Let's skip the formalities of recapping the story. Anyone interested in the second season of Burn Notice must have seen season one. They're fans of Michael Westen's (Jeffrey Donovan) MacGyver-like way of getting through tough situations. Michael has been burned by the US government. The first season he spent looking for who it was that burned him. At the end of the season we were left with Michael driving a SUV into the back of a semi-trailer with the promise of finding the culprit behind his recent predicament. Fade to black.
The second season opens with Michael still in the back of that mysterious semi with only one thing on his mind, confronting the people who destroyed his reputation.
In the first season Michael helped people with tricky problems, the kind only an ex-spy could handle. He's got a cool, calculating demeanor, but with a heart of gold. He assists anyone he can, while narrating the best ways to stop criminals, blow up doors, and make fake identities work.
Michael's partners Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) are back helping him with the different jobs he's contracted to do. He does all of this while taking care of his paranoid mother (Sharon Gless) and his screw-up of a brother (Seth Petersen).
Burn Notice continues with the same charm in the second season that made its debut season so much fun. It has a perfect mix of intrigue and clever humor. Michael's personal narration about how to get things done efficiently as a spy is sometimes hilarious, while perfectly crafted to seem quite plausible.
Every character in this show is perfect. The writing is witty, and the acting is engaging. I've been a fan since day one. The second season packs the same wallop as the first. Every episode we feel that Michael is getting closer and closer to the people who burned him, while still helping people in the meantime.
Man, is this disappointing to say, but the second season of Burn Notice is one of the most problem filled Blu-ray presentations I have ever seen. As a fan of the show I desperately wanted a fantastic HD look, but instead, this 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer fails on almost all fronts.
Arguments can be made that the sheen of grain visible in every shot, except the Miami fly-over shots, is an artistic decision. While that may be true, it's still extremely distracting. At some points the grain is completely overwhelming, especially in the first episode when Michael goes to talk to his mom at her house.
If the grain were the only problem with this presentation it might still receive a higher rating, but Burn Notice Season 2 is plagued with all sorts of technical problems, ranging from aliasing to noticeable edge enhancement. White source noise blips pop up so frequently you'll feel you're watching an old movie reel in the theater. I couldn't believe how much noise there was. Completely inexcusable for an HD presentation.
Burn Notice is filmed almost entirely in Miami and its surrounding areas, but the colors all seem way off. Skin tones really suffer. People's skin appears washed out, and the colors of Miami are completely oversaturated. Whenever there's an explosion, the fireballs are a messy blend of reds, whites, and oranges. Explosions are also victims of some pretty noticeable macro-blocking artifacts. Compare this to another Miami based TV show, Dexter. Dexter captures the colors of South Florida perfectly. Dexter's transfers have been nothing short of amazing, Burn Notice pales in comparison.
This truly is the saddest I've ever been about a Blu-ray presentation. One of my favorite shows on TV looks just dreadful on Blu-ray. That's something to be sad about, and I don't think I'll be the only one. I don't know what to attribute all of these technical faults to, but I'll say that compressing six, hour-long episodes onto a single disc probably didn't help matters.
It's also too bad that the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 doesn't help in redeeming this Blu-ray. For all the action featured in Burn Notice, the sound is fairly muted and unimpressive. The front channels are loaded with most of the sound while the rear channels all too often remain silent. Even during the explosions, low bass seems to find it hard to escape and give us a truly immersive feeling.
The front channels do their job well though. Michael's narrative is presented clearly through the middle channel, and dialogue has some good directionality, but the lack of any real immersive surround effects only increases this soundtrack's rather lackluster performance.
Why did the picture and audio quality have to be so poor? It's hard to see a show you love get such a crappy treatment. This transfer is just mired in problems, distracting ones. Getting into the story is hard when the picture looks so bad. You get a Blu-ray expecting the best of the best, but this isn't even run-of-the-mill. This is way below average. Just one word sums this one up: disappointment.