This post contains spoilers through last night’s episode of Burn Notice.
Increasingly, it feels like this season of Burn Notice is a comment on the whole series’ unsustainability. Tonight, Michael’s inveterate freelancing leads him to accidentally blow the cover of an FBI agent working a long-running operation, something that illustrates exactly why, if he were actually burned, he’d never be allowed to carry on as he’s been carrying on, the mayhem he causes in Miami notwithstanding. Similarly, tonight’s episode raised the prospect that Michael’s inability to let go of the people who put said burn notice out on him is an addiction, something he’s unable to shake and that the show needs to find a way around if it’s going to transition into a long-running program that isn’t centered around a single problem.
I think the second meta element is a bit less interesting, and at least in that last episode, was a bit more heavy-handed. Fiona’s buying Michael a shredder and then urging him to trash the files of his investigation didn’t actually spur him to action. Instead, it provides a physical reminder of Michael’s obsession smack in the middle of his and Fiona’s newly-shared loft that seems likely to be an irritant to both of them all season. And I’m curious as to whether that division will break them up, particularly with Michael’s mother lurking around the sidelines saying things about their decision to live together like, “It’s moving fast. At this rate, they should be married by 60.” That tension between wanting to behave like a normal person and being drawn to live in ways that are sort of inherently deviant is an interesting one, but I’m curious to see how it’ll shake out, since Michael’s not a particularly dark character. His impulses are almost painfully rectitudinous in end goals, they’re just abnormal when he considers what tactics are most likely to succeed.
The more interesting plotline centered on the acknowledgement that in the name of reeling in bad guys, undercover government agents often have to do pretty terrible things. The best-case scenario for Michael’s client, the frozen yogurt store proprietor stuck with her husband’s gambling debts, is that her store got smashed up a couple of times and then was safe. The worst-case scenario for her was a best-case one for the government: an undercover agent kept smashing in her display cases, and then she went into witness protection. Either way, that’s a pretty miserable outcome, and a high level of disruption, if not of personal damage. Burn Notice has already suggested that Michael might find government service boring. Now, it appears the show’s suggesting that he might find some of the things it requires of him repellent. I think the show absolutely had to try putting Michael back in government service as a way to move the plot forward. But if it turns out that he doesn’t want to work for the government any more, I have no idea what he, and his network, are going to do next.