could have gone either way. Sam is goofy, but grounded when needed. Fiona is feisty and lethal, though she never devolves into a Charlie's Angel-type bad girl caricature. Michael is just a supremely likable creation, a badass from head to toe, but honorable and decent.
It really is all about Michael, and he's simply a marvelous concoction. Not unlike Jack Bauer, you always know he's going to come out on top, simply because his skills are so much more advanced than his opponents'. There's no suspense in that respect, but how he bests his foes is where the fun lies. As an added bonus to any wannabe do-it-yourself black ops agents, he narrates his strategies and spy tips, another gimmick that could have been hugely corny, if not done well.
The season itself is consistently good times. Plot points of the main arc are sprinkled throughout, typically bookending the standalone story. These monster-of-the-week episodes work because of the myriad skills Michael and pals have at their disposal. It's not like there's a problem a super-spy can't deal with, giving the writers plenty of yardage for their storytelling. The big narrative thread governing the season is very cool, featuring plenty of twists and reveals, capped with a terrific season finale that opened the door to a tantalizing new direction for the show. Plus, Tricia Helfer!
Onto the Blu-ray. A scan of the customer reviews at Amazon.com reveals a distraught fanbase, evidently upset with the quality of the Blu upgrade. I thought the picture looked fine. The 1.78:1 HD treatment certainly isn't in the top-tier of transfers, often suffering from a large amount of grain and flat details work. But it's not a travesty and shouldn't dissuade you from taking the plunge. Colors are strong, thanks to the show's Miami setting and there are definitely times when the picture pops (particularly with the explosions). It may not be reference material, but the visual fidelity definitely strikes me as a noticeable upgrade over upconverted standard DVD. For audio, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio has chops and kicks out the sound nice and fierce during the more frantic sequences of the show.
Extras are lean, highlighted by commentary tracks on select episodes, deleted scenes, a low-impact making-of featurette called "NIXin' It Up" focused on series creator Matt Nix, a funny gag reel, and a bizarre homemade spoof called Boom Notice about the show's boom operator.
Burn Notice: Season Two is a definite winner and, while it may not be the most nuanced production on the air, I defy you to find a more perfect slice of relaxing, summer fun. The Blu-ray isn't bad either, though it likely won't blow the skirts up of the technophiles.
Not Guilty. Burn baby burn!
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