Are you there, Judge Brett Cullum? Say a prayer for this show. It started out so young and strong, only to surrender...
Miss Parker: You shouldn't underestimate Jarod. And you should never underestimate me. And the next time that you send me into a building that is gonna explode, it had better blow, because if it doesn't, it's gonna be your gray matter they will be mopping up with a toothbrush.
Jarod (Michael T. Weiss, Joe Haskell in the '90s Dark Shadows) is The Pretender, a genius who can master any profession or become anybody. In The Pretender: The Complete First Season, we left Jarod after a daring escape with his brother from the Centre, the semi-evil corporate headquarters that raised them both and developed their formidable talents. Jarod's brother died while fleeing the Centre's operatives; our hero was still on a mission to find the truth about his real parents. Hot on his trail were Miss Parker (Andrea Parker, Less Than Perfect) and Sydney (Patrick Bauchau, Ray), who seemed to regularly let Jarod slip through their fingers. Don't think the Centre will take the failure to reclaim Jarod lightly. They assign two new operatives, Brigitte (Pamela Gidley, Jane Austen's Mafia) and the mysterious Mr. Lyle (Jamie Denton, the plumber from Desperate Housewives), to track down and capture their prized specimen. Also on the new pair's agenda the downfall of Parker and Sydney, who are now just as curious to uncover the truth about the Centre's past and present operations as Jarod. The second season continues Jarod's quest for his roots, and expands on his mission to make sure justice is done by helping innocent victims wronged by society. The stakes are raised significantly once Jarod learns the Centre has plans to create a new Pretender. There are plenty of shocking revelations in store for the entire cast as one of television's most intriguing series ratchets up the action.
The second season of The Pretender is stronger than the first. Things got significantly darker, and the Centre subplot became the main focus. This run of shows concentrates on identity, and lets all the Fugitive elements take a back seat to the mystery. There's less of the cat-and-mouse chase, but there's more Miss Parker, more Broots (Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite), and more Sydney. Jarod's "pretends" get more edgy, and the revenge he exacts on some of the wrongdoers is downright spooky at times. The Pretender had found its legs, and it was off and running. All the episodes build to a stunning two-part finale, which is one of The Pretender's finest moments. The climax of the last two shows on this set gives each actor a chance to show everything about their character up to this point. It's an absolute stunner, and is the best example of why The Pretender is so highly regarded. The show could deliver in a big way when it had to, and the creators knew how to pay off an entire season.
The show ran so well in large part due to a strong cast. Michael T. Weiss was perfect as Jarod. His performance relies on his memorable voice and sexually dangerous physicality. This second season was a challenge for him, because he had to move Jarod past the "little boy lost" approach, and allow the character to mature. And boy does he ever! Andrea Parker nails every moment for all they're worth as Miss Parker. In this second season her character grows by leaps and bounds, and we are treated to more sides of her rather than focusing on her abrupt brutal glares and one-liners. She deals with a lot of family issues that give her more depth, and she gets to take on Brigitte in one of television's most explosive catfights. Patrick Bauchau gets to add more paternal layers for Sydney. He seems even more conflicted this time around, and his bottled-up feelings literally explode by the season's end. Then there's Jon Gries as Broots, who gets an expanded role in the second season. Not only is he in more shows, but his family is fleshed out nicely, with a daughter added.
Many big name stars got their start during this second season of The Pretender. Watch for both young Darth Vader Jake Lloyd and Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) playing young Pretenders. Jamie Denton appears here in the second season as Mr. Lyle, well before he became the hottest plumber on the block in the recent hit Desperate Housewives. He's a great foil to Miss Parker's blunt style, because he's all warmth and smiles, which masks his psychotic nature. Brigitte amps up the power in the female part of the cast as the new unpredictable cleaner. She's all physical menace, and the effect is dazzling. The casting department was one of television's best—there's hardly a weak link, even in the guest roles that only last an episode or two.
The Pretender: The Complete Second Season contains all twenty-one of the second season's episodes. The transfers are clean, with just a hint of grain now and then, along with the occasional compression artifact. Seems they got the edge enhancement well under control—there isn't a trace of it this time out. The audio comes out in a simple surround mix, which is clear and does a nice job of balancing the jazzy score and the dialogue. The is a three part "making of" featurette that lasts, in total, twenty-five minutes. It's not a good idea to watch them as you progress through the discs if you have not seen this season, because they contain spoilers. There are two commentaries, one with the creators and director on one show, and one with the actors added for the two-part finale. The tracks are fun and breezy, but contain little insight into the show proper. But it is fun to hear the actors come back together and discuss the show years later.
The Pretender: The Complete Second Season is a joy to have on DVD. The show was smart in its first season, and somehow the second became even more intelligent. The scripts were more intricate, the characters deepened, and the mysteries grew into even larger question marks. Fox improves on the transfers and offers some insightful looks into the series this go-round. If you're a fan of the show, this is a fine package that offers a lot of what made the series so compelling.
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• Three-Part "Making Of" Featurette
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