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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Chuck: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
Chuck: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // January 5, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $69.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted January 3, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Show:

Note: There have been reports that some of the Blu-ray sets are missing the 3D version of "Chuck Versus the Third Dimension." I have contacted WHV and they've have confirmed that the version with the episode in 3D is a limited edition. However, if you purchased a copy on or before 1/19/10 and did not receive the limited-edition 3D glasses and bonus 3D episode you can fill out the form here (choose Topic: Home Video & DVD) and a Warner Bros. associate will facilitate replacing the purchased product.

I was a little apprehensive about watching the second season of Chuck.  While I enjoyed the first set of shows, the program seemed to be a one-trick pony:  geek-turned-spy gets in trouble and rescued by his handlers, one of which is a hot babe.  It could easily fall into a parody of itself, and I was pretty much expecting that to happen.  Luckily I was wrong.  The second season expands the show greatly.  They examine the backgrounds of several main and supporting characters, come up with interesting multi-episode story lines, and have the characters grow over the course of the season.  Not only that, but the show still has a great mix of action and comedy.
Series Background:
Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) was a brilliant student at Stanford until his life came crashing down on him.  It all happened when his roommate and best friend, Bryce, stole his first (and only) girlfriend, Jill, and then conspired to get him kicked out of college.  That was five years ago and Chuck finds himself living with his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), a doctor, and her boyfriend, a mountain-climbing sky-diving doctor who Chuck refers to as Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin.)  He works at the local Buy More, and when he's not working hangs out with his uber-nerd friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez).

Things all change one evening when, out of the blue, Chuck receives an e-mail from Bryce.  It turns out to be a massive series of images that hold Chuck transfixed for hours.  When the images stop cycling, he passes out.
It turns out that Bryce was a spy for the CIA who went rouge.  For some reason he broke into the computer that contained all the information that both the CIA and NSA had collected over the years in encrypted form, the Intersect, and downloaded it, destroyed the computer, and then tried to escape.  He didn't quite make it and with his dying breath e-mailed the information to Chuck.  Chuck now has the sum total information that the US government has collected since 9/11 stored in his brain, and when his computer accidentally gets destroyed when the CIA tries to steal it, he is the ONLY source of that information. 
The problem is that he can't access the data at will.  There has to be a visual trigger that will cause him to remember something.  Since such important information can't be allowed to walk the streets freely, he gets two agents assigned to watch his every move:  cute and sexy CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) who poses as Chuck's girlfriend, and psychopathic killer NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) who gets a job at the Buy More and moves into the apartment across from Chuck's.
The Season:
As the season opens it looks like Chuck's spying nightmare is almost over.  The intelligence community has just about finished making the second Intersect.  Unfortunately Fulcrum, the evil organization that has infiltrated the CIA, manages to steal the main chip, which means Sarah, Casey, and Chuck have to retrieve it.  Easier said than done.  What makes matters even worse is that Casey has orders to kill Chuck once the second Intersect is up and running.  After all the CIA and NSA can't let someone with all that information run around unprotected and they can't protect a redundant resource forever.
Naturally things go wrong and Chuck does not get killed in the second episode, but that is a threat that hangs over his head for the season.  What's more, his private life gets thrown into upheaval when his old girlfriend Jill turns up and happens to be working for a man the CIA thinks is selling secrets.  When her boss gets thrown out of a high rise window, Chuck has to get close to Jill to discover how much she knows. 
Chuck's life isn't the only one in upheaval either.  Viewers find out about Sarah's past when she has to follow a suspect to her own high school reunion, and her father pops up too, something that she doesn't necessarily welcome.  John Casey has trouble too when he finds out that his sensei has gone rogue and has started recruiting his old students.
This was a great season, mainly because they developed the characters and told longer, more involved stories.  There was more continuity this time around, not so much that it was easy to get confused, but just enough so you'll want to start the next episode as soon as one finishes. 
The show really succeeds because of the actors who play the main characters.  Zachary Levi is wonderful in the title role, playing him as an ordinary guy in extraordinary situations that everyone can relate to.  He has just the right amount of panic and grasping at straws that makes him seem real.  He's a bit more used to being on the wrong end of a gun in this season however and manages to actually help on some cases by using his brains rather than just reacting instinctively. 

