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