Grim_Noir Conducts a Controlled “BURN (NOTICE)!”

Burn Notice logo

When I hear the words, “My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy until…,” in front of the first episode of a new season for Burn Notice, it signals my brain that Summer is truly here.

Since it is nigh impossible to discuss the upcoming season without spoiling what has come before, if you are not already clued in on “Ask A Spy” or down with why “Chuck Finley is forever”, then you need to rent the prior four seasons of Burn Notice, right now!

The rest of us already know that Michael Westen (played by Jeffrey Donovan) was a spy who had a mission go sideways in Nigeria. Behind his back, he was accused of even more horrendous crimes. Too valuable to “fire” (kill), Michael was promptly “laid off” by his agency. In the espionage biz, in such situations, an agency can issue a “burn notice:” Your assets are frozen, your security codes and clearance are revoked and you are placed on the FBI’s watch list. You are, in effect, unemployable and stuck in whatever city the “Powers-That-Be” parked you when the burn notice takes effect.

By irony or intent, Michael’s agency has left him stranded in his hometown of Miami, Florida, which holds many bitter memories for him, mostly regarding his deceased abusive father.

On the plus side, his ex-girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (U.K. actress Gabrielle Anwar), is also in Miami. Fi is a former I.R.A. member who believes there is no problem that the strategic use of high explosives cannot solve. A useful trait, indeed, when Michael is gunning to plow through several layers of bureaucracy to find out who burned him and how to get back “in” with his agency.

As able as these two actors are, Donovan and Anwar are basically there as eye-candy. The real tentpoles of this series are fanboy-fave Bruce Campbell, as Sam Axe, a retired Navy SEAL feeding mis-information to the FBI, and Queer As Folks’ Sharon Glass as Michael’s tough-as-nails, forever nagging, yet emotionally fragile mother, Madeline.

Burn Notice cast

While the frothy brew of A-Team-like side missions and Michael’s on-going voice-over commentary on how to do things “the spy way,” are enough for most Summer series, the main theme of Burn Notice has always been repercussions. Creator/writer/producer Matt Nix and his team show how every stunt-filled action has an equal but unintented reaction.

  • First season, there were the repercussions of the burn notice; finding a place to live, finding a way to earn a living, and (of course) trying to find out who burned him. (Matt Nix would earn an Edgar Allen Poe mystery writers award for the Pilot episode.)
  • The second season was about the backlash from Michael’s single-minded quest to get back “in”: At various times, Sparticus‘ Lucy Lawless, The West Wing‘s Richard Schiff, and BSG‘s Tricia Helfer showed up to try and kill Michael and/or his friends and family.
  • Season three covered Michael sucessfully getting those who burned him to just “leave him alone.” The Djinn-like consquences of this request being granted included heavy police scrutiny, the FBI investigating Madeline, and the assassination of Michael’s CIA contact, Diego Garza. (Sharon Gless would be nominated for a Supporting Actress Emmy for this season.)
  • And, last season, Michael paid the piper for stopping internatinal terrorist Simon.  Finding himself recruited by the organization that burned him, Michael would be tricked into inadvertantly burning another innocent agent, Jesse Porter (Third Watch and The Game‘s Coby Bell). Jesse comes to Michael to get help fixing his situation, without knowing Michael is the one who put him in it. Partially because of Jesse’s usefulness to the team, partially out of guilt, and partially because everybody likes the guy, Michael wants to fix his mistake without telling Jesse who caused it. This would lead to Jesse shooting Michael through the shoulder, a little too close to his heart, during a hostage situation. Only the subterfuge of Madeline would push them into their own personal “beer summit,” but full forgiveness would not come until the Season 4 finale.

This new season is gearing up to be another exercise in “be careful what you wish.”  Michael has been taken back by his agency, on a contigency basis. He may be out of Miami, but is the price tag too steep? In addition to his previous handler (played by Dylan Baker), Mikey has been assigned a CIA shadow, Max (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Grant Show).

This may be a season of emotional repercussions, starting with next week’s episode:  Madeline is needed on a misson with the team, at the last minute, and Michael roughs her up a little to preserve the cover, bringing everyone’s feelings about Michael’s father right to the surface…

Even though the season opener gave Michael no additonal answers regarding his burn notice, it did give me an answer to the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” My answer will be simply, “A plan? No. I’ve got some tactical goals and a rough approach…”

…And a comfy couch and some fresh popped popcorn for the rest of this season of Burn Notice

* GRIM_NOIR is: A) Mad, B) Bad, C) Dangerous to Know, D) Now with 50% More Follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter

(For fans of both Burn Notice and White Collar, Grim_Noir left an Easter
egg here)

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