Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: NURSE JACKIE Season 2

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Michael Reuben, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Nurse Jackie Season 2 (Blu-ray)




    Edie Falco won a 2010 Emmy (her fourth) for Nurse Jackie. Since Season 2 debuted just seven months after Season 1 concluded, the award covered both, a tribute to Falco’s sure grasp of an elusive but fascinating character and to the ability of series creators Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius to maintain focus on the series’ core strengths. As Wallem and Brixius note in a commentary, network shows typically build their episodes around Big Events, but on Nurse Jackie those happen off-camera. According to Wallem and Brixius: “We do little earthquakes.”



    Still, drama requires arcs and build-up. By the end of Season 1, Jackie Peyton appeared to have been backed into a corner. But the open-ended cliffhanger on which Season 2 concludes makes that look like a day at the beach.




    Studio: Lionsgate


    Rated: NR


    Film Length: app. 335 min.


    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


    HD Encoding: 1080p


    HD Codec: AVC


    Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1


    Subtitles: English; English SDH; Spanish


    MSRP: $39.99


    Disc Format: 2 50GB


    Package: Keepcase


    Original Airdates: Mar. 22-June 7, 2010


    Blu-ray Release Date: Feb. 22, 2011





    The Feature:



    Familiarity with Season 1 is assumed. I can’t stress this too strongly. I wrote the review of Season 1 with utmost care to protect the reader from spoilers. If you’ve never seen Nurse Jackie before, that’s what you should be reading. (Unless, that is, you have no interest in Nurse Jackie, in which case why are you here?) There’s no way to extend the Season 1 review’s spoiler-protection into a discussion of Season 2, because the audience starts out knowing all of Jackie’s secrets. Indeed, one of the challenges the writers faced was reinvesting us in the daily mess of Jackie’s life now that we think we’ve seen it all. So they do what smart TV writers often do when they have a great cast; they use the supporting characters to keep us interested while we get sucked back into Jackie’s world.



    Three months have passed since Jackie chugged down a load of morphine sulfate to dull the shock, after a drunken Eddie Walzer (Paul Schulze), her bitter ex-lover/pharmacist, staggered into the ER at All Saints Hospital and whispered to Jackie that he knows she’s married with two children. Jackie has been dodging Eddie ever since, trying to focus on her home life with husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) and daughters Grace (Ruby Jerins, one of the doomed kids in Shutter Island) and Fiona (the adorable Mackenzie Aladjem, so seamlessly replacing Season 1's Daisy Tahan that literally no one noticed). But when you’re a drug addict, focusing on anything other than drugs isn’t easy. Besides, Eddie isn’t going away. He now works at a drugstore near All Saints, and he texts and calls Jackie non-stop. As charming as Eddie can be, he walks a fine line in Season 2 between lover and stalker.



    It’s not as if things at home are easy. Grace continues her morbid preoccupation with death, disaster and germs. Even the private school to which her parents transferred her in Season 1 (at considerable expense) isn’t helping. In Season 2 they go looking for a child psychologist. Complicating matters is the fact that Grace’s only playmate is a brat named Kaitlyn (Cassady Leonard), whose mother, Ginny Flynn (Elizabeth Marvel), just happens to be Kevin’s old flame from high school – and Jackie is sure that Ginny would love to be more. Like most duplicitous people, Jackie is very good at spotting duplicity in others.



    At All Saints, the endless throng of ill and injured continues to stream into the ER, and things aren’t going as planned when the head administrator, Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), replaced Eddie with an automated system for dispensing pharmaceuticals. The Pill-o-Matix breaks down constantly, and despite its supposed ability to monitor drug supplies, “shrinkage” is a constant problem – and, as Mrs. Akalitus observes, “it’s never just the Immodium”. Eventually she has to hire a security guard to monitor the machine. Where are the savings?



