From the Chicago Tribune.
Casting can do a lot for a show. In the case of the extremely enjoyable “Burn Notice” great casting took a good premise and kicked it up to another level.
Thanks to increasingly strong writing and an ensemble that clicks beautifully, by its second season, “Burn Notice” had become unmissable. The wait for Season 3 has only been a few months, but it seemed endless.
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is a former international spy who was unexpectedly “burned,” or blacklisted, by his former employers. He ended up in Miami doing odd jobs, which usually consist of helping ordinary folks out of jams that threaten their bank accounts or their lives.
Donovan brings an edge of danger to Michael, who is methodical and inventive, but also scarily relentless. Even though, at the end of the previous season, he finally found the mysterious cabal that burned him and got those people to back off, he’s still obsessed with restoring his good name and going back to work for the intelligence agencies.
“Burn Notice” is among television’s greatest escapes — thanks to Donovan’s performance, there’s a compelling subtext to Michael: You do not want to cross this man. And he won’t stop until he gets what he wants.
One thing “Burn Notice” excelled at in the previous season was showing us slivers of Michael’s emotions, which, at some cost to himself and those around him, he keeps carefully hidden. When Michael reveals the depths of his feelings for his improvised family, which consists of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, weapons expert Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), and former espionage buddy Sam Axe (the wonderful Bruce Campbell), the display is as impressive as any explosion Fiona has ever rigged up.
The new season of “Burn Notice” gives Michael a fresh problem to solve: Now that the group that burned him has backed off, his not-quite-legal activities are on the radar of local cops. It’s too soon to tell whether Moon Bloodgood, who has a recurring role as a Miami cop investigating Michael, will be an essential addition to the show.
Still, the emotional impact of the Season 2 finale was powerful. As Victor, the well-cast Michael Shanks brought both pathos and sly sarcasm to his role, and he was an excellent foil for Donovan. Jay Karnes, a veteran of “The Shield,” is also a perfect fit for “Burn Notice,” and his Season 2 character, a sardonic arms dealer named Brennen, returns in the strongest episode of the three that were sent for review.