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TV Review: Burn Notice Fourth Season Finale and What’s Next

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USA’s Burn Notice is known for big, cliff hanger finales. They do one every year, but this might have been the biggest one yet. It was presented in two, separate parts entitled “Out of the Fire” and “Land Stand”, and while the first half was fun, the latter is what was most impressive. It was exciting, action-packed, and contained plenty of suspense. The final scene was of Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) being handed a coat and arriving in Washington D.C., presumably his burn notice gone, or expected to soon be. For four years, the major premise of the show is that Michael’s life has been hindered by this burn, and he has done everything he can to clear his name and get his job back. While it was not explicit that he accomplished that mission, he did have a list of people who burned him. And somehow, that was supposed to clear his name. And it was put into the hands of Congressman Cowley (returning guest star John Doman), who could do something about it.

What will the direction of the series be, then, for season five? The pessimistic part of me thinks that there will be some twist that will keep Michael on the outs. He has come so close to finishing things several times, and it has never worked out. The D.C. thing could have been a red herring, designed to make us thing he’s out of the woods. Perhaps the organization that made his life a hell will go down, but there still won’t be enough evidence to clear Michael. Or maybe the government just won’t want him back, after all of the other ‘questionable activities’ he has been involved in. This is my least favorite possibility, but the most probable.

Or, it could go the other way. Perhaps Michael will be offered his old job, but he will decide to turn it down and return to his friends and family in Miami. As much as I know he wants his life to return to what it used to be, he has developed some very strong bonds in Miami, and I could see him giving up that old dream for a new one. Without the burn hanging over his head, he could enjoy Miami and make peace with who he is.

Either of these two options would allow the show to continue with it’s case of the week format, in the city that is as much a character as Michael is, though the latter would need a new, large arc to go with the side stories. USA has shown no interest in tinkering with the elements that define its series. That’s sad, in a way, because I would like nothing more than the show to pull an Alias and completely redefine what it is. I’m not knocking how good the show has been up until now, as it has been good. But how exciting would it be to have a new premise, a new setting, new supporting characters, and totally different situations thrown at the same characters we’ve grown to love?

Going back to the Michael returning to Miami bit, as I find that very, very likely, and my dream set up very, very unlikely, Jesse’s (Coby Bell) fate is a little more fluid than Michael’s. He was the first new principal character to join the series, being a regular for just this past year. I think his inclusion was a successful experiment, and hope he sticks around. Hence, I imagine that not-cleared scenario will happen, because Jesse doesn’t have those same ties to stay in Miami, and he would probably leave the show if he got his job back. Unless he was made a handler or supervisor or some type of attache from the government to Michael, an interesting possibility. In fact, I would really like to see that.

The number one reason I see Michael staying in Miami is Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar). They have tip toed around each other for much of the series, at times closer than others. Fiona’s willingness to follow Michael into a suicidal standoff in last week’s finale shows just how deep their bond has become. Surely, there will be lasting consequences for that decision. No matter which way Michael’s plot goes, it is definitely time for a full-fledged Michael and Fiona romance, with an official, sticking relationship.

Michael’s mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless), used to be fairly useless, but has really become an essential heart to the group. Her involvement in several missions has been a delight, and the way she stood up to Vaughn (Robert Wisdom) while being held captive in the latest episode proves she deserves to be more involved in Michael’s activities, at least as much as she’d like to be, which would never be one hundred percent. A move of the series out of Miami, my unlikely wish, would most certainly see her departure, and that alone is enough of a reason for the network to not consider it. Without Mama Westen, something would feel off.

Sam (Bruce Campbell) would be at home anywhere, and will surely be Michael’s right hand man no matter where his life leads him.

