Smart, fun television
When Burn Notice first aired in 2007 it was a blast a of fresh air. At first sight it was a fun adventure series set in the sunshine of Miami â€“ disposable summer fare. But then viewers got hooked by the quality of the writing and performances and realised there's a lot more to Burn Notice than mindless escapism. Burn Notice is an adventure show for grown ups. It has depth, it tackles serious subjects and it has a scarily competent hero. It's an intelligent show and it's doing well â€“ maybe there's hope for television yet.
The pilot episode of Burn Notice set the scene. In it we meet spy Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) who gets burned, or blacklisted, at the worst possible moment â€“ in the middle of a job. We next see a battered and bruised Weston in Miami where he's been dumped, unable to access his bank accounts and unable to travel. It gradually becomes an obsession â€“ who did this to him and why?
We also meet Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), an old friend who used to be a Navy Seal and who is now enjoying life with a drink and a succession of Miami divorcees, and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael's fiery ex-IRA ex-girlfriend. Michael is a solitary character, and it's intriguing over the course of the season to see how he, ever so reluctantly, lets people get close. That includes his hypochondriac mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless).
Michael finds himself living in a sparsely-furnished loft over a nightclub and working as an unofficial private eye to get some money. This is the Burn Notice formula: each episode sees Michael help a distressed client, while at the same time he investigates the circumstances of his burn notice, all the while under FBI surveillance. It's a stressful way to live, but Michael seems to thrive on it.
As played by Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Weston is a cool customer at ease in the morally ambiguous world of espionage. He wants to clear his name and get back in to the spy world, and we can see why, in episodes such as Family Business where he poses as an arms dealer, and Broken Rules, in which he takes on government agent Jason Bly (Alex Carter). He is very good at it.
Burn Notice has a number of fun elements. There are the captions which introduce new characters, and Michael's informative voice-overs, giving the viewer handy lessons in espionage. There is also Michael's inventiveness at building gadgets. He might not have access to government issue spy toys any more but that doesn't stop him making his own bugs, trackers and alarm systems.
The other refreshing element of Burn Notice is the character of Fiona. Petite and feminine, this is one female character who doesn't need rescuing. Her favored response to a problem involves explosives and sniper rifles. It's clear that Gabrielle Anwar is having great fun as she gets to play the action heroine.
Season One ends with the episode Loose Ends, which sees Michael finally get some answers about his burn notice, only to be confronted with more questions. He takes a risk in order to find out more and then â€¦.. well, you'll just to watch Season Two to find out what happens next.