I think everyone had their issues with Burn Notice‘s third season and I’m no different. The overarching plot for the season was mishmashed mess that never quite made sense. It seemed as if the idea that everyone could come after Michael meant that no one really that important actually did. The first half was still damn fun, but the second portion was an off-balance mess that had even die-hard fans of the series sighing in disappointment.
So leading into season four the big question is can Burn Notice make us care about the big arcs again?
After the premiere, “Friends and Enemies,” I think so. Instead of speaking in extreme vagueness, the episode delivered information in only regular vagueness — but hey, progress! The first 10-12 minutes of the episode deals with the aftershocks of Michael being transported to the swanky room, as Management’s number two, Vaughn (Bunny Colvin from The Wire) gives Mr. Westen the sales pitch about why they’re actually on the same side. Vaughn gives Michael some files that he determines belongs to a verrrrry bad man with lots and lots of money. It turns out that this unknown figure is the bankroll behind the S3 finale villain Simon and he’s out to cause more pain. Throw in a random trip to the jungle, a cheesy shoot out with a drone and BOOM! we have ourselves a season-long arc.
This is a much more solidified premise for the season and should present a number of unique challenges for Michael. We learned at the end of S2 that the burning happened because Management does it to government employees he wants for tasks that aren’t exactly sanctioned by Uncle Sam and so it should be fun to have Michael actually do that. Vaughn smartly played on Michael’s hero complex anyway, so it’s not as if our favorite Miami-based spy could ever say no to saving the world. Moreover, this story could present nice conflict between Michael and Fi because she’s sure to not be so receptive to his going to work for the people who burned him in the first place. And as the final moments of “Friends and Enemies” showed, this isn’t all about being a hero. Having Michael burn another spy will surely lead to a few revenge plots and some major Michael guilt, which is always nice to mix in with the sun and fun of Miami.
Despite my excitement with the season’s overall arc, I do think that it would have been better to spend the entire episode with Michael locked up or at least still stuck with Vaughn. Having him figure out all the cliffhanger stuff and then be thrust back into the case-of-the-week stuff with Sam and Fi was fine, but Matt Nix missed an opportunity. Why not use this chance to actually show us Fi and Sam looking for Michael instead of just telling us? How much time has passed? I understand that’s part of the formula, but jumping straight to status quo is at least partially disappointing.
That’s especially true because the case this week was only okay, perhaps because the stage-setting for the season was actually that well-executed. My reaction to the case in my notes: “Hey, it’s Harry Crane from Mad Men!” and “This seems like a homeless man’s version of Sons of Anarchy.” That’s all I got. So hopefully the rest of the season balances things a little bit better.
Either way, I’m happy to have Burn Notice back. It feels like summer has officially started.