Burn Notice – Season 1 Review

There I am again, I haven’t done much writing in the last months, so this is my way of apologizing. It is just far to easy not to write and to do other things, than to sit down and and actually start writing.

Let’s start with the characters:

Michael Western: He’s a very cool, controlled and handsome guy (for the ones out there really interested in the looks of guys in tv-shows, this might be important – for your average heterosexual male, such as myself, not so much!). He can handle himself in a fight and is rather used to carrying a gun, never the less, he only fights when really necessary. He rather thinks of a nice plan, mostly involving building some kind of surveillance equipement or weapons out of stuff you can buy in your average supermarket, walmart, or hardware store. (He seems to especially like cell phones and uses at least 5 every episode. ;)) In short: He’s a MacGyver with a better haircut.
He also likes to dress up nicely, change his accent and persona and fool with some of these organized crime dudes.
And the best: He’s an ex-spy, he’s cynical, not very talkative, and has a lot of advice to offer any would-be spy watching the show. (He’s the narrator.)

Fiona: She’s the girl, trigger-happy, madly in love with Michael (and very determined) and hot.
It’s fun to have her, but it would not hurt if she had a little more depth. She basically just is the hot, trigger-happy ex-girlfriend of Michael’s. What makes me wonder sometimes, why she always walks around in these not very functional high-heels, plateau-shoes, or mini-skirts and -dresses, but who really cares.

Sam: An aged, easy-going ex-special forces guy, if I recall correctly. He’s Michaels ties to Miami, he knows people and can gather intelligence if necessary. He’s cool, funny and more importantly he’s Ash from “The Army of Darkness”. I don’t really know what to say about him, he doesn’t stand out that much, but he is really necessary. Without him the show would be too dry and serious. And I really like his character.

Michaels family: There’s his mum, which is, I have to agree with midmull there, a whiny old woman, but luckily doesn’t have that much apearances and then there is his brother, always having trouble with money and gambling. They both aren’t in the least as much fun as the main characters, but they never the leyy seem to be necessary, because Michael needs a weakness, and that’s what they are, because he has to worry about their safety and as opposed to Fiona and Sam, they can’t defend themselves that well.

The bad guys: It’s a little downside of the show: The bad guys are not that interesting, I mean they are bad and cool and all, and it’s enjoyable when Michael kicks their asses, but they all lack depth, but then again, the eposides are just around 43 minutes, it isn’t that important really.

The enemy: The evil force, the unknown enemy that issued the burn notice on Michael. This is a person (or collective) which is throughout the entire season present, but only represented by mostly neutral persons, FBI Agents, a CSS Agent, some assasins. The always seem out of reach, which in my opinion is a good thing, it’s not like the Goa’uld, Replicators, Wraith, Cylons, SD-6, The Covenant or any other enemy, which can just be located and destroyed. You don’t really know anyone to hate for Michael beeing burnt.

The setting: Miami works great for this show. Fiona can always walk around in her cute, short dresses, Sam can wear his Hawaiian shirts, the can drink cocktails all the time and it is perfectly natural the producers showing us hot girls walking on the beach every once in a while.

The style: What is there to say. Cool cars, weapons, hot women, Michael almost always wears a suit. Then there is the narrator which is pretty cool (I just can’t get enough of cynical comments), the little texts under each new person and the camera work, which I find supports the whol show very well and adds to a fantastic and comprehensive style.

The plot: The main plot is Michael trying to find out who burnt him and to get reinstated as a spy (independent contractor?) for the U.S. government. And there are the subplots, one each episode, which basically is, receiving a job and executing it. They’re all very nicely written and they work great, but I would have wanted the main plot to progress a little faster.

All in all its a fantastic show, and it’s refreshing to see that there still are some out there.

4/5

Rewatching Burn Notice: Fight or Flight

International conferences attract spies for the same reason hotel bars attract hookers: you can do business and drink for free.

Another awesome episode. Let’s start right off with the wonderful stuff that went on here:

Sam – finally he’s having the FBI boys act they HE wants them to. He’s found his proper role and he feels comfortable. This, obviously, also offers much more potential for him to actually be serious occasionally (very rarely, of course) – if he isn’t almost all of the time, he seems all that much more convincing when he actually is. He’s now his fun self, drinking, with a couple of irons in the fire (if you know what I mean) – that’s the Sam we want to see, that’s the same that makes this show a wonderful joyride, a very pleasurable experience.

