Ignore Sam Axe; Judge Jim Thomas is not a bitchy little girl.
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 Four (published June 9th, 2011), 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.
For seven seasons, USA's Burn Notice managed to balance action, drama, romance, and comedy in a manner that really set the tone for much of the networks other series. Still, a good show, like a good agent, knows when it's time to walk away, and so Burn Notice: Season 7 is the last.
Facts of the Case
At the end of Season Six, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, Hitch), having avenged his brother's murder, allowed himself to be dragged back in to the CIA in order to protect his friends and remaining family. In the months that have since passed, said compatriots have moved on: Ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar, Scent of a Woman) has a new boyfriend and is working as a bounty hunter, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness) is hooked up with another wealthy woman, and Jesse (Coby Bell, Third Watch) has his own security firm. Not only is his mother, Maddie (Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey), trying to get permanent custody of her dead son's little boy, she's even quit smoking!
Now Michael has gone deep undercover to try and smoke out a terrorist network. Finally, Michael gets to the heart of the organization—leader James Kendrick (John Pyper-Ferguson, Deception) and his second in command, Sonya (Alona Tal, Veronica Mars). The deeper Michael gets, the harder it is to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
The set includes all thirteen episodes on four discs.
I stopped watching Burn Notice after Season Four, not out of any dissatisfaction, but simply because the time slot didn't match my schedule (I didn't have Netflix at the time). On the one hand, the characters are the same deadly yet likable bunch I remembered. At the same time, the show is a tad darker. Gone are the earlier season's clients, whose B-plots lightened things up. At this point, all the focus is on a single mission. Frankly, that's a good thing, ratcheting up the tension a bit and not just putting Mikey into a precarious position, but keeping him there for pretty much the entire thirteen-episode season. It's a tightrope act we're not used to seeing, and Jeffery Donovan handles the pressure admirably. The real standout, quite frankly, is Sharon Gless. Maddie has had the strongest character arc over the course of the series, and it all comes to fruition in the finale, when, still grieving over the loss of one son, she's faced with the prospect of losing not only her other son, but her grandson as well.
The technical issues from the previous seasons, sadly, remain. Video is a little spotty, partly because there is a lot of digital post-processing, not just with some really obvious CGI explosions, but some contrast and saturation tweaking. On the plus side, with the thirteen episodes spread over four discs, there's no noticeable compression artifacts. The audio is good, but not great—things get blowed up real good, but the soundfield imagery is weak. The extras are relatively light. There's only one commentary track, and it's not for the finale, but for the second episode, "Forget Me Not." You can kind of see why: It's the hundredth episode, it's directed by Jeffrey Donovan, and it's built around a flashback to Michael and Fiona's first meeting in Ireland. The track has pretty much everyone, and while there's a lot of backslapping, there are some good bits of info, plus, it's a treat to just hear everyone having a good time. There's a handful of deleted scenes, a thoroughly forgettable gag reel, and a short featurette that tries to provide some perspective on the season and the series.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While everyone does their best with the material, both the regular cast and the guest stars, the simple fact is that too much of this we've seen before. Not just the plot devices, such as Sam Axe knowing a guy who knows a guy who turns out to have exactly the info the team needs, but the larger rhythm of the larger storyline (here's the mastermind—no, wait, here's the mastermind). To their credit, the writers try to do something new by making the story more about Michael's internal struggles, but that focus can't prevent the sense of déjà vu from intruding—everything else is just too familiar, nothing more so than the opening narration: "My name is Michael Westen…" After seven season, give it a rest for the season, then bring it back just for the finale—particularly since the finale includes a couple of callbacks to the narration.
The final scene is perhaps a bit too cute for its own good—though to be fair, there's a good chance that reaction is born more of How I Met Your Mother fatigue than anything else.
Given USA's penchant for lightening up shows that it deemed too dark (Witness the way they lobotomized In Plain Sight), the network should be applauded for allowing creator Matt Nix to end the series on his own terms.
While Burn Notice in general and the final season in particular have been hardly perfect, the fact remains: this has been a solid, entertaining, fun show for seven years…and that's an accomplishment anyone can be proud of.
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