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Burn Notice: Friends and Enemies

And it’s back! Our favourite spy-show complete with suave spies, gun-toting babes, womanizing ex-soldiers, and hypochondriac mothers. The long awaited follow-up to the cliffhanger finale of season 3 was exiting, fast-paced, fun, and a good start of the new season. A new enemy, overarching storyline, and the well-established and successful formula that has secured the show two more seasons began anew.

Burn Notice season premieres seem to follow a nigh identical script: A quick “This is what you need to know” recap, a very quick and somewhat unsatisfactory resolution to last season’s cliffhanger, and then a quick-and-dirty “standard” plot-line, which is then usually finished off by a teeny wheeny surprise or revelation.

Season two gave us the “car-in-a-truck-ride” which simply dumped Michael in the middle of an assignment, season three started off with Mr. Resourceful crawling out of the ocean and getting arrested in a pink t-shirt, and season four starts off by spending 12 (yes, twelve) minutes total on recapping and the cliffhanger’s “resolution”. Yes, it is efficient, but it is also a little bit rushed and perhaps even superficial.

The enemy of the week (and, I assume, the season) is Vaughn, portrayed by Robert Wisdom. Like the previous holders of the title we never get any exact information on him, his employers or his agenda, but he seems an affable and easygoing fellow as long as things are going his way. While Michael is naturally skeptical, stand-offish, and quite frankly pissed off at first, Vaughn eventually manages to convince him that they face a mutual threat that outweighs any hostility between them. The fact that Michael is stuck in a high-security, secret holding-facility until he sees reason is probably of some significance as well.

After a short jaunt in the jungle, complete with helicopters, unmanned attack drones, and hails of bullets, we return to Miami where the REAL fun begins. Mummy dearest, the occasionally dreadful and often awesome Madeline, greets the return of the prodigal son with equal measures of exasperation and delight. Showing some real grit in the season finale, Madeline has earned the right to question her son, but they save the mushy family stuff for later.

Fiona Glenanne is an interesting character. While some love to hate her, and the writers made a pretty controversial choice by making her background that of an IRA bomber, the character comes across as flawed, but likable. Fiercely loyal, more fearful for her loved ones than for herself, Fiona is a firm believer in the adage “If you think a problem can’t be solved by violence, then you haven’t applied enough violence”. When you add C4 to that picture, Fi can be a very interesting person to have around. This is just a long-winded way of saying that I understand why they occasionally make her hard to predict, which makes the relationship between her and Michael complicated at best. And so I actually find it refreshing that I do not know whether she will kiss him or slug him when he shows up at her door after several weeks as an unwilling guest of the mysterious Vaughn and his friends. In this instance, he gets a kiss. 

And then he gets ordered to assist her on the mission she and Sam are busy on. A fast-paced storyline about a young, idealistic lawyer who gets in trouble with a big bad biker gang is resolved after some much-needed Michael Weston-smarts, (Sam actually states that “This whole business needs a little Michael Weston”), and the episode finished off with a quick bit of spy-work that comes back to bite Michael in the ass.

The interesting parts of this episode is not the local caper with the gang, but the start of the new overarching storyline. Even then, the big shadowy agencies and organizations behind Micheal’s burn notice and the season finale bad-guy are not the as important as the “little” things; such as the fact that Michael manages to unintentionally get another spy in trouble.

For a tough-as-nails spy, Michael carries around a lot of guilt, mostly towards the women in his life and also a sense of justice and fairness that he cannot always indulge. Some of the most memorable moments in the entire series are when he opens up enough to let us see behind the cool professional demeanor to the caring and insecure man inside. And the conversation between mother and son at the end of the episode should carry a one hanky-warning at the very least

Jeffrey Donovan manages to imbue the usually unflappable covert operative with such frailty and vulnerability, and the mother-son-dynamic is just beautiful. One of those rare occasions when Madeline is actually the adult in the relationship, comforting her son like the little boy he once was. Her reassurance that he is NOT a monster and that he’ll never turn into the people he is fighting, is nicely thrown back in his face in the final scene when he learns he accidentally “burned” an innocent spy.

The horror he feels at this is clear, and shows us that he still has a long way to go before he loses his way on the path of righteousness. But it is a slippery slope, and we can only wait and see how Michael will chose to deal with the situation. Michael being Michael and the heart-to-heart with Mommy is brilliant as always, and would qualify for a 9 at least. But the rushed plot is annoying and brings the score down significantly. Hopefully, next week will bring us back to the fool-proof formula of the everyday Burn Notice episodes.

Rating
7.5

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