The Blu-ray Disc:

The 22 episodes that make up Chuck Season Two arrive on four Blu-ray discs (the back cover says this is a six-disc set... it is incorrect) in a double width case with slipcover.
Like season one, I wasn't impressed with the video quality of this program.  The show is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, encoded at 1080p with the VC-1 codex, and it looks pretty average at best.  I was astounded at how much digital noise and grain was present in the image.  Much of the show is plagued by mosquito noise, especially in the background.  I never saw this show when it was broadcast so I have no idea if it appeared like this originally or if it is a problem with the encoding, but I was expecting a lot better.  The whites are often too bright and details are frequently lost.  Chuck's white work shirt often seems flat and lacking texture, and there is very rare blooming.
Aside from the noise issue things look pretty good.  The colors are stable and the flesh tones look fine.  The level of detail is on the soft side, but there is no confusing this with a SD DVD.  There are even a couple of scenes where the detail is too good, revealing that wounds that Casey suffered are clearly a latex applications for example.  Overall this doesn't look bad, it just has several problems that keep it out of the top-tier Blu-ray releases.
It's a little disappointing that this season, again, only comes with a DD 5.1 soundtrack.  While I guess I should be happy that it's not just a stereo track, I was hoping that we'd be treated to lossless audio.  In any case the audio sounds fine with the dialog being easy to discern and the music and background noises coming through clearly.  The soundstage wasn't used much, mainly during the few action sequences when some audio effects were thrown to the rears, so the show isn't as enveloping as I would have liked it.  The sub channel was also fairly anemic.  For a TV show the sound is fine, just not as impressive as it could have been.
WB has ported over all of the extras from the SD DVD release, and it's a pretty good collection.  First off there are deleted and extended scenes to most episodes spread across the four discs.  The rest of the bonus material is included on disc four.
One of the things I was happy to see is the episode Chuck vs. the Third Dimension presented in 3D (and in HD).  It was originally broadcast that way, but most likely won't be again, so it's nice that they included it here.  They use the anaglyph system (watching the show through red and blue lenses) and there are two pairs of glasses included.  This doesn't look nearly as good as the recent theatrical 3D movies, but it was still fun.  (The 2D version of the episode is included in the set also.)
There are also a couple of featurettes, all presented in 480i/p:  Truth, Spies and Regular Guys: Exploring the Mythology of Chuck (20 min) - this two part clip show features the cast talking about the series and what has happened so far.  It brings you up to date through the ending of season two, so don't watch it unless you've seen the episodes in this set first.
Dude in Distress (18 min) - a look at the stunts in season 2.
Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome Tip for Being Awesome (3 min) - Awesome  offers some advice on various topics - dating, class reunions etc.
John Casey Presents: So You Want to Be a Deadly Spy? (2 min) - In Awesome can rate an extra, so does Casey.  He gives some amusing spy tips.
Chuck Versus the Webisodes (10 min) - five webisodes of training videos for Buy More employees.  These were pretty funny.
Finally there's a gag reel that lasts 8 minutes.
Overall it was a nice selection of amusing bonus material.
Final Thoughts:
This season was even more enjoyable that season one, which came as a bit of a surprise.  Rather than getting caught up in the same old story lines, the writers explored the backgrounds of some of the supporting characters and made the show much richer because of it.  It's hard to mix action and intrigue with comedy and not have it turn into camp, but the creators behind this show have managed to do exactly that.  The stories are fun, the characters are likeable and the acting is excellent.  It comes Highly Recommended.
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