After a somewhat pedestrian seasons six and seven, USA’s “Burn Notice” delivered in a big way in its finale, giving the show a send off for the ages and providing a general sense of closure for fans.
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t proceed if you haven’t seen the finale yet.
Unlike other shows with strong finales, there wasn’t necessarily a big puzzle to wrap up. Where finales for “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica,” answered series-long mysteries, “Burn Notice” already addressed the central mystery at the heart of the show’s launch. We long ago learned the who and why behind the burning of spy Michael Westin. What followed after Michael concluded that mystery was a mess, both figuratively and literally. Gone the last two seasons were formula that made the show a hit — Michael and his friends helping out people who needed it against the bad guys, and solving little pieces of the bigger puzzle along the way.
Once the central mystery of the show was solved, the writers took us down a rabbit hole of trying to reconcile Michael’s sin of killing the CIA mentor who was responsible for ruining his life. The only way to save himself, his friends and his family was to going down a wandering path of meandering plots, season-long story arcs that could have been told in half the time and pointless missions with little seeming payoff for the viewer.
Until the finale.
The finale was everything “Burn Notice” was built on and then some. The promos all alluded to the inescapable fact that not everyone was making it out alive. But who would it be?
Unlike other shows where beloved characters died a sense little death, Maddie Weston got the chance to go down fighting. In some ways, Maddie’s death almost seems like a blessing. The woman has lived a hard life, first suffering at the hands of an abusive husband, then losing her two sons, Nate to an assassin’s bullet that missed Michael, and seemingly losing Michael to the world of espionage he cannot escape. As long as Michael lived, Maddie and her grandson would never be safe. Everything would always remind her of her boys, and there was little chance of a joyous life without bittersweet regrets. She seemed to be at peace, if not happy, when she took out the team James assigned to capture her if Michael betrayed him.
Even though we saw a funeral for Michael and Fiona, it was hard to buy their deaths. Surely Maddie Weston didn’t die in vain. And Michael and Fi have gotten out of worse spots than a booby trapped communications array.
Seeing Michael and Fiona stowed away with Charlie ways in many ways the perfect way to see Michael’s story end. Fiona telling Michael how he could explain what happened to his father, his grandmother and his life gave us the sense that over the last seven seasons Michael hasn’t been narrating his story to the viewers, but has been telling the story to Charlie.
It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that USA was saying goodbye to “Burn Notice” after seven seasons. It’s an expensive show, the cast costs have continue to rise and the network is built on cost-effective shows that deliver strong niche ratings. USA is not a network to let shows grow old on the vine, so the was certainly going to come sooner or later. Given the storytelling of the last two seasons, I’m not sure the creative team had an eighth season in them. While I think the casting of the show was pitch perfect, I have a hard time seeing Jeffrey Donovan or Gabrielle Anwar as anyone other than Michael and Fiona. Bruce Campbell has had hits in the past, but Sam Axe is perfect for him. Coby Bell likely has the best star potential, given his shorter run on the show and recent success on “The Game.”
It’s hard seeing most of this group hitting it big again. It’s tough to say goodbye to this show because it has definitely been one of the better shows on TV in the last decade — I’d likely put it in my personal top 10 during its run. But is it the end? Sam and Jesse absolutely left the door open to a future movie or other reunion. We will hear from Mike when the time is right.