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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fire Goes Out On BURN NOTICE

BN7Article first published as DVD Review: 'Burn Notice - Season Seven' on Blogcritics.

USA’s Burn Notice came to an end last summer after seven seasons. The story of Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan), a burned CIA spy, wrapped itself up relatively neatly as Michael and his friends faced some of their most difficult challenges yet. Now, those last thirteen episodes are available in a four-disc DVD set.

Season Seven begins with “New Deal.” Michael has negotiated the freedom of his compatriots in exchange for serving the government. Specifically, Agent Andrew Strong (Jack Coleman) tasks Michael with going undercover to report on an old friend, Randall Burke (Adrian Pasdar). These Heroes alum are Michael’s final mission, sort of, as doing this job will supposedly earn back the life Michael has longed for all these years, as well as protect the people he cares about.

Of course, Michael is strongest when he is with his friends. Season Seven begins with Mike off on his own, separated from those who love and ground him. It doesn’t take long for Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), Sam (Bruce Campbell), Jesse (Coby Bell), and Maddie (Sharon Gless) to find out what’s going on and get involved, but from the start, there’s a level of distance between Michael and the crew that is sure to make long-time fans uncomfortable and the plot unpredictable, especially as this new dynamic continues well past the first few hours.

Besides identifying and stopping the bad guys, Michael has some personal challenges to get past in season seven. Maddie is still angry at Michael for the death of his brother, Maddie herself taking on the responsibility of raising her grandson. And Fiona, Michael’s true love, has moved on with someone else, Carlos (Stephen Martines), who seems a good match for her. All of this makes coming home hard for Michael, and puts his loyalties in doubt, especially as he suffers the effects of long-term, deep-undercover work.

Unlike the first six season, the final season has a very serial format, trying up some loose ends and giving closure. However, given series format of serial chapters and mini-arcs, the final season isn’t really a culmination of the entire seven years. Only two returning guest stars, Tim Matheson and Garret Dillahunt, figure into this plot, and only in limited ways. But these 13 episodes do tell a tale that feels like a fitting ending for the characters.

The series finale itself, “Reckoning,” is fairly solid. There’s some disappointment, such as the unnecessary death of one of the main characters, and the very small, far-too-late role the great Alan Ruck is given, but overall, most Burn Notice viewers should nod and smile and anxiously await the rumored TV movie or movies that could continue the tale. Plus, Sharon Gless delivers another memorable moment, and Donovan surprises everyone by showing some real acting chops.

I watched Burn Notice from the beginning, and although I considered giving it up a few times in the middle of the series, I do think season seven is some of the best work the actors and writers delivered over the whole run. I did find the ending a little hollow, but no more so than fit the tone of the rest of the show. It’s popcorn entertainment, it never pretended to be anything else, and it ended in the same vein.

As far as extras go, there’s a great audio commentary for the episode “Forget Me Not,” which is the second episode of the season and the 100th episode of the series. A featurette about the ending of the show is present, and a gag reel and deleted scenes round out the bonuses. One could justifiably wish for more, but there’s enough here to avoid complaints that fans were robbed.

Burn Notice Season Seven is available now.

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