Nurse Jackie: Season 2 (US - BD RA)
Gabe takes another high definition trip to New York City's All Saint's Hospital...
Almost exactly one year ago I was introduced to the hijinx of Nurse Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), and despite my resistance to yet another hospital based serial dramedy, I fell in love, and found myself re-watching the season after my review was finished. Since then, I had the fortune of spending more than half my social time with real life nurses, due to the misfortune of a medical condition. I didn’t really ask about any of their personal lives beyond pleasantries like ‘where are you from originally?’, but imagine plenty of them lead challenging lives, and like Jackie, they keep that stuff at home. Also like Jackie, I found that almost every one of the 30 plus individuals I met were warm, personable, and better at most physical tasks than their doctor counterparts. I understand the controversy behind Jackie’s drug abuse and ‘unethical practices’, and don’t blame associations like the New York State Nurses Association for criticizing the show, but in the end Nurse Jackie is the love letter all nurses deserve from a mainstream television series – affectionate and honest at the same time, with a great sense of humour.
This season is sizably funnier than the first season, which had the disadvantage of setting up a rather sizable cast of quirky characters. Now that their audience knows them, these fictional people are free to make us laugh with a single word or facial tic; no additional information is required. The A-characters don’t get a huge boost, but the supporting cast shines itself into the B-plus-list, especially Zoey (Merritt Wever)(who has been basically made a lead character at this point), diabetic, gay nurse Thor (Stephen Wallem), and big boss Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), who was mostly a one note villain in season one. Overall the characters are now more important than stand alone situations like gross-out hospital gags, or even Jackie’s personal drama. This is a sign of real growth, and it opens the series up for future seasons (the problem being that only so much ground can be covered in twelve, twenty seven minute episodes). The quality and wit of the dialogue has also taken a step up between seasons, at least in terms of quotable comedy moments. Zoey’s patented nonsense is the best, including such gems as ‘I thought I was an angel as a child, because I have a round face’.
Like every second season series Nurse Jackie ran the risk of falling into a terrible rut, and tiring out its audience out with the title character’s self-destructive drama, so the influx of new character drama is most welcome. The rut that the writers don’t escape is Jackie’s extra-marital relationship with Eddie (Paul Schulze), which usually leads the super-plot to cliché places that are below the series’ overall work. This is an especially potent bummer because Eddie was an enjoyable, tragic character during the first season. For most of the second season, he becomes a sort of sad sack villain, which is unfair, since Jackie herself is really at fault for the issues she’s trying to cover up after the first season. The other characters’ theatrics are of a more existential or wacky nature, or at the very least less predictable. Akalitus grows into a likeable curmudgeon, Jackie’s husband Kevin is finally able to react to something, but again it’s Zoey that develops the most, and in the most exciting ways. Fortunately, the Eddie issue is brought to a generally satisfying conclusion, and it appears that it won’t be a major issue as the series continues (Jackie’s drug use is really a much bigger deal than her infidelities anyway).
Nurse Jackie returns to Blu-ray with another effective, but not outrageously impressive 1080p transfer. My eyes might be playing tricks on me, but in general it seems that this is a better looking collection of episodes than last year’s release (the special features offer some decent comparisons while illustrating points for interviews). I’d even hazard to guess the crew used a different camera set than the first season. While reviewing that season one collection last year I had complained a bit about the degree of grain, and reevaluating my screencaps I see that there were also issues with clean blends. The grain levels here are more manageable, and the blends are nice and smooth. Season two is a bit more colourful than season one, though this collection matches in terms of stylistic brightness (the fluorescent lights of the hospital threaten to blow out the whole frame at any second), and general softness. Detail levels are still pretty impressive thanks to some sharp facial close-ups, some even sharper, even closer-ups of medical actions, and some busy production design, especially Zoey’s wacky scrubs. Speaking of those scrubs, the whole season is warmer (skin tones specifically), and as mentioned, more colourful in general. In general the hospital is still made up of varying degrees of blue and white, so elements like Zoey’s scrubs contrast perfectly.
This release features another somewhat unnecessary 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but besides the show’s generally low-key sound, I don’t have anything to complain about. Not that there’s any reason for Nurse Jackie to be an aurally intense series. Once again, the bulk of the important noise is well centered, clear, consistent, and natural, including dialogue and most basic on set sound. The stereo channels buzz rather quietly with general hospital noises, like monitor beeps, moving people and ringing phones. The surround channels feature the most minor additional effects, but open up a bit when the show moves outside. Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin’s music is still only used to highlight dramatic or comedic moments, but there’s generally more of it this time around. The score features a warm bass presence, and while it’s mostly delegated to the stereo channels, I did catch a few rear channel bits that weren’t just echo. The collected pieces of pop music that close each episode are usually louder than the rest of the series music, with a more boisterous LFE presence.
Once again we are treated to a decent pile of audio commentaries, starting on disc one with the episode ‘Comfort Food’, which features Edie Falco, creators Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius, and executive producer Ritchie Jackson. This particular track starts a little slowly, but the participants become a pile of infectious giggles soon enough, and there’s a bit of fabulous behind the scenes information as well. Disc two begins with the same participants on the episode entitled ‘Monkey Bits’. This track gets moving a little more quickly, and features a little more technical information (not to mention gas). ‘Sleeping Dogs’ features actors Eve Best and Peter Facinelli, who start their playful track trying to impersonate each other’s accents. There isn’t a whole lot of talking, unfortunately, since Best never watches the show, and is left to silently stare every few minutes. Facinelli is a pretty good moderator though, and things are generally a little more full blooded on the pair’s second coupling for the second to last episode of the season, ‘What the Day Brings’. The season finale, ‘Years of Service’, once again features Falco, Wallem, Brixius and Jackson, and the track is a fitting end to the set. The worst news – it turns out Merritt Wever is nothing like Zoey. What a bummer that such an adorable person doesn’t exist in the real world.
‘All About Eve’ (10:50, HD) starts the first disc’s non-commentary extras with a look at the life and times of Eve Best, who plays Dr. Eleanor O'Hara, Jackie’s best friend. Here the actress is interviewed, and her talking head is set against photos of her work on the British and American stage, and footage from the show. This is followed by a gag reel (6:20, HD), and a main title montage (1:40, HD). Disc two ends things with ‘Perfecting an Inappropriate Touch’ (11:30, HD), a companion piece to ‘All About Eve’ concerning the life and times of Peter Facinelli, not a how-to lesson on groping.
Nurse Jackie is another ongoing television series that finds its stride in its second season of episodes. The writers still need to find the right balance between comedy and melodrama, but the recurring characters are now exquisitely crafted, living, breathing people, and that counts for a whole lot on a series like this. This second season collection looks more impressive than last year’s season one collection, earning the Blu-ray’s extra definition and uncompressed colours. Extras aren’t particularly stunning, but do include some entertaining and amusing commentary tracks.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 22nd February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentaries, All About Eve, Perfecting an Inappropriate Touch, Music Montage, Gag Reel
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Edie Falco, Peter Facinelli, Paul Schulze, Merritt Wever, Eve Best
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 335 minutes
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