For three seasons, Burn Notice’s Michael Westen has sought the person[s] responsible for his being burned and stuck in the last place he ever wanted to be – Miami. Now a menacingly charming, bullet-headed black guy with a booming voice and ten thousand dollar suits has offered to help him do just that – if Westen does a few ‘errands’ for him.
Although he claims not to be one of the people who actually burned Michael [Jeffrey Donovan], Vaughn [Robert Wisdom] admits to working for them and in the season premiere, Friends and Enemies, assures him that he’s the only one who can put the pieces together to take down a major threat to national security. If Michael will help him out with this job, and a few more ‘errands,’ Vaughn will help him get back in with The Company.
And so begins yet another of Michael’s association with untrustworthy, shady government types that make his pal, ex-Navy SEAL Sam Axe [Bruce Campbell] and ex [and possibly future] girlfriend Fiona Glenanne [Gabrielle Anwar] crazy – especially when Michael’s first assignment accidentally burns a counterintelligence agent. Out of guilt, Michael decides to help Jesse Porter [Coby Bell] get his job back – hopefully without having to reveal that it was Westen who got him burned in the first place.
This season, the big discovery is a bible that was owned by the family of psycho former agent Simon Escher [the guy whose actions have been pinned on Michael in order to burn him]. Simon [Garrett Dillahunt] even makes a couple of well-timed appearances as Michael tries to figure out the bible’s code. Seeing Michael and Simon together is like seeing Superman and bizarre together – they are strange reflections of each other.
In the meantime, he recruits Jesse to his team to help various ‘clients’ get out of the kinds of trouble that people get into when they aren’t careful – or are a bit too gullible: keeping a ticked off biker gang from killing a lawyer who was only trying to help; giving a scam artist/lothario; protecting a free clinic from a druglord; saving the kidnapped daughter of a criminal defense lawyer who was unable to make a guilty conviction go away. There’s even a genuine mad bomber!
As has become the show’s trademark, season four balanced its ongoing mythology regarding Michael’s efforts to get un-burned with clients of the week – and then playing with audience expectations as to which arcs would be more dangerous. Other familiar elements, like Sam’s Hawaiian shirts, drinking and penchant for the ladies; Fiona’s hair-trigger temper [and detestation of anyone who would exploit women and children], and Michael’s occasional narrations as he explains elements of spycraft [from the tactics of a Russian wetwork team to creating bugs – both obvious and not so much] are still in evidence, as well.
Although the series does feature violence [Fiona’s love of guns and bombs, for example] and the execution of big-budget movie-like stunts, it still relies far more on its character development. One prime example is Michael’s mother, Madeline [Sharon Gless, who really earned her Emmy nomination for the season] who has gone from a relatively two-dimensional, manipulative bitch to being strong, capable and vulnerable as well [though she may never beat her tobacco addiction].
The Burn Notice writers’ room is one of the best around, too. In a season of eighteen episodes, you might figure on getting three or four duds per season simply because it’s hard to break that many stories without running out of gas. Turns out there’s only one dud here – and that’s only in comparison to the show’s other eps – Brotherly Love, an episode that tries to make the mythology arc the B-arc, but tries too hard to fit two pairs of brothers into the other arc.
Technically, season four is beautifully shot, fast-paced fun that spare neither the horses nor the character development. Overall then, Burn Notice: Season Four is an above average season from an above average series.
Features: an unfocused Audio Commentary for Last Stand [with series creator/showrunner Matt Nix, executive producer/writer Alfredo Barrios Jr., and cast members Jeffrey Donovan, Coby Bell, and Robert Wisdom]; Sam Axe’s Guide to Ladies and Libations; Best Laid Plans: The Stunts of Burn Notice; Burn Notice Roasts White Collar; White Collar Roasts Burn Notice; Deleted Scenes and Gag Reel.
Grade: Burn Notice: Season Four – A-
Grade: Features – B-
Final Grade: B+