Fiona and Michael – we’re moving in pretty big steps right now. She’s got a key and their relationship’s almost back to where it’s supposed to be. Also, none of those weaknesses we saw in the last episode. She’s her usual strong self, forcing Michael to give it his best, show his true colours. Yeah, that’s what we’re paying for.

The Mom – still pisses me off. This episode also (kinda) announced the coming of Michael’s brother, Nate. Don’t particularly much like him either and it just goes to show that his family is less fun than the rest of the people Michael hangs out with.

Finally, the story. So much cool stuff going on here, I don’t even know where to start. The fake surveillance tape – brilliant and seems pretty plausible. The fucking up of the car tyres – twice, no less! – great fun. Especially the second time.

Oleg seems like a nice guy. Well, not exactly a nice guy but a cool person to have on the show. Throw in some links to some kind of criminal organisation in his background and you’ve got a wonderful B-story over a couple episodes or a pretty great A-plot for an episode.

We get some major progress in terms of overall arc as well. Nice to see Michael finally getting somewhere – it’s not much but it is a start. Something to follow up on. And unlike that pipe bomb which lead to a pretty useless call, this contact turns out to actually be useful.

This kind of episode is great to rewatch, too. You notice stuff that you had no idea was there the first time round. Take the sparks he steals in school – didn’t notice the first time round but it’s an amusing detail.

Bottom line: just an awesome episode. Progress on the main arc, a main story that works as a stand-alone episode, major development in terms of characters. What more could you ask for?

5/5

Rewatching Burn Notice: Identity

Most fun I’ve had in Miami.

Agreed. It was a fun episode – hot chicks abound, Fiona loses the accent (even though it’s a bloody cute one!) and Michael gets one instead. A car gets blown up and the general story moves forward quite a bit even though not as much as it usually does.

Now, there’s not much to be said in terms of character development. It is, in fact, a rather weak episode in that area. Sure, the Michael-Mum relationship gets closer to where it’s supposed to be (but still not there yet) – unfortunately, she’s still just an annoying, whiny bitch. We already know that Michael’s a good guy at heart but seriously – he gets her back all her money and 500$’s too much to ask for?

The “I have some kind of illness” running gag doesn’t work (and I don’t really pay attention – IIRC they lose it somewhere, though). Fiona, OTOH, seems worse than she was in episode one. Totally not COOL, totally not RELAXED. Just like a teenager who’s madly in love with Michael (in the relevant scenes). It’s not what she’s supposed to do. When acting like this, she leaves Michael alone and there’s no partner to back him up.

Sam, finally, gets closer to where he’s supposed to be. The underpants joke is obviously cringeworthy and that’s why it works. He’s far closer to his joyful, overconfident self than he was in the Pilot.

Enough about character development though. Let’s talk about the narrative – and that’s what’s really in the foreground here. Michael’s a really cool guy and this episode drives home that point – in addition to showing that he really, really, really is capable of doing evil things, if necessary. Obviously, that old lady truly needs to check herself into some place that her kids approve of – buying into that whole scam business is just so 20th-century (I’d say even then there was no excuse for it).

Luckily though, it offers the opportunity of showing real cool stuff. I’ll just name a few of the things that really entertained me (and why they weren’t necessarily perfect):

  • Fiona and Sam getting caught – that scene really worked, their infighting didn’t
  • Michael figuring out that Paco didn’t drink – even though his retelling just a moment later kinda ruined the scene as it no longer seemed terribly witty
  • Michael shooting the police car’s tyres – plain fun
  • Michael ripping off blondie – it truly is the most fun we’ve had so far

As you can see from that list, it’s a Michael-centric episode. Not necessarily in terms of character development (which is why he doesn’t figure all that prominently above) but certainly in terms of showing the audience what he’s capable of, driving home the point of his vulnerability and the reach of his abilities. Plus, the beginning of the awesome team that Sam, Fiona and Michael form.

As you can see from the length of this post, it wasn’t a terribly deep episode. And I’m glad we’ll start moving ahead a little faster in future episodes – because just one tidbit of information at the end of each episode just isn’t going to cut it in the long run.

