When season 5 of USA’s Burn Notice started, I thought we’d see something different and we did for a little while. Super-spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) had reached the end of his Burn List, and taken care of the people who contributed to his burning with the help of the US Government. He got a new partner to work with named Max (Grant Show) and became an unofficial member of the C.I.A. – that’s code for if Michael died in the line of duty, no one would know about it. For the first third of the season, not much had changed except that Michael had to follow more rules and guidelines.
Michael still managed to pick up side jobs in his spare time, helping out friends of his friends, Jesse, Sam, and Fiona (Coby Bell, Bruce Campbell, and Gabrielle Anwar) but so much of season 5 resembled prior seasons where Michael would have two handlers and two jobs to take care of simultaneously with his crew. That is, until Max dies and the evidence leads back to Michael–a frame job for sure. But who? It appeared that Michael didn’t take care of everyone on that list.
Enter: C.I.A. Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile) who was a dear friend of Max’s but is much more accommodating to Michael and the Burn crew, just as long as she doesn’t find out about Michael’s ties to Max’s murder. She uses Michael and his gang to do jobs they don’t dare do, and instead endangers Michael and friends while he stews about who he missed on the list and inconsistencies in his files. Fiona wants Michael to move on from this whole ordeal and begin settling down with her and he invites her to move into his warehouse-loft. We start to see some animosity building in Fiona who recognizes how easily Michael is putting his friends’ lives at risk, including his mother (Sharon Gless) so he can satisfy his curiosity.
Understandably, Fiona asks him to move on and focus on the type of life they can have without the list and his burning hovering over them. But the game changes when Larry (Tim Matheson) comes back into the picture and the mid-season finale is an explosive event. When the smoke clears, a bigger, and more sinister villain Anson (Jere Burns) appears who has deep ties to his family.
Season 5 didn’t have the format-changing variety I was hoping for, but if you’re okay with the Burn Notice formula with a few new wrinkles, then you’ll be pleased nonetheless. Fiona moving in with Michael didn’t shake things up enough but it was a step in the right direction in committing towards her. I found myself really sympathizing with her and how easily Michael allowed himself to be a puppet throughout this whole process. She’s an impulsive, passionate woman of action and that’s why you have to love her character; Fiona’s season finale act does feel like it will change things greatly and we’ll see starting tonight in the Season 6 premiere.
Some other differences I liked were Jesse losing the serious and angry act. Between Seasons 4 and 5 he forgave Michael for getting him burned too. This season Jesse brings the comedy act to Burn Notice with his hilarious covers. At times when the series feels like it’s getting weighed down too much, Jesse and Sam are there to let the air out. But perhaps the best thing about this season was the addition of Anson. We’ve all seen Jere Burns play a scumbag before (most recently in Justified) but there’s something extra dangerous about a guy who knows all of their steps before they’re made and who is able to fill in the holes in his life having spoken to his father and was his Maddy’s therapist.
Even in today’s high def standards, this DVD set still looks good. The picture is a 1.78:1 anamorphic image that reproduces the colors very well with a slightly soft appearance. Skintones are warm and sunlit scenes are a little blown out but that’s the style that creator Matt Nix is going for. I’d be lying if I said it couldn’t look better though. I’ve watched the show when it originally aired on high definition and it is a remarkable step up. I’m unsure as to why USA stopped making blu-rays of their television shows, but it’s still a great viewing experience. As far as the sound goes, it’s 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and sounds like the explosions, to Michael’s Charger revving up to the Cuban soundtrack, there’s plenty of action to give your home theater a solid workout whenever scenes warrant it.
- The Villains of Burn Notice (11:10)
- Gag Reel (3:43)
- Deleted Scenes from Bloodlines (0:49) “Square One” (1:42) “Army of One” (2:23) “Necessary Evil” (0:36) “Death Perception” (0:42) “Acceptable Loss” (0:43) “Fail Safe” (1:35)
- Extended “Army of One” episode (45:35)
- Audio Commentary on “Fail Safe” with Matt Nix, Jeffrey Donovan, and Bruce Campbell
Like the White Collar Season 3 DVD set, this has a similar basket of supplements including a gag reel, a smattering of deleted scenes, and there is one solid extra about the Villains of Burn Notice, where Nix and the cast talk about all of the big baddies and what each brought to the show: Brennan, Carla, Gilroy, Vaughn, Larry and Anson.
There is one audio commentary that’s excellent, but I’m not sure why USA and/or 20th Century Fox don’t pony up for more. Burn Notice is a series that has all of these spy factoids and methods explained, and it would be great to get a real spy to come in and validate them, or how they’re used in the field. Some of the shows’ bigger stunts could be explained and based off of this one and some in the past season sets, more would definitely be better. Concerning this lone commentary, once the joking and jawing settled down, this was a pretty focused track where Donovan and Campbell told stories relating to certain scenes and Nix added back story and information about the methods and approaches they took to tell the story. I just wish we had another ten or so to listen to.
If you’ve been invested into the Burn Notice saga from the beginning then Season 5 DVD is a must-purchase. No it’s not on blu-ray, and no, there aren’t more extras, but you’ll get a season’s worth of high-octane action, sexy romance, comedy and mystery. Never at any time does it break stride in keeping one of the most exciting spy series on television today continuing forward and that alone deserves a recommendation. Season 6 starts this week with tonight’s premiere on the USA network but if you can’t the premiere it until you’ve seen everything that happens in this DVD set.