BURN NOTICE Redux: Now That’s How You End a Season!

By: Jeffrey Kirkpatrick

Judging by the weekly ratings, it is apparent that for most shows to have a measurable shelf life these days, they have to follow a formula. After-all, the bulk of the TV watching population doesn’t want to get bogged down in details, so just keep it to the status quo, entertain them for an hour or so, and move on.  

Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy creativity and storytelling at its finest, this can lead to hours of some painfully routine and uninspired television. Occasionally, though, even a show that follows a relatively rigid, paint-by-numbers format like USA Network’s spy series BURN NOTICE can toss a hefty curve ball at you. Consider last night’s powerful season five finale which had Michael going for broke against Anson, his ultimate nemesis and the man who burned him.

With the gang working their mission-of-the-week and Fiona and Michael arguing, yet again, about whether or not Michael’s efforts with regard to Anson were the right thing to do, what felt like a typical episode ended the hour by joltingly altering course: Fiona had finally had enough and gave herself up to the FBI.

In all honesty, I did not see that coming. I rather expected Michael to come swooping in atop his black charger to save the day like he always manages to within the last few moments, but no – it actually happened. And the way it happened seemed almost poetic in its execution.

The editing team spared nothing when it came to that moment. Michael’s desperate, slow-motion pursuit of Fiona as she ascended the steps of the Federal building added a climactic edge that felt cinematic. Having Fiona’s soft spoken recitation of the letter play over interspersed images of the debilitated anguish on Michael’s face, the resolute acceptance on Fiona’s, and the impeccably penned letter itself, only enhanced the beauty and tragedy of that moment, and helped remind me of why I stay so invested in these characters in the first place.

It also succinctly underscored the question at the center of Michael and Fiona’s relationship – can Michael and Fiona ever truly have a happy ending? Despite the fact that this season started out with Michael and Fiona in a bonafide relationship, the burn notice and its half-decade long effects still creates an emotional distance between them. 

Fiona has long registered objections and pleaded with Michael to abandon his pursuit of the people who burned him, yet he continued, to the detriment of their relationship. He worked for Carla which empowered him to locate the next clue. He worked for Mason for a bit, and achieved the same. He then repeated the process for Vaughn, making excuses as to why it was necessary all the while. Now he was continuing down the same path with Anson.

I think it finally dawned on Fiona that there will always be another carrot, another lead to chase, another excuse to entertain, another obstacle keeping them apart; and she could no longer stomach living as Michael’s enabler in that regard.

After all, Michael has allowed this aging pursuit to jade him to the point he was willing to throw the lives of four CIA operatives away like they were chewing gum wrappers. How could Fiona continue to live with a man who was so fixated on this futile quest that he could never honestly commit to her in the way she needs? How could she live with herself any longer as the man she loves continues to rocket down this self-destructive path – a path she has warned him about before – now that it was in her power to legitimately do something about it? 

As the only leverage Anson had over Michael, she courageously fell upon the sword hoping that it would free Michael once and for all.

As far as finales go, BURN NOTICE never pulls any punches – especially in the final moments – and this one was no exception. The real test will be when season six begins. Will they wrap up this storyline with Fiona within the first hour and move on to the next mission? I sincerely hope not. As much as I enjoy Fiona building bombs and wielding firepower larger than she is, I think that after five years what BURN NOTICE needs is to raise the stakes higher than ever before. 

What better way to achieve that than for Fiona to be in prison? This would provide Michael enough distance from Fiona to realize how truly blessed he is to have her in his life – not to mention getting an extended arc surrounding her rescue (PRISON BREAK, anyone?). 

Yes, it’s a foregone conclusion that she will be rescued, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought that the show would change its formula so late in the game, but here’s hoping they don’t squander that beautiful finale and get back to the status quo too soon. I’d like to see this particular thread play out a while.

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a guest contributor to theTVaddict.com. His love affair with scripted television began the day Sydney Bristow graced the small screen in all her red-wigged, spy-fi glory. Since then he’s developed quite an appreciation for the medium, and is never shy about sharing his often unpopular opinions on a wide range of TV topics. Please feel free to share your opinions with Jeffrey at tvonmyterms@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter (@TVOnMyTerms).

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  • Great review of a fantastic finale.