The bottom line: even though the review sounds quite negative, it’s a great episode again. Not as brilliant as the pilot but considering it’s the second episode (which usually appears to be quite a bit weaker) there’s nothing much to complain about. It’s fun watching stuff being blown up, it’s fun watching the good guys beating the bad guys at their own game. In short: I love it when a plan comes together. 😉

4/5

Rewatching Burn Notice: Pilot – Welcome to Miami

There’s nothing like helping a little guy kick some bully’s ass.

Truly, welcome to Miami! It’s been quite some time since I watched this for the first time, so I wasn’t exactly sure about the narrative anymore (I thought the “suspect” might actually be an evil guy for a while – shows you just how good this show is!). As’ll become quite clear over the next few days (8 more until season two starts), I love this show. I’ll cover some basics tonight and the episode at hand (the pilot, aptly called: “Pilot”). It even got an award, according to Wikipedia.

First off, once again, characters. Michael Westen is plain brilliant. He’s hot (at least from a technical POV I think he is – still not gay but he’s what I’d consider hot), he’s terribly witty and he’s plain funny. AND he’s got a good heart. Now, I’m obviously not a terribly big fan of altruism but that’s not what I think he’s doing. He isn’t acting altruistically and I could go into that in more depth (but won’t as this isn’t about Objectivism but rather about a brilliant show). The scenes where he tells us about how the spy business supposedly works – plain brilliant, not because they’re necessarily true (they probably aren’t) but because they make sense, to some degree seem like you could actually learn something AND are told in damn entertaining way.

Fiona – well, she’s hot. All T&A AND brains. It shows and the character is very well written. She’s obviously necessary as a counter-point to Michael’s very confident self – he needs someone like her to keep him down to earth, to make him approachable. Once again, their relationship is very strong and very fun to watch. Very enjoyable and she offers plenty of opportunity. This episode doesn’t yet go all that much into depth as far as her character’s concerned (but then we’re busy setting up Michael!) but that’ll be helped over the next few episodes.

Finally, for the ones I like, Sam. He’s funny, he’s all Miami. He adds that certain something that turns a good show into a great show. Again, not really that visible just yet but the stuff that’s necessary to unfold what’s a brilliant season is already set up here. Sure, he seems like a whiny bitch in that last scene where he’s caught by Michael betraying him – not being his self-depreciating, funny self – but it’s a forgivable offence.

Michael’s mum – well, she truly did start weak. It got better towards the end of the season (IIRC) but right now she’s just annoying. Very shallow character and doesn’t yet fully live up to her purpose (being annoying) because, well, she is annoying but “being annoying” isn’t enough. There needs to be more for a character to be any good.

Finally, on to the narrative. It’s nice to see that a good story actually gets told next to the brilliant setting up of characters. Sure, it’s not overly deep or anything but the A-plot is a nice one. Not too dangerous, nothing to big – just a cute boy and his poor father and Michael saves the day. Not really anything that’s on his level but hey, what’re you gonna do on your first day on the job?

Behind all that, though, is the setting up of the real “mythology”, the background. Who’s fucking with Michael, who’s burned him and, above all, why’d they do it? Michael already offers plenty of reasons: they could want to hire him, for example. This one keeps developping throughout the episodes without hurting the storytelling going on. You can easily watch the show only every other episode or so and still get what’s going on. But, obviously, you miss out on a lot. The FBI agents are entertaining (for now) but the big, bad guy in the shadow is much more interesting. It’ll be fun to watch that unravel (again) throughout the next few days.

Finally, let me just say a few things about the setting: the choice is damn brilliant. People said this was kinda like Miami Vice and had a bit of a “The A-Team”-vibe going on. Now, I only ever saw the new Miami Vice movie (and, oddly enough, really liked it) but “The A-Team” OTOH I really loved. Sure, this is a one-man-A-Team but it’s similar in certain areas. Build stuff and beat the big guy. I guess it’s similar to Miami Vice in some ways, too. The setting, the coolness – I don’t really know, those are just things that come to mind.

The hot girls in the background obviously help but they aren’t the main reason. The show can only work in a place like Miami – where the sun is pretty much always shining, life’s going a bit more slowly and everything can be taken a little more lightly.

The bottom line: I think this show will become a classic insofar as it hasn’t already become one. It’s entertaining, it’s exciting and the characters are just plain fun to watch (and the actors are pretty damn good, too!). I’m really looking forward to rewatching the rest of season one over the next few days. Just eight more days!

5/5