Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 13

Reckoning (12 Sep. 2013)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Crime | Drama
9.0
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Michael must win back the trust of everyone he betrayed as James becomes obsessed with ending his life.

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Max Lyster
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Paul Tei ...
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Elsa
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Michael must win back the trust of everyone he betrayed as James becomes obsessed with ending his life.

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12 September 2013 (USA)  »

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Madeline Westen: [her last words] This one's for my boys.
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Season 7: Enjoyable in its darkness and unexpected tone, but it is a big (mostly misjudged) jump away from why we watched this show for so many years
7 January 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Having spent five seasons providing glossy light entertainment in a polished and disposable fashion, the sixth season of this show decided to get a bit more edgy, more dramatic and took a noticeable step away from being throwaway fun for everyone to enjoy and being more focused and seemed to be taking itself more seriously. At the time I felt that generally it had worked but that it had changed the nature of the show a bit too much. In hindsight though this was nothing compared to the changes coming into the final season – a season which is noticeable for suddenly being darker, violent, taking itself very seriously and, while still enjoyable, is a lot less "fun" than it has been in the many years prior.

And it is not just in one way, the change is across the board and is so definite that it can only be by design and I really am not sure why this change was made. If I had to guess then I would say it is because it is a show that has run for 7 years and, while throwaway plots, funny lines and general clean fun is all well and good, after seven years maybe they wanted to feel that they had done something more worthy – by which I mean more "serious". On this front mission accomplished. We pick up the story after the end of the last season with Michael working for that bloke from Heroes at the CIA, going undercover to infiltrate the organization of that other guy from Heroes in order to make him inform on those higher up the tree. By doing this we see Michael as we haven't really seen him before; we have seen him be resourceful of course but here it is really "whatever needs to be done is getting done" which includes killing in cold blood and standing by as others take the blame for his undercover work and get killed in place of him. On top of this he acts out in other ways including losing himself emotionally, being broken down in torture sequences and killing out of rage rather than necessity.

This serious material is not balanced out with the usual gloss; it still is disposable in a way and polished, but it is polished to look gritty and dark, not bright and sunny and slick as it always has been. In season 6, where this started, we had lots of in-jokes, gag material and a sense of fun which more than retained the strengths of the show. In this season we really have nothing – barely a joke about chins, not a comedy sub-plot, nothing, indeed I think "bald guy and the chin" is about the height of it. Everything is deadly, everything is urgent and we are never allowed to relax and enjoy the show as light entertainment. Suffice to say that this season is not Burn Notice, this is something else; but this is not the same as saying that whatever this season is that it cannot also be good but in a different way.

To view the season on its own merits and for itself, it is still a decent story but it is mainly this because it feels so different that it keeps the viewer on edge wondering what will happen next, what will Michael have to do, what consequences will come about to him or others? It is dark but being Burn Notice it isn't dark as deeply as it thinks it is; so it is still kept moving and polished and this superficiality does hurt the material a bit because of how hard it pushes to be taken seriously and be dark. But for events and action it moves forward well enough and breaks it down into entertaining episodes that breakout well around the commercials (which like it or not is a skill TV writers need). It does get a bit tiring though and, as someone who has enjoyed the bubblegum nature of the previous seasons, I did generally find it disappointing that the final season would suddenly want to give viewers something else – particularly since we're still watching after seven years, so we're probably totally OK with more of the same or we would have stopped watching.

The cast don't cope particularly well with the change. Donovan is great as part of polished slickness because that is what he is, however to have this dark and complex (albeit superficially) he is asked to do more and, while he can do whatever you want in any given scene (sexy, relaxed, confident, authoritative) he is not as good when it comes to making a character and blending through that character. Of course he is much better than Anwar who looks weaker and weaker the more she is asked to do. Gless throws herself into her serious material and does OK which just leaves Campbell and Bell. They seem out of it. They do their "helping out Mike" stuff well but it is very prescribed and although they are still fun as actors, the material is not there as much for them – both do well but compared to previous season you could rely on these guys to bring fun and puncture any sense of self-importance in the show; not the case this time.

Season 7 just about works but not as the seventh season of Burn Notice, but as a spin off that is more serious, darker and not as much fun to watch. The actual conclusion has aspects that work but mostly it feels too much like the series finale of Dexter with illogical parts which seem too tidy to accept. It works for what it is – but it is a long way from where the show was at its glossy, fun height.


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