Like watching a second-year veteran going through a hitting slump, three episodes into the Burn Notice sophomore season, the show still hasn’t found the same spark it displayed last summer when it became a breakout hit for the USA Network. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Burn Notice is an action-adventure series centering around ex-spy Michael Westen, played by Jeffrey Donovan. He has been “burned,” stripped of resources, and dumped in his hometown of Miami. With nothing to his name, Westen had to lean on his overbearing mother, Madeline (played by Sharon Glass) and reconnect with an old spy buddy who used to give information about Westen to the Feds. That guy’s name is Sam, and he’s played with womanizing sleazy charm by B-movie god Bruce Campbell. Also in tow is Westen’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), a hot ex-IRA operative who loves firearms. Season One followed Westen as he tried to track down the people who screwed him out of his life as a spy. At the same time, he took on side jobs helping down-on-their-luck friends of friends who needed muscle, but couldn’t go to the police. You know, like trouble with loan sharks, drug dealers or the mob. Whereas Season One had a Bourne Identity-meets-MacGyver-meets-The Equalizer sense of fun, so far Season Two feels a tad routine, and has me feeling obligated to tune in and see what happens.
The Season One cliffhanger saw Westen driving his car into the back of a semi-truck trailer to await a meeting with a mysterious woman who may or may not have burned him. As the screen went black, fans waited in anticipation to find out who was behind the overall story arc that drove his character throughout the season. One year later, the back of the trailer opened, and nothing really changed. Westen found himself helping some stranger at the bequest of the mysterious woman, Carla, (played by Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer). Carla refuses to disclose whether she is the one who actually burned Westen, and has nefarious plans to use Michael for her own needs, or his friends will pay the consequences. It all sounds intriguing, but so far, it feels like we’re treading water waiting for the big wave to come in. I suppose we, as viewers, should find the storyline of Westen and Fiona’s doomed love affair heartbreaking, or the storyline of his tortured relationship with his chain-smoking mother funny. But Gabrielle Anwar is better when she’s being sexy and dangerous instead of depressed and bitter. And frankly, as much as I admire Sharon Glass, Madeline is just plain grating. The less we see of her, the better. If the show really wants to delve into Michael’s family history, they should bring back his brother, Nate (Seth Petersen).
Will I keep watching Burn Notice? Sure. It’s on a season pass on my TiVo. However, I don’t rush to watch it when I know there may be other, more interesting things waiting for me. Here’s hoping the show rediscovers its swing before too long and breaks out of its slump.