Saturday, July 28, 2012

A "Shock Wave" rips through Burn Notice

Last night's installment of USA's Burn Notice, "Shock Wave," was huge, in terms of plot development. The major characters are split up. Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and a team go after Anson (Jere Burns), whom they have located. But when Michael's brother, Nate (Seth Peterson), who is accompanying the squad, gets reckless, he and Anson are both killed. Meanwhile, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) avoids British intelligence long enough to earn her CIA-approved release, and Sam (Bruce Campbell) protects Barry (Paul Tei) from some of Fiona's former gun-running associates.

Make no mistake about it. This is a game changer. Michael is devastated by the loss of his brother, and will surely blame himself for getting Nate involved, even if Nate's own dumb actions led to his demise. It's a good thing Fiona is out of prison, because Michael is going to need a lot of comfort, and he will be driven even more by a longing for revenge than before, so he'll need some reigning in. Otherwise, both Weston brothers could be in body bags before long.

The question is, will Maddie (Sharon Gless) blame Michael? She hides out at home for most of the episode, but "Shock Wave" ends with Michael delivering the tragic news. Because of Michael's character, he will not defend himself if Maddie begins getting accusatory. It's no secret that she doesn't like a lot of Michael's activities, and after this, expect bigger push back from her to bring this whole spy life to an end.

Would that be so bad? With Anson down, yet again Burn Notice reveals a deeper level of conspiracy. Every time Michael catches someone who is involved in his burn notice, that person is killed, and he learns that there's someone else behind them. It's an endless cycle. Fans might be forgiven for thinking Anson was at the bottom of the whole thing, having stuck around longer than most previous villains, and being played oh so well by Burns. But nope, someone has Anson killed, so there's more to discover.

It is supremely disappointing that, after being strung along this long, Anson is not the real power behind Michael's bad luck. It's predictable, of course, given the series's pattern. But it's starting to feel like this will never end for Michael. The best thing he can do now is to try to forget it all and move on. Which won't happen because Michael is not good at letting things go.

But with Nate's death, it really looks like Michael might either have to give up his elusive white whale, or go down like Ahab. Which will it be? It's a decision that cannot possibly be revealed until the series finale, and because of USA's sunny nature, it will probably be neither, with Michael ending up triumphant, no matter how unrealistic that is, or how against the grain it goes with the path that has been revealed. Of course, to be fair, Burn Notice is a hero tale, and that kind of bleak outlook would betray the tone of the series.

That has always been my problem with Burn Notice. No matter how great it is, and trust me, "Shock Wave" is a terrific episode, with lots of action and suspense, there is always some nagging feeling that it's not quite living up to its potential. Perhaps in the age of the antihero, so well played on other networks, the happy ending and lightheartedness seems trite. This episode comes as close to greatness as the show has ever been, with each of the original trio getting their own thrilling tale, and the stakes being quite high. But then, as soon I start reflecting, the larger picture makes the good feelings begin to crumble again. Luckily, it's entertaining enough to survive such doubts, and emerge out the other end, still immensely watchable.

The other problem I have with "Shock Wave" has nothing to do with the episode itself, and everything to do with the impatient culture currently reigning. I stopped watching previews of next week's episode long ago because networks, all networks, have little respect for the surprise twist. But avoiding trailers and clips are not enough to stay in the dark anymore. It was no secret for anyone on the internet that Burn Notice would feature a major death last night before the episode even began.

As soon as I started watching "Shock Wave," it was obvious who it would be. Burn Notice wouldn't dare kill off one of their main characters, who are all pretty popular with fans, because it would be a little too dark for the mood the series sets. And while some theorized that Barry would bite the big one, the longer his story with Sam went on, the more obvious it was that they were both dead or neither of them were. Given rule number one, that made Barry safe, too. Though, the Barry and Sam stuff was beyond cool!

But Nate started making mistakes right out of the gate. He disobeyed Michael, and didn't know at all how to handle himself. Without the knowledge that a death was coming, this might have made me think he would be taken hostage or something, because killing him off really is a bold, unexpected move for Burn Notice to make. However, because of the spoiler that was nearly impossible to avoid, the death was anything but surprising by the time it actually happened. Which is a real loss for storytelling, which was great in this episode when taken alone, without the leaks.

So I guess the lesson is, stay off the internet. Funny for an internet-based reviewer to be saying that, though reviews almost always deal with what already happened, not what is going to happen. Even if it's your favorite show you just can't wait to get some nugget of information about, someone is going to ruin some of the best parts if you're not careful. "Shock Wave" is a spectacular episode when viewed in a bubble, but suffers repercussions because of hype and people who just can't help but share when they have a juicy piece of gossip. It's not tantalizing to tease a big event. It's a slap in the face to regular viewers.

Despite the spoil sports, definitely continue to watch Burn Notice, because "Shock Wave" and the earlier episodes this season have established a new pattern. The show is playing a higher level game than before, and it's working extremely well for it.

Burn Notice airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on USA.

Check out my new website,! If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published on TheTVKing


  1. That's the TV episode in a long time that made me say "Wow"!

  2. I couldn't be more behind on this tv show. I started following it near the end of season 3. And then I went back and watched seasons 1 and 2 to try to catch up. However, by then, the USA network was taken from my basic cable package, and now I only get to watch a couple of episodes a week on the MY tv network. The series does seem a bit darker these days, but the overall comedic tone is still there. I think if you take that away, you really take away from the essence of the show. Regardless of how long it goes on, it's had a pretty decent run. And it's one of the most unique shows that's ever been on television .


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.