I got to say I’m pretty amped to return to Burn Notice for its final season. Downright psyched! I’m not a sadist or anything; I am unhappy that after this run we won’t be seeing Sam, Fi, Mike, and Jesse improvising explosives out of dog toys and cotton candy machines or what have you, but after six heart-pumping, guest-filled seasons, viewers can get wise to the various shifting around of bad guys, double-crossings, ill-advised sacrifices, and surprising character deaths ultimately designed to keep the core dynamic in play. Going into a storyline that has a for-sure ending of its own, as well as an ending for the whole series—and, for that matter, the entire Burn Notice universe (well, unless they keep those graphic novels going)—lends this show a calculated agenda normally reserved for heavily serialized shows like The Americans or Breaking Bad. It's an aspect that can only improve the story, which is why, as stated above, I am "amped." This guy knows what I'm talking about...
With an impending finality a mere 13 episodes away (or 12, not counting this one), it looks like the main hurdle Michael’s going to have to face is winning Fi back, or at least infiltrating his way back into the Friend Zone. I can already here him dictating now: "...when approaching the Friend Zone you have to acknowledge the past, yet make no attempts toward a romantic future..."
As part of a role-call catch up with the Burn crew—the kind you might see at the beginning of a sequel, we learned out that Jesse has started working private security or running a model agency out of a Miami high-rise (seriously, what is his job now?); Sam is cooling his heels poolside in the Bikini District on Elsa’s dime; Maddie’s growing out her hair, not smoking, and fighting for custody of Charlie Westen (Ruth just can’t seem to kick the hooch); and Fiona’s running jobs with her new live-in boyfriend Carlos Cruz (the handsome Stephen Martines of The Vampire Diaries and The Closer). You know, on The Closer this dude played a character named "Ricardo Ramos," and I wonder if alliteration is a thing that damns Latino actors specifically, or just any character that writers don’t really care about. "Yeah sure, the mailman's name is Tommy Tommerson. NOW WHERE IS MY JAMBA JUICE?" Oh, and this is all taking place nine months after the end of Season 6.
Yeah so remember when Michael made a deal with the CIA to free his friends? The deal was to head down to the Dominican Republic and work deep cover on a terrorist leader named Randall Burke (holy crap Adrian Pasdar beefed UP; you've also seen him in Heroes and Political Animals). I quite enjoyed Westen's take on the perils of being someone else and thought it clever to see him subjected to the drink as part of his cover, when down in his hard, hard heart that booze is probably nursing real wounds. Human Fist Michael Westen is too much of a badass to go on a regular bender; he has to be on a mission to do it.
Conveniently, his "damaged goods" status was ultimately effective in attracting this Burke fellow, who sent Westen on a quickie mission to explode $20 million worth of satellite decryption technology/do some spy stuff. I appreciate how dedicated Burke was to honor, citing his righthand guy Pablo as a hero, demanding that Pablo accept Westen as a respected teammate, even showing genuine concern over Pablo's final moments. This reintroduction to Westen, by the by, represented one of my favorite disgraceful scenarios an action hero sometimes finds himself in after a job goes sour: drunkenly prizefighting in a grimy bar. But seriously, what a well-filmed sequence. That looked good, man. I mean, obviously the show want to put its best foot forward starting things off again, and I felt like I could taste the rowdy sweat of these brawl enthusiasts. Perhaps one day I will have that very same honor.
I like Michael’s new boss, Andrew Strong (Jack Coleman, who played the Senator on The Office and Noah Bennet on Heroes—hey two heroes in the same episode!). He’s affable, driven, and spent eight years trying to bring down this dude Burke, even letting his marriage fall by the wayside in the interim. Are there any happily married government agents out there? Warning to any government agents reading this: Go tell your wife you love her. She misses you and wishes things could just go back to the way they were before LANGLEY. If past seasons are any indication, Strong’ll either be killed or revealed to be an actual villain, but I am more than happy to be surprised. Maybe he and Maddie will develop a May-December Romance and Strong will become Lil' Charlie Westen's adopted father. They can all go on Disney cruises together. Hell, it’s the last season baby, anything can happen!
Apparently no one from Westen’s crew is having that much trouble moving on—a reminder of how independent those of us in the spy-for-hire business have to play it to protect both ourselves and our hearts (aw dang I just burned myself). I had a theory a little while back that all the shadiest people in this world are named "Mike." I’m biased because of personal experience, but I have known no fewer than four Mikes in my life that between them all have been addicted to smack, neglected child support, resold candy bars door-to-door under the false pretense of charity work, and got some illegal immigrants arrested from a Jewish summer camp. Now, I’m not saying Westen is as low as these fellas, but maybe to his pals, he fits the shady bill, and maybe his friends are happy to cut ties with him. Maybe Michael Westen is a shady person? Like if he's indirectly exposing old chums to claymores?
In all seriousness, "New Deal" was paced perfectly, with the B-mission of Jesse and Sam investigating the multi-identitied snoop of a Mystery Man (Nick E. Tarabay from Spartacus, who is sometimes French but also Australian) and the C-mission of Fi keeping an eye on Maddie and her custody proceedings (poor Charlie almost went to a foster home) all coming about organically. These disparate threads reintroduced us to the gang, and laid the groundwork for the team to come back together in the name of the man who totally led them into trouble. Plus we got to learn about blast radiuses and the intricacies of child services.
I’m still skeptical about Fi being serious with Carlos, knowing the passionate history she and Michael share, but it’s not unbelievable that the first step she would take to getting over her old flame would be finding a new partner. And hey, Carlos seemed pretty good with children, flipping Charlie upside down and playfully hyper-extending the boy's arm in the way that kids love (but that would send a Rigid Ronnie like me to the E.R.)
I guess what I'm babbling toward is the fact that these days, as TV contends with New Media and predictable storytelling conventions, I would not place it outside the realm of possibility that Matt Nix and his crew could give Westen an ending without Fi. It’d be sad, yes, but maybe Westen’s fulfillment lies beyond someone he’s had such a torrid terrible time with (cough: "yeah right").
Westen’s task to prove himself to old warrior buddy Burke ("You just signed up for the world’s most effective detox, Mike. You take a drink, I put a bullet in the back of your head.") functioned as a quick, appropriate Burn Notice adventure that included a nice C-4 boom-boom and ended in Westen outliving former number-two Pablo (Philip Anthony Rodriguez from The Secret Life of the American Teenager). It puzzled me that Pablo would have connections to the Miami Mystery Man, yet still be inferior to Burke. Either Pablo was a bigger deal than he appeared to be, or M.M.M. knew to get in contact with an underling. Or, if they’re a duo, it makes whatever outfit the two are a part of seem small-time, but on the rise. Or it makes Burke's outfit seem small-time, for him to be infiltrated twice and not even know it. I guess the question is, how did the Mystery Man know to contact Pablo after learning just basic, general info about Michael striking a deal with the CIA? WHAT IS THE FACTS?
And so, with the introduction of a new boyfriend, a new villain, new bosses, and new status quos to be dismantled, this final Burn Notice season premiere efficiently got the ball rolling again like the show had never left. Overall, "New Deal" managed to set the stage for an exciting race to the finish line while still functioning as a standalone entertaining adventure. With Westen returning to Miami off the grid, and his crew already located near a possible Big Bad, this showdown has no choice but to be the biggest yet. If you’re tired of this world already, this probably didn’t mean much; however, if you’re like me and you're curious to see how things wrap up, then strap in and hold on, because it looks to be a wild ride. Right, Mystery Man?
– What is the Mystery Man's ultimate goal?
– Is the love between Fi and Carlos strong enough to withstand Westen’s charm?
– Do you like Michael Westen with his disgrace beard?
– What is Jesse’s current occupation?
– Will Charlie’s custody be yanked away from Maddie?
– Did you laugh when Sam was going off about his masseuse Sandino?
– Did you think it was funny when Strong was all "...they’re never going to see the sun again" and clearly there were window-blind shadows on Maddie? Or were you like, "eh, it’s TV: yeesh!"
– Not a question, but I liked this line: "First job, half off, I’ll call it the friends and family discount."
– Do you like where things are going so far?
– If Burn Notice has fallen out of favor with you, do you think it will it redeem itself this season?
– How do you think this entire season will end?