If there’s any show on USA deserving of the Blu-ray treatment it has to be Burn Notice. Set in, and filmed in, beautiful Miami Burn Notice follows ex-spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) as he tries to survive outside of his spy ring with help from friends and family. Season two picks straight up from where season one left off with Michael being strung along by a mysterious new player in the burn notice game he’s been involved in.
Half dead and on the run in his hometown of Miami Michael turns to ex-girlfriend, as well as ex-IRA operative, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar). Because of the burn notice all of Westen’s contacts and assets have been frozen, but a trained spy has more at his disposal than bank accounts. Like a friend who was once a Navy SEAL in Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell). The overarching plot of Burn Notice follows these three as they look to uncover the truth about Michael’s burn notice.
Season one ended with Fiona and Sam showing their dedication to Michael by risking their lives, meanwhile our charming spy hero drives into the back of a semi in order to find out more about the mysterious “Management” that has contacted him. The sultry voice on the other end of the phone is revealed to be Carla (Tricia Helfer), a cold and calculating member of the organization supposedly behind Michael’s burn or that knows who is. She wanted to bring him in and has been tasked with making Miami’s favorite spy jump through hoops. Throughout the season Carla antagonizes Michael by sending him on seemingly innocuous assignments, but while her control over Michael appears complete it is the very fact that he is so versatile that makes him a greater enemy than she bargained for.
Because of the writer’s strike season 2 was split in half, with a fall finale for the first half having Michael being blown up at his apartment. As the show continued on Michael and Carla became fixated on who would want to kill him. This line of investigation leads to one of the only non big bad opponents in the series with Victor (Michael Shanks). Victor is one of Carla’s operatives with juicy dirt that could end her career.
Burn Notice is quite often light and humorous for a show about some serious subject matter. But while there’s always moments of levity the writers are never afraid to explore dramatic elements such as Michael’s possible abuse by his father as a child, or a particularly poignant episode where Michael believes Fiona was killed in a fire. Even a bad guy like Victor gets a heartwrenching ending that puts Michael on a determined path.
The second season of almost any television series is a true test of whether the formula can work for the long haul. Season one of Burn Notice was simply about Michael working outside of his comfort zone, with no tools or contacts to turn to. Season two takes the same basic formula and turns it into one large game of cat and mouse between Carla and Michael. It’s now clear that Westen isn’t a good spy because he had fancy gadgets to call upon from CIA headquarters. He’s resourceful, even going so far as to create an X-ray machine in the trunk of a car in one episode. This is a man who can get the job done, and as a result Burn Notice turns up the energy in Michael’s quest to find out who burned him.
Burn Notice looks great on Blu-ray with the lush background of Miami providing color and life to the series. There are some minor grain issues now and then, but with a cable show on a limited budget that’s to be expected. Besides all of the “raining cars of fire,” as creator Matt Nix calls them, more than make up for it in the season finale.
Season two of Burn Notice spreads its sixteen episodes over three discs, each one containing just a single commentary track. “Bad Blood” features creator Matt Nix, writer Rashad Raisani, director Ben Watkins, and Method Man. It’s your standard TV commentary with everyone talking about how amazing the person next to them was during filming, and not a whole lot of insight in the series. “Double Booked” includes Matt Nix, writer Jason Tracey, writer/actor Tim Matheson and writer Craig O’Neill. You can check the box for generic commentary on this one as well. Season finale “Lesser Evil” is decidedly lacking in Jeffrey Donovan commentary but does include Nix being accompanied by Bruce Campbell and Michael Shanks. While not the most insightful look at the making of an episode it is far more entertaining with the inclusion of Campbell and Shanks.
It’s smart to only give commentary tracks to the most pertinent of episodes, but another pinnacle point in the series is given short shrift with the featurette “NIXin’ It Up” (Standar Def, 14 min). This mini-documentary on the making of Burn Notice follows as creator Matt Nix directs the episode “Do No Harm.” Fans who were hoping to get more info and commentary on the episode that flipped the Burn Notice formula on its head will be disappointed with this banal look at storyboarding and other trivial matters in television production.
The always funny gag reel (Standard Def, 10 min) and deleted scenes for select episodes exist as well. “Boom Notice” (Standard Def, 9 min) is a parody that follows a boom mike operator performing Michael’s role, except as a sound guy on the set of a TV series. It’s a throwaway extra, but has some minor charm with the low budget shoot and crew members with no acting ability. Plus it’s the only spot outside of the gag reel you’ll get to hear or see Jeffrey Donovan.