    In another cost-cutting effort, Mrs. A. has transferred Jackie’s friend “Mo-Mo” (Haas Sleiman), who was a fully qualified (and therefore expensive) nurse, to another hospital. She replaced him with Sam (Arjun Gupta), who is probationary (and therefore cheaper). Sam temped at All Saints during Season 1, and Jackie wrote him up for being high on duty, but now he’s completed rehab, and he’s the last person Jackie wants around. “It takes one to know one”, Sam told Jackie, when she accused him of being an addict. Sam’s return introduces an unpredictable new element into Jackie’s world (and not just for Jackie).



    As an aside, the show’s creators were less than forthcoming in explaining why they didn’t renew Haas Sleiman’s contract. One can’t help but note, however, that many of the conversations Jackie would have had with Mo-Mo she now has with a nurse named Thor, who is played by Stephen Wallem, brother of show creator Linda Wallem. In defense of the Wallem family, I must acknowledge that Thor turns out to be a great character.



    Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli) remains as arrogant and needy as ever, but now he’s discovered Twitter. I can’t imagine a more brutally accurate portrait of the echo chamber of self-importance that is Twitter than “Coop’s” collection of tweets to his followers (which, apparently, were sent in real time to Nurse Jackie fans sufficiently fanatical to subscribe to the Twitter feed created for the show). Coop also takes on a new role at All Saints, but that’s something viewers should have the fun of discovering for themselves.



    Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever) is no longer the new kid on the block, and with Jackie as her role model, she’s gained a degree of poise in the ER that makes her an effective nurse. Private life is another matter, especially when the prospect of romance enters the picture. Zoey is the sole character in Nurse Jackie without a trace of cynicism. As a result, she is always out of step with everyone else, but in the most endearing and absurd way possible. (In the commentaries, it’s noted that Merritt Wever is the actor who most causes others to lose it during takes, because she constantly does something unexpected.)



    Then, there’s Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best), whom we last left in an uncharacteristically emotional state over her gravely ill mother. O’Hara’s mother has died between the two seasons, and the fashion-addicted doctor seems almost liberated by the event. She’s regained her balance, goes out on the town, and is excited by the prospect of using money from her mother’s estate to set up a college fund for Jackie’s daughters (an idea that doesn’t sit well with Jackie’s husband). Then someone from O’Hara’s past appears, and things get complicated.



    Throughout all this, Jackie Peyton continues to be an exceptional nurse, one for whom helping people and easing suffering is a calling as much as a job. She goes above and beyond to assist patients dealing with intense chemotherapy, or struggling with insurance companies, or being victimized by scam artists. All the while Jackie’s own life spirals further and further out of control, to the point where a drug dealer comes into her own hospital to threaten her. And then things get much worse.




    Video:



    Season 1 was shot by a single DP (Vanja Cernjul), while Season 2 was shot by three (Cernjul, Igor Martinovic and Christopher LaVasseur). The series continues to be captured on hi-def video, but someone has obviously made a decision to tone down the harsh, almost fluorescent contrasts that characterized the first season. The image in Season 2 is softer and more natural, and the Blu-ray delivers this image without compromise. Detail is excellent, colors are strong, blacks are solid, and there is almost no video noise. I also didn’t see any compression-related issues.




    Audio:



    Nurse Jackie’s soundtrack, delivered in DTS lossless, continues to be formatted for 7.1, but I still can’t see any reason for it. The surround field remains limited to ambient and environmental noise, and the chief beneficiary of the larger soundstage is the original score by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (formerly of Prince and the Revolution), plus the occasional song selection. (Episode 1 uses the Aretha Franklin version of “I Say a Little Prayer”.)




