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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Burn Notice: Season Three
Burn Notice: Season Three
Fox // Unrated // June 1, 2010
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 22, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Show:
Micheal Weston is back for another season Burn Notice, the hip, cool, spy series that has just the right mix of action, humor, and sticky situations.  This third season is just as entertaining as the previous two, if you concentrate on the individual episodes and don't try to look at the big picture.  If you do that the series starts to seem a bit silly, but each individual episode is still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Fox is only releasing this season on DVD only, though season two was available in both SD DVD and Blu-ray.  The show's picture was never great, so it's not a huge loss that there isn't an HD version available but still a disappointment.
If you've never seen the show before, it revolves around an ex-spy, Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan), who... well, let me let Michael himself explain the show.  He does such a good job in the montage sequence that begins each episode:
My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy. Until... [voice on phone] "We got a burn notice on you. You're blacklisted."  When you're burned, you've got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history. You're stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in.  You do whatever work comes your way. You rely on anyone who's still talking to you:  A trigger-happy ex-girlfriend, an old friend who used to inform on you to the FBI, family too... if you're desperate.  Bottom line? Until you figure out who burned you... you're not going anywhere.
Now Michel lives in a one room loft above a night club, and hangs out with the aforementioned ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) and occasionally hassled by his mother Madeline (Sharon Gless).  Since he doesn't have a job and can't get one, he helps people who have need of his unique abilities.  This may involve finding a boy who has been kidnapped, making sure an abusive father doesn't get custody of his kids, or helping a fashion designer discover who has been stealing from her.  Anything that the cops can't, or won't handle, Michael can.
Each of the first two seasons had a large plot running through that year's episodes, in addition to the stand alone stories that make up the bulk of each show.  In the inaugural season Michael was trying to discover who burned him and why.  In the second, Michael was trying to discover what the mysterious organization he became entangled in was up to.  This year there are actually a couple of larger plots the run sequentially.  Now that "Management" and his group are no longer protecting Michael, his name has popped up in databases and reports.  Some old enemies come after him, but the most worrisome is Detective Paxson (Moon Bloodgood) a Miami cop who has linked Michael to a number of crimes... she just doesn't have enough proof to arrest him.  Her constant tailing of the ex-spy throws a wrench in the works of some of his operations, but it's nothing that he can't handle.
About a third of the way through the season that plot gets wrapped up and Michael is contacted by a man named Thomas Strickland, an "agent to the spies".  He offers Michael protection, a huge amount of money, and the possibility of getting his old job back.  All he needs to do is perform some simple missions and count the money.  It's against Michael's better judgment (and that of Fi and Sam) but the carrot of getting his old job back is too much to resist.  
Finally the series winds up with Michael working with a very talented psychopath named Gilroy.  Michael plays along to find out just what Gilroy's ultimate goal is, and hopefully stop him before he can pull it off.
Like the first two seasons, this set of shows was a lot of fun.  There were several exciting and funny episodes and zipping through the whole series in short order was very enjoyable.  Highlights include the episode where some of the enemies Fi made back in Ireland track her down and when an old friend of Sam's ask for help tracking down a child predator.  This latter episode involved Michael dressing in black and intimidating a local street gang.  He did that by having something blow up every time he snapped his fingers.  It was funny, and pretty cool at the same time.
The only real problem with the show is if you pull back and look at the big picture.  The things that happen in any one episode (or even a series of them) are fine and don't require too much suspension of disbelief (well, