BURN NOTICE: Thursday 9PM on USA
USA Network is beginning to clean its programming house, with tonight marking the beginning of the 7th and final season of BURN NOTICE (the exit of veteran Psych is expected not to be far behind), and the arrival of the new Graceland. Burn Notice has been a stalwart performer for USA, but its formula has been getting ragged, and it’s become fair time to bid the show adieu.
At least initially, the new season has some promise of freshening things up a bit. The premiere, written by series creator Matt Nix and directed by Stephen Surjik, picks up (after some prologue material) nine months after we last saw Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his band of ex-spies, girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), BFF Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) and Jesse Porter (Coby Bell)–not to mention Michael’s mother and occasional operative Maddie (Sharon Gless). At that time, Michael had made the latest of the many deals that he’s done with the CIA to keep the show going all these years, in this case protecting the rest of the group from prison for their various crimes in exchange for undertaking yet another shadowy mission. In this case, though, his repeated failure to get out and stay out of the business has (temporarily, no doubt) frosted over his relationship with Fiona.
Anyway, we’ve now found out that his new minder is Strong (Jack Coleman), and his new target is Randall Burke (in an odd bit of Heroes synergy, Adrian Pasdar). Michael’s been in the Dominican Republic ever since, drinking and fighting back-room MMA matches as part of his cover, and finally Burke emerges from the shadows to bring him in, for purposes as-yet unclear but certainly evil (in the premiere, Michael’s duty was to help blow up a security firm). Meanwhile, a mysterious Australian back in Miami is interrogating everyone about just what Michael is doing these days. It’s not clear just how much of the season will be devoted to the Strong/Burke storyline, but for the moment it frees the show from its scam-of-the-week plots, always the most run-of-the-mill part of the show. An amusing addition is that Fiona has a new job as a bounty hunter, and has acquired a hunky young boyfriend/partner, which will certainly lead to complications for a few episodes. A less hopeful sign: Maddie is trying to adopt her young grandson, the boy of Michael’s brother who was killed last season. If a newly-arrived child character is going to be a significant part of this season, Burn Notice will truly have jumped the proverbial killer fish before it heads to the showers.
It’s nice to see a break in the show’s usual architecture, but we’ve encountered so many characters like Strong and Burke over the years, enigmatically untrustworthy CIA officials and dangerous terrorists/cartel members/etc, that it’s hard to get very excited by two more. Even Michael’s matter-of-fact spycraft narration has become a familiar mannerism. Everyone on Burn Notice does their job very professionally, from the cast to the stunt coordinators, and now, with the prospect of a final season, one hopes that the show will really shake itself up over the course of the these last 13 episodes and leave on a high note. The series, and its fans, deserve that.