Northern Exposure: Season 2 Review
With the review of Northern Exposure Season 1 covering the basics of the series, this review is more about the essentials of this set, including the seven episodes on the two double-sided discs.
Goodbye to All That (47m07s): Winter is taking hold in Cicely but Fleischman is looking on the sunny side of life thanks to an upcoming two-week vacation in New York. But the chill outside reaches into Fleischman's clinic when he receives a 'Dear John' letter from Elaine. A night on a double date with Chris doesn't quite work out, which leads to Fleischman getting a private film show from his ex-girlfriends and a younger version of himself. Meanwhile, Holling installs a satellite dish at the Brick but soon regrets it when Shelly first gets addicted to international television followed by - worse! - the home shopping channels.
The Big Kiss (47m27s): Strange dreams are interrupting Chris' sleep and when he sees a beautiful woman (Jessika Cardinahl) passing through Cicely, he loses his voice. Seeing this as a major problem should he wish to continue with his radio show, he believes that only by sleeping with the most beautiful woman in town will his lost voice return. Maggie is not, however, terribly keen on the idea. Elsewhere, Ed wants to learn of his parents but no one can say more than that his father was called Smith so he calls upon One Who Waits (Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman), a 256-year-old Native American spirit, to aid him in his quest.
All is Vanity (47m04s): The temperature is dropping fast in Cicely and things are beginning to get a little strange - there is a fight in the bar, Maggie's in a panic and a man has dropped dead in Fleischman's waiting room. No one knows who he is but Chris and Maurice take care of a rota to watch over the body until someone claims him. Meanwhile, Shelly's concern over, "that little turtleneck thing", leads Holling to consider being circumcised but Fleischman, who, at eight days old, is circumcised but had little say in the matter tries to convince him that style is not reason enough to have the operation. The removal of a foreskin and a dead man in his waiting room - it's not as if Fleischman isn't busy but when O'Connell's father arrives in Rick's absence, she persuades Joel to act has her boyfriend, which he's determined to mine for as much of his own pleasure as he can.
What I Did For Love (46m45s): Maggie's dreaming about a night with Joel...playing Cluedo. The next morning, when they meet in town, she can't look him in the eye but he doesn't even notice given his excitement over a forthcoming trip to New York. But when she begins having dreams about his death in a plane crash, she worries about having to stop his trip back home and goes to Chris for advice. Chris, though, is concerned about Cicely's upcoming birthday celebrations and about Maurice's hackles being raised every time he mentions the 'special relationship' between the town's founders Cicely and Rosalyn. As Maurice tells him to lay off the lesbian angle, not that he hasn't enjoyed erotic films that are concerned with such matters, he's also troubled by a love of his own - an astronaut groupie who's in town with her husband but, when he's busy, likes spending time with Maurice. But when she notices that he's stopping breathing in between snoring, she asks Fleischman to check Maurice out without him noticing.
Spring Break (47m09s): Temperatures are rising, the ice is beginning to melt and love is in the air - Maggie is still dreaming about Joel but, this time, they're naked as naked as, literally, Adam and Eve. But madness is also about and after a string of petty thefts, Maurice calls in a bullish state trooper to investigate but she finds her work hampered by a love struck Minnifield. All this and Holling baiting the patrons of his bar in an attempt to start a fight, which Minnifield's girl is only too happy to oblige him with. Of course, as Joel realises, Cicely gets a little crazy every year before the running of the bulls, which doesn't surprise the doctor as much as how little he'll be wearing during this particular run.
War and Peace (47m26s): When Nikolai (Elya Baskin), a Russian celebrity, arrives in Cicely for one of his infrequent visits, he brings gifts and receives a warm welcome from every Cicelian but one - Maurice Minnifield. Not only does Maurice not like Russians but he holds a particular dislike of Nikolai - every time they meet, they play chess and, every time, Maurice gets beaten. This time, Maurice claims a win on a technicality, Nikolai disagrees but they do agree on duelling with pistols to settle their argument. Elsewhere, Holling is troubled by some disturbing dreams that interrupt his sleep but before curing him, Joel has to step out of character, discuss the script and come up with an ending that keeps both Nikolai and Maurice happy without anyone losing face.
Slow Dance (46m24s): Shelly begins to feel a little jealous when an old female friend of Holling's from back home in Nome shows up whilst Maurice thinks hard about a land deal - money isn't the problem as he asked and got more than it was worth, it's just that the buyers are a gay couple and Maurice finds male homosexuality even more troubling than the female. That and his realisation of what his beloved showtunes mean to most people.
Elsewhere, Chris begins by apologising to Chicken Licken - turns out the sky is falling as NASA announce that the Comsat 4 satellite is in a rapidly decaying orbit and will soon fall to Earth. Unfortunately, when it does, it lands on Rick, Maggie's boyfriend and not only is she devastated that the O'Connell curse has struck again but that she and Rick parted after a disagreement. Joel is asked to inform Maggie and does so in the gentlest and most heartfelt way that he can - with a joke that will bring tears to your eyes by the time he says, "Rick crawled up on the roof." But, Northern Exposure being what it is, the sadness is tempered by laughs and an ending that is amongst the best season finales, even by this show's very, very high standards.
As with Universal release of Season One on DVD - the Region 1, not the Region 2 - the transfer really is wonderful. The picture is sharp and the colour is perfectly balanced between the rich Alaskan landscape the more muted interiors. Even the grain on the image, whilst noticeable, is right - the picture is neither too soft nor too grainy.
The surround soundtrack is a match to the picture - clean, free of noise and able to handle the quiet and most intimate of scenes as well as the loudest. Although it's a surround track, there is very little use of the rear channels and they appear to be used for ambient effects only.
As with the release of Northern Exposure's first season on R1, this two-disc set comes with a selection of Deleted Scenes and Unexposed Footage spread over all four sides of the two discs.
Side One: Scenes that needed a little tightening have their full versions included here and, in the Unexposed Footage, there is the usual collection of bloopers and outtakes - Goodbye to All That (9m09s, 2m05s) and The Big Kiss (2m40s, 3m05s).
Side Two: As per Side One but, this time, for All Is Vanity (5m57s, 7m23s) and What I Did For Love (2m43s, 2m20s).
Side One: As before, Spring Break (4m59s, 11m07s) and War and Peace (9m33s, 4m21s) get the Deleted Scenes/Unexposed Footage treatment.
Side Two: Only one episode on this side of the second disc so there is only Deleted Scenes (7m23s) and Unexposed Footage (3m02s) for Slow Dance.
By this stage, Northern Exposure was, following the first season high point of Aurora Borealis, well into its stride and this is evident even in the opening minutes of Goodbye to All That. The cast just seem much more at ease with each other, the storytelling comes more naturally and that mix of magic, natural rhythms and wonderment simply falls into place episode by episode.
If the first season was good, this is great and was the last of the relatively short seasons - with cast, crew and storylines gelling, the show's third season would be twenty-three episodes, each one almost as good as the best of these.