In the special features, Bruce Campbell says, “If you want to see justice done, turn in to Burn Notice.” It’s a fitting summation of the series: Michael Westen, along with a few colleagues, stands against the forces of evil within the government, and outside of it, but this time, he’s got to clear his own name while fighting violence and corruption. In Season Five, Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) comes up against Anson (Jere Burns, Justified), who seems to pull all of the strings that keep Westen from getting settled into a life and career without looking over his shoulder. Anson isn’t the only villain that the team will battle, but the fifth season has a focus on story that doesn’t get lost in its plethora of directions.
Donovan, Campbell, Coby Bell (”Jesse”), and the beautiful Gabrielle Anwar (”Fiona”) are joined by a host of actors like Burns who make the show wildly colorful. Sure, Burns’ Anson holds it all together (or strings our heroes along), but there’s still room for Tim Matheson (”Larry Sizemore”), Robert Wisdom (”Vaughn Anderson”), Matt Lauria, The Pretender’s Patrick Bachau and Michael T. Weiss, Eric Roberts, Kristanna Loken, and Dean Cain. But there were also some big names on the other side of the camera, with Jonathan Frakes and Renny Harlin each directing a pair of episodes. Harlin’s finale, “Fail Safe,” also gets an additional commentary by Campbell, Donovan, and creator Matt Nix, which is both informative and witty.
Speaking of witty: the sense of humor is what sets Burn Notice apart from everything else like it. While USA’s other shows, like Common Law, Necessary Roughness, In Plain Sight, Suits, and others have followed in BN’s footsteps, Donovan and Campbell’s “situation” set a standard for humor that has kept fans locked in for five seasons. Sure, the tongue-in-cheek thing won’t work for everyone, but it’s definitely unique. Donovan is deadpan, Campbell is kooky, and everyone else sort of plays off of them. Which makes the villains even more devious, too: they’re clever, often more mentally than physically so, and the witty repartee makes for some crazy dialogue.
The fifth season continues to speak more and more to Westen’s liberation from working for the government with blinders on toward taking jobs and making decisions based on what is right for him to do. I’m not willing to make him a complete tool, but he sort of fit the description of the “blunt object” tied to James Bond’s description early on: he did what he was told without thinking. Since working through his being “burned,” or rather through working toward it, he has come to make decisions which make him more rogue agent than government agent, more Robin Hood than “The Man.” It’s what makes us watch (along with the hot Miami scene and the dialogue): we want to see this guy come all the way back, a la a redemption story.
In addition to the commentary on the finale that I alluded to before, there’s an extended version of “Army of One,” deleted scenes, and a gag reel. Still, “The Villains of Burn Notice” might’ve been the best addition, especially if you’re trying to break in late and haven’t seen everything leading up to this. You’ll see the characters and how they fit into the BN world, and maybe get a better handle on Westen, as each of these villains is really a foil for the development of our super spy.