    Special Features:



    Commentary by Actor Edie Falco and Producers Linda Wallem, Liz Brixius and Richie Jackson (eps. 1, 8 and 12). The two creators and producers, along with co-producer Jackson, chat and laugh with their star, and, as on the first season’s commentaries, they frequently talk over each other. But interesting things emerge, some of which have already been mentioned. Other examples include the fact that Wallem and Brixius knew from the beginning exactly what the season’s last shot would be and filmed certain things in anticipation, without telling anyone why; and that a memorable bit involving cardiogram electrodes, which might seem wildly over the top, was based on a real story related by the show’s technical advisor, Jennifer Cady, who is an ER nurse.



    Commentary by Actors Eve Best and Peter Facinelli (eps. 10 and 11). The actors who play Drs. O’Hara and Cooper don’t share many scenes, but they have an easy rapport. One of the first revelations to emerge is that Best has never seen the show. Having acquired nearly all of her experience in the theater, she is unaccustomed to watching herself perform and is now reluctant to do so. As a result, everything, even the title sequence, is a revelation, and she often lapses into silence as she becomes absorbed in watching. Facinelli does a fine job at repeatedly drawing her back into the conversation, often just by talking about his own scenes and relating stories about filming them.



    All About Eve (disc 1) (HD) (10:47). A lively and informative interview with Best, whose entire life was changed when she was cast as Dr. O’Hara. Among other things, she relocated from England to New York, which seems appropriate considering that Best was single-handedly responsible for making O’Hara a Brit. As written, the character was American. But when Best came in to audition, she felt out of practice with her American accent and, convinced she wouldn’t get the part anyway, decided to read the lines in her native voice. Wallem and Brixius liked the effect so much they rewrote the character for Best.



    Another ironic detail: O’Hara is addicted to Manolo Blahniks, while Best can’t stand wearing high heels and removes them the minute the director calls “cut”.



    Gag Reel (disc 1) (HD) (6:22). The usual collection of mugging, mishaps, blown lines and “corpsing”. Ruby Jerins and Mackenzie Aladjem, who play Grace and Fiona Peyton, are especially endearing.



    Nurse Jackie Main Title Montage (disc 1) (HD) (1:39). This is an alternate version of the title sequence overlaid with scenes from the season. It contains potential spoilers and should not be viewed until after watching all of the episodes.



    Perfecting an Inappropriate Touch (disc 2) (HD) (11:30). Subtitled “Peter Facinelli on Dr. Cooper”, this interview follows the same format as the “All About Eve” feature on disc 1. Facinelli, who was born in Queens to Italian immigrant parents, was drawn to acting in the third grade when he read a book about Paul Newman. He says he had no natural talent for it, but learned by working hard. Like many of the cast, he was attracted to Nurse Jackie by the presence of Falco. His ability to play “Coop” so effectively stems from his understanding that, on the inside, Coop is really the most insecure and vulnerable character in the cast. Facinelli found it particularly intriguing to play such a character in Season 2 of Nurse Jackie, while he was simultaneously filming the third Twilight film, in which his character is the opposite.




    In Conclusion:



    As the premiere of Nurse Jackie’s third season approaches on March 28, Showtime is running promos with scenes that don’t appear to have any logical connection to the mess in which Season 2 left Jackie Peyton. It figures, because there’s no way to predict which way the series creators will take their inscrutable heroine. As Eddie says to Jackie at one point: “Anyone who knows you knows they don’t know you.” To which Jackie replies: “See? You know me.”





    Equipment used for this review:



    Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog)


    Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)


    Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough


    Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier


    Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears


    Boston Acoustics VR-MC center


    SVS SB12-Plus sub
     
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Thanks, Michael.


    It was your review of Season 1 which intrigued me enough to purchase the first season on Blu as a complete blind buy. What a rollicking good ride that turned out to be!


    While really disappointed that Haas Sleiman isn't back for Season 2, I can't wait for the opportunity to get caught up with the craziness in Jackie's life.

    I picked up my copy today at Target for the terrific price of $24.99. My wife--who took quite a while to warm up to the program--is also looking forward to returning to the material now. She had issues with some of the darker themes running throughout the show.

    We'll be getting started very soon!
     
  3. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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