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Burn Notice: Season Three

(USA; US DVD: 1 Jun 2010; UK DVD: 1 Jun 2010)

The third season of USA’s Burn Notice continued its focus on the larger story of Michael being burned by his agency, as well as relying on the series’ usual mystery of the week. While there was a great deal of potential for the season, considering the dramatic cliffhanger ending of season two, the show faltered at times, although it still remains one of the more engaging series currently on television.


As season two ended, Michael finally learned who burned him and the reason was to recruit him as a member of an underground organization, with a contact only known as Management. He is given the option to partner with those who burned him, or to set out on his own. The catch is that Management has been keeping him safe by making sure he stays off the radar of those who may be looking for Michael for less than honorable intentions.


By turning down the offer, Michael is now opening himself up as a target. Clearly, there would also be other repercussions, not the least of which is giving up a level of complete independence and autonomy Michael has become accustomed to in his life as a former spy. Given his new visibility – albeit with somewhat of an upper hand at times, as he is now in demand as a spy again – Michael is also sacrificing much of the anonymity that is such a key part of the work he does on the side.


Much of Burn Notice‘s appeal has been in its smaller, individual mysteries, and in turn, the way these side missions affect the relationships between Michael, Fiona, and Sam. They work together seamlessly and their shared commitment to righting wrongs and helping those without recourse has blossomed into one of the more compelling aspects of the show. Michael no longer makes any pretense about wanting to help people and while the greater story has always been about Michael’s journey to discover everything that led to his burn notice, these smaller stories have served to expand upon many of the reasons why these answers are so important to him. In the end, he is essentially concerned with justice, and both the larger and more episodic arcs reinforce this.


The problem with the third season is that much of the momentum established at the end of the previous season was wasted when Michael suddenly had to contend with various mysterious enemies, rather than devoting more time to delving more deeply into his new circumstances. While at times these enemies proved entertaining, for the most part they did not add enough to the series and brought the energy of the show down, squandering much of the tension. 


Despite the problematic nature of introducing too many villains into an arc where a very established one was already in place, and could have served the season well, Burn Notice continues to be entertaining and fun. One of the series’ greatest strengths has always been in the shifting dynamics between Michael, Fiona, and Sam. When the series began, these dynamics usually revolved around the unresolved romantic relationship between Michael and Fiona, and Sam’s boozy womanizing as the show’s comic relief. Now three seasons in, Michael and Fiona have acknowledged their feelings for one another and are in a relationship, although an unconventional one at that.


Sam has probably shown the most character growth and season three makes a good case for just how invaluable he is. His varied contacts and obvious charm may still be played for laughs, but his role is clearly much more important to the team. In fact, there are several instances where Sam is the one to come up with a quick, clever solution to a problem that Michael would have typically solved.


In addition, Michael’s relationship with his mother, Madeline, continues to develop and serve as both an emotional tie and comedic release in his life. Madeline’s deeper involvement with Sam and Fiona also added another layer to her role as his mother by becoming more aware of Michael’s professional life.


One of the more engaging aspects of the series is Michael’s voiceover explanations of spy tips and tricks. These crafty techniques are integral to training spies.


Despite the unevenness of the season, Burn Notice still understands and uses many of its strengths well. Unfortunately, the larger story arc frequently came off as muddled and season three sometimes became bogged down because of it.


The set includes the special features Smash, Crash, Boom: Inside the Burn Notice Stunt Unit and their panel from the 2009 San Diego Comic Con International.

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J.M. Suarez has been a contributing writer at PopMatters since 2008. She's happy to talk about TV any time, any place. Really.


Tagged as: burn notice | cia | tv show | usa
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