Review: Burn Notice 3×1

Fun with Mike and Fi

Burn Notice

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, USA
In the UK: Coming to FX at some point, I’m sure

Burn Notice is the USA Network’s big and very surprising success. Despite ratings of over 6 million, it sticks out like a sore thumb, with a mixture of spy tradecraft, fights, explosions, shootings and characters who really aren’t that likeable at times – something that isn’t really true of the other shows on the “characters welcome” network that gave us Monk and Psych.

After two seasons trying to piece together who slapped a Burn Notice on him and got him fired from his spy day-job, Michael Westen found out at the end of last season – it was Frasier’s dad. With that cleared up and after refusing to take a job with the old curmudgeon, Westen has new challenges ahead: every enemy he’s ever made could be on their way to Miami to get him.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? But…

As I mentioned at the end of last season, the formula of Burn Notice is getting somewhat repetitive: Michael has to investigate something to do with his former spy life while helping someone out in his spare time. This first episode of the third season continues with that formula. There are some variations, which I won’t reveal to avoid spoiling anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but ultimately it’s still the same formula.


Nevertheless, this was a good opening episode, with the usual mixture of Macgyver-esque secrets, decently choreographed martial arts and stunts, and double-crosses aplenty. Nice to see, as well, the sneakier side of Michael emphasised in fights, rather than the more superhuman qualities usually emphasised. Nevertheless, it might be nice, just once in a while, for Michael to meet someone with strategic capabilities as well, and who wasn’t utterly clueless and capable of being taken down by a three-person team, but hey, you can’t have everything.

While all that is fun, albeit starting to seem a little “been there, seen that before”, I would like to know the show is going somewhere with this. Is Michael going to try to get his job back now or is he going to spend each week meeting up with old enemies? It’s not yet clear, and another season of “help the helpless” has the potential to become crushingly dull, despite all the action. The lack of a new opposition to replace Michael Shanks and Tricia Helfer is a worrying sign, although there is new potential for the police to fill in the gaps they’ve left.

Even some characterisation might be nice, since Sam and Fi are, to a certain extent, just add-ons to Michael’s character rather than fully formed people. And given that Bruce Campbell is a man-god, that shouldn’t be the case.

I guess these are really minor niggles, rather than full-blown complaints, but in the interests of maintaining audience interest, they probably need working on. So very good foundations but we need a bit of renovation done to the central supports, please.

As a side note, I really don’t know what’s up with Gabrielle Anwar (British)’s accent – she’s not even trying to sound American or Irish any more. We have Paul Blackthorne (British) popping up later in the season as an Irishman as well, so if I were an Irish actor, I’d probably be suing around about now.