Judge David Johnson was burned last week. He dropped a latte on his groin.
Our reviews of Burn Notice: Season One (published June 25th, 2008), Burn Notice: Season Two (Blu-Ray) (published July 13th, 2009), Burn Notice: Season Three (published June 7th, 2010), Burn Notice: Season Five (published June 27th, 2012), Burn Notice: Season Six (published June 24th, 2013), and Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe (Blu-ray) (published August 18th, 2011) are also available.
When you're burned…you've got nothing.
USA's hit spy show, Burn Notice, just keeps plugging away. Season Four spices up the mix with a new character and a crisis of conscience.
Facts of the Case
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) wants back in. Ready to re-insert himself into the "legit" world of international intrigue and spycraft, he begins exploring all avenues to get into the good graces of the suits. Unfortunately, this requires Westen to inadvertently burn another agent, a nice guy named Jesse Porter (Coby Bell, Third Watch) who has just had his entire life ruined. And irony of ironies, Jesse finds himself welcomed into Westen's crew where he, along with his gun-crazy girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar, The Tudors) and his loafy best friend Sam (Bruce Campbell, Bubba Ho-Tep), engage in a series of freelance jobs that typically involve explosions, automatic weapon fire, and blatant promotion of the Hyundai Genesis coupe.
Fun show and good summer viewing. I stumbled on Burn Notice a few years ago when the Season Two showed up at my doorstep for review. Tentative about USA Network original programming, I reluctantly popped the disc in and found myself enjoying the show quite a bit. Since then, we've been devoted to the show.
The formula: Michael has a season-long issue to deal with and, between scenes that forward the arc, he and his pals solve problems for the people of Miami. He's like Encyclopedia Brown with a glowering stare and a martial arts training. Season Four tosses a wrinkle into the formula with the introduction of Jesse, a character I'm lukewarm about.
His existence is primarily a sustained way to generate tension. We know Michael burned him. Eventually the truth is going to come out and it's going to get ugly. Every time these guys have a moment and bring down a drug dealer or terrorist, it's fleeting, because the writers have made sure you're always looking towards that inevitable face-off. It's a sort of cheesy way to kick up the suspense, but I suppose it works. It's no spoiler that Jesse does get the lowdown about his burning and the fireworks are satisfactory. As a character, Jesse is merely adequate. He has some funny lines, but he's not the comic relief; that's Sam's job. And it's probably contractually obliged that no one can be more badass than Jeffrey Donovan, so he's not a total stud (in fact, he's surprisingly mediocre as a Super Action Spy of Action). Besides, his legs are nowhere near as sleek as Gabrielle Anwar's.
Peripheral to these big changes are the typical Burn Notice plots: the gang battles terrorists, mobsters, thieves, bikers and chemical-weapon-toting Venezuelans. It's enjoyable, lightweight summer fare, spiced with a healthy amount of Bruce Campbell wisecracks, Susan Gless chain-smoking, and gratuitous shots of anonymous, bikini clad women by the pool. No wonder LeBron James took his talents to South Beach!
The four-disc set: The episodes look fine in their 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with the rich Miami colors popping nicely. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is suitable active for an action show. Extras include deleted scenes on each disc, a featurette on the stunts, some goofy segments of Burn Notice and White Collar "roasting" each other, a feature on Sam hosted by Bruce Campbell, bloopers, and commentary for the season finale (which, by the way, sports a nifty cliffhanger).
Burn Notice: Season Four is slick fun for everyone, though the attempt to mix things up with the cast is hit-and-miss.
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