‘Burn Notice’ – ‘Eyes Open’: Blowing up the story

Senior Television Writer
11.11.10 23 Comments


A quick review of the “Burn Notice” mid-season premiere coming up just as soon as I need an acolyte…

I wrote a column yesterday about how “Eyes Open” convinced me it was time to stop paying attention to the larger story arc, whatever the heck it’s about these days. So I won’t dwell too much on that here, except to say that Robert Patrick’s stint in the summer felt entirely wasted, and Robert Wisdom feels only slightly less wasted because he at least had some good scenes with Jeffrey Donovan early in the season.

Instead, I want to talk just a bit about the case of the week, with James Ransone (Ziggy from “The Wire” season two) delivering an entertaining performance as the mad bomber.

I liked Ransone, and also that the story was a continuation of the kidnapping plot from the mid-season finale – sometimes, it’s okay to have the non-spy stuff continue – but I was disappointed by a few other parts.

First, it felt like a wasted opportunity to show Michael having to operate while in a diminished physical state.(*) Not only was the writing of that inconsistent – in one scene, he can’t successfully break into the bomber’s apartment with one hand, while in another he easily takes out the lawyer’s bodyguard – but the story itself wasn’t the kind where Michael would have treated things differently if he’d been in better shape. The writers always want Michael to ultimately outthink his enemies rather than outfight them, but at the same time they often tell stories where Michael’s badassery is crucial to solving the problem in some way. I’d have liked to see this be a case where a few well-placed punches might have moved the story forward quickly under better circumstances, and for Michael to have to work around his temporary limitations. Instead, physicality wasn’t necessary at all, and I feel like they can’t go back to this well again for a while.

(*) A commenter on the old blog once said that Jack Reacher from the popular series of novels by Lee Child was “like a hobo Michael Westen,” and having since read all the books, I can see that. Like Michael, Reacher (an ex-Army MP) is a soldier without an army, and the nature of his former job means he’s good at essentially everything a thriller hero would need to know, and will win virtually every fight. (And as with Matt Nix and company’s writing of Michael, Child never lets Reacher’s super-competence get in the way of the story’s tension, nor does it become annoying and Mary Sue-ish.) And I bring this up because in the most recent Reacher novel, “Worth Dying For” (minor spoilers coming), Reacher still isn’t fully-healed from a terrible injury suffered in the previous book, yet despite all the references to his pain and limited mobility, every fight scene plays out exactly like every fight scene from a Reacher book where he’s in top condition. As with this episode, I found it a missed opportunity; Reacher’s incredibly smart, and I’d like to see a Reacher book where he couldn’t keep falling back on his superior physical abilities.

Second, everyone’s shock at Jesse’s decision to blow up the bomber to spare the cops seemed out of place. No, Team Westen doesn’t usually kill people themselves, but they’re all veteran killers, Michael rarely has compunctions about setting up bad guys to kill each other, and here it was clear that Michael would have let Fi put a bullet into Dennis earlier if they hadn’t needed to get the other bomb locations from him. The way that scene played out felt lke a weird attempt to make Jesse seem like a rogue element – and to defang our heroes a bit – when in fact it’s a decision any of them should or would have made.

Again, I liked Donovan with Ransone, I liked the little callback to the Michael/Fi scene from the pilot that’s in the introduction every week (here with Gabrielle Anwar saying “Miami” in her American accent), and I loved Maddy’s dismissal of TV psychobabble when she diagnosed Michael with “repressed crap.”

So I’m still watching, and mostly enjoying, but my plan as a viewer and blogger is to pay as little attention as possible to the arc scenes going forward – unless they become more coherent and/or entertaining going forward.

What did everybody else think?

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