DVD Review: Burn Notice (Season Four)

When we last saw Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), he’d been put in a secret prison somewhere after helping to capture a sociopath. Having helped out Management (John Mahoney), he finds himself working with the same people who helped to burn him in the first place. With a handler (Robert Wisdom) that rubs everyone the wrong way, Michael finds himself stuck working with the guys who burned him for a cause he’s not sure of. Joined by a burned counterintelligence officer (Coby Bell), as well as Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael’s challenges this season change radically from before.

Everything he thinks, and has figured out, is in for a change. Throw in his usual Robin Hood escapades and Season Four of Burn Notice is proof that sometimes as a television show progresses it can move past its premise and remain appointment television.

As Season Four progresses, the key thing that Matt Nix as showrunner is proving is that the long term goal of the program isn’t Michael Westen as the same sort of vigilante he’s been in the past. This is him figuring out things he wasn’t supposed to be about the people who burned him and why, leading to a shocking conclusion and violent finale that sets up season five in a remarkably different way than before.

It’s a really bold step from Nix, who could’ve ridden out another couple seasons with Westen slowly but surely working his way around while engaging in his usual sorts of shenanigans, but he does it in a quick and efficient manner. This is a radical shift change, especially with the introduction of a new character in Jesse (Bell) who Michael needs to accomplish his mission as well as keep some information secret from. It’s a different dynamic as it throws off the chemistry between Donovan, Anwar and Campbell to this degree: it makes it that much more interesting. All three have grown to the point where as actors they might have gotten comfortable with one another; Bell’s introduction into the cast in a major role, as well as the advancement of the series’ overall arching plot at a natural pace, gives Burn Notice a more nuanced dynamic.

This isn’t the same comfort zone; Nix is pushing the show in a different direction and it works wonderfully. He has the same crew that works together wonderfully, with some old guest stars popping in for some memorable episodes, and continues to bring out intriguing and engaging storylines. We get to see Michael Westen more in his element as opposed to being out in the cold trying to figure it out. It makes for a better show because now we get to see the vaunted skill set of the character in a more functional setting than beating up a goon of the week.

Where does the show go from here? Who knows. Burn Notice has been so consistently good that Season Five has a lot to live up to.

Presented in a widescreen format with a Dolby Digital format, Burn Notice has a terrific a/v presentation. Miami is a beautiful place and Burn Notice has always managed to take advantage of it. The transfer brings it out wonderfully as well.

Sam Axe’s Guide to Ladies and Libations is a piece on Bruce Campbell’s character Sam.

Best Laid Plans: the Stunts of Burn Notice is a piece on the stunt work done in the series. It’s a rehash of the same extra from last season’s release on how they try to make every stunt an actual stunt and not CGI, et al.

A Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes, as well as Commentary Tracks, are scattered throughout the set on various episodes.

Burn Notice is one of the best things on television and manages to continue to do so by taking big risks with its structure for a large payoff.

20th Century Fox presents Burn Notice (Season Four). Created by Matt Nix. Starring Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Coby Bell. Running time: 773 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: June 7, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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