Burn Notice will return for a fifth season next summer. Only time will tell just how much the show will change, and what the full effects of this finale was. Either way, the show ended this season on a very high note.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome is the creator and writer of It's All Been Done Radio Hour, a modern scripted live comedy show and podcast in the style of old-timey radio serials, and the founder of the Columbus-based entertainment network, IABDPresents. He is also the Chief Television Critic for Seat42F.com and a long-time contributor for Blogcritics. Plus, he works fiction into his space time. Visit http://iabdpresents.com for more of his work.
  • Mary Todd

    Michael should be fully back in with the government AND in Miami. His cover would be the jobs he and his team do–and he now would have to flexiblity to go on missions out of Miami while still with the team. Jesse would be his covert partner. Jesse could be offered his old job, but decides he wants the action of being on a Michale Westen team. The team’s arc would be to bring down all the “machine” oot just the list but also the others within the government and elsewhere who have subverted the U.S. intelligence agencies. This would be dangerous as the names onn list would be hiding and the others more ruthless than ever to protect and cover their illegal activities committed while part of the now falling apart “machine”. Big name to bring down–the old man. This scenario allows us to see Michael fully empowered–though probably still in conflict with his new controller–Michael has had a few years of doing whatever he wants to clear himself–now he is back under a commnad and may not always agree with the orders or even the mission.

  • T. Hannibal Gay

    I think Mary Todd’s premise is the correct one. A good twist would be to have Senator Colby be his new master, and have mother Madeleine be his foil. Of course Michael and team will have to be based out of Miami, but now they have the option to go to exotic sites like “Alias” did. Most of Alias’ sites were still in Canada with overlays of travel pics of exotic sites, but it was still fun to imagine. Keep the team together and have them help people every episode while still working on the next story arc. Going after the international socialist monsters will be satisfying in light of our real international socialist monsters who are really trying to take the world over. I look forward to the next season. By the way, how about a pregnancy for Fi? That would be interesting to see how she can juggle motherhood with her usual mayhem. T.H.G.- El Paso

  • Colleen

    I think the gov’t will want him back but Michael will turn them down.
    He may take some time to make that decision but I think that will be the ultimate result. He won’t want to work for someone else again, especially if he falls under the control of someone with Larry’s lack of a moral center.

  • I love reading your comments! Some really great ideas! Too bad we don’t get to decide what happens. 🙂

  • Wild Bill

    Michael will be taken back with orders to terminate his former cohorts and family in the interest of national security. This is where Michael will rebel and set out on his next quest. To find out who is targeting his friends bring his team into the foray. Then the so called s**t hits the fan. Who has the power and wields it, and who has the knowledge and can bend it. He will realize that Larry Sizemore had came back into his life again for more than satisfying the sadistic whims of a well-connected sociopath. Michaels talents and abilities are amplified by Sam, Fiona, and Jessie. They are grounded in righteousness by his chain-smoking Mother Madeline. The only way to harness and bend his talents is to remove his cohorts. Taking any one of them would be more than a chore. Taking them all would be impossible without Michael’s help.

  • Rick

    Wild Bill is closest to the mark I think. I doubt the writers will make it quite so straight forward though. Michael will be welcomed back, but he won’t have much joy from it. He’ll be missing his team, and Jesse won’t be given his way back in. Then something about his next assignment will have Michael questioning the morality of his new/old job. He’s been on the outside making his own calls about what is right/wrong/justified for too long, and won’t be able to just take orders anymore.

  • Rose

    My guess (which I have a low batting average) is Michael is welcomed back but immediately resigns to go back to Miami. Since he WAS Michael Weston, whose identity the government erased, he’ll become Michael Somebodyelse so the bad guys can’t find him. Now with a new name, money and a “history”, Michael and the gang can continue to help those who can’t go to the police except without the underlying agenda of “getting back in”. Michael gives Nate’s baby a cousin and life is great for all of 6 months, then for some unknown reason, Michael is hauled away at the end of Season five. 😀

  • SEP007

    I think that Michael’s unseen father was a spy too, and has been Michael’s protector.

    He may have had Michael burned to “get him out” of the company.

    I am betting that Mike’s dad resurfaces…

  • kapsi86

    I completely agree with SEP007, and have been saying that Mikey’s dad is a clandestine operative, and either was behind having him burned OR has been the unseen hand protecting him OR setting him up for the kill because neither mike or nate are his sons; they are the offspring of Maddie’s extramarital affairs while papa westen was away on missions.

  • Burn Notice Fanatic

    @kapsi86 This would be phenomenal! They should consider this as maybe an intro to Season 6 after Sam’s part in Mike’s life in Season 5. A great twist in the pursuit!

  • Mrmaks18

    I once read that after repeatedly watching Michael trying do hard to get his job back, that he was helping so many people many viewers wrote in saying it looked like the CIA was wrong for not giving his job back, so to stop it from looking bad the producers finally gave his job back, can someone verify this for me?