DVD REVIEW: Burn Notice Season 4
Welcome home, Michael...
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When we last saw Michael Westen, the ex-spy was being whisked away by Management - location and future unknown - after taking down Simon, the dangerous operative responsible for the crimes that "burned" him. Oh, the suspense! Now, with the Burn Notice Season 4 DVD 4-Disc Set from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, fans will find out exactly where Michael was taken, who exactly took him and where his new destiny is heading. And that's just the first episode! Burn Notice Season 4 packs more plot and suspense than any season before it, all while staying very true to its enjoyable case-by-case formula.
"My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy. Until..."
For those unfamiliar with Burn Notice, you are missing out on one of cable television's most funny and engaging spy dramas. Airing on the USA Network, the series appeals to this viewer mainly because of its extremely strong and well balanced cast. You have Jeffrey Donovan starring as Michael Westen, a smooth operator that comes across as half James Bond, half MacGyver. Then there's the always fun to watch love interest Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne, whose passion for all things explosive ignite her already sizzling sex appeal. The third member of the team is Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe, a former Navy SEAL who has a thing or two for the ladies... and Mojitos. It's the Evil Dead star's most enjoyable role to date - a part seemingly tailor-made for him - like a hand in chainsaw, err glove. Lastly we have the charming Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen, Michael's protective chain-smoking mom. She's more in the loop in Season 4 and a much cooler character because of it.
New to this talented roster is Coby Bell as Jesse Porter. When I heard Season 4 was going to introduce an all-new character to the already tight cast, I feared the worst. We've all seen it before, where the higher ups feel like the only way to boost ratings is to add a new character(s). It usually ends up a bloated mess. Thankfully, Jesse Porter on Burn Notice WORKS. Very well. A burned spy like Westen (and wait until you find out how), Porter plays off Michael's suave side with calm and collected cool. In fact, his playful seriousness works well with the entire cast; his established skills a welcome addition to the team and the cases they work on. While nothing personal against Seth Peterson as Nate, Michael's brother, the last thing Burn Notice needed was another goofy character that does't know what they're doing.
Aside from the show's grander overall story line and the addition of Jesse, Burn Notice Season 4 is more of the same... and that's a very good thing. Each episode begins and ends with the characters advancing the main plot, while the meat of the episode revolves around the team taking on a personal case - some serious, some silly. Some critics have knocked the show for its now predictable approach, but I absolutely LOVE it. Why try to fix something that isn't broken? Burn Notice may be predictable, but it is far from ever being boring. Some standout Season 4 episodes include:
* Michael must once again save the underdogs from drug dealers in "Neighborhood Watch". Look for a special appearance from the flamboyant "Sugar," Michael's former neighbor all the way back from Season 1!
* Speaking of returning characters, bumbling FBI agents Harris and Lane star in "Center of the Storm," an episode that not only shows the flip side of sunny Florida in the aftermath of a hurricane, but packs some great action with a former soldier turned hitman.
* "Past & Future Tense" stars an aging former spy played by none other than Burt Reynolds! Mix in some nasty Russian black ops and a great performance by Richard "Doc Ock" Kind and you have the makings of a classic.
* Michael Westen serves some "Hard Time" and takes on a prison gang behind bars in this brilliant episode of brain versus brawn.
* The final two Season 4 episodes - "Out of the Fire" and "Last Stand" - are, needless to say, NOT to be missed. Everything comes crashing together as Tyler Brennen (Part-Time Spy, Full-Time Sociopath) and Larry (Spy With 9 Lives, Michael's Biggest Fan) re-enter the big picture for a sendoff that'll have fans gasping and cheering for more.
Special features spread out on the Burn Notice Season 4 DVD 4-Disc Set are light, but enjoyable. There's your standard deleted scenes and gag reels, a look at the spectacular stunts of the show, a "Roast" between White Collar and Burn Notice (a shameless plug for White Collar - I could live without it), and my favorite, "Sam Axe's Guide to Ladies and Libations" - Bruce Campbell's look at the charming character he plays. It is a shame that the Burn Notice prequel movie "The Fall Of Sam Axe" is not included as well. Fans will have to hold on a little longer to own that when it releases by itself on DVD July 26th.
Fun returning old characters, exciting guest stars (Michael Ironside and Robert Patrick!), the solid addition of Jesse Porter and the promise of an exciting new direction for the show later this month, Burn Notice Season 4 is must-own TV. Established fans of the series won't want to miss the absolute best season yet. As for new viewers? While Burn Notice is easy to fall in love with, I recommend starting off with Season's 1-3 to fully soak up and bask in the Burn Notice experience. THEN grab your copy of Season 4 on DVD June 7th, wherever fine home entertainment is sold. But hurry, Burn Notice Season 5 premieres on USA June 23rd!
Review by Jeff Saylor
Review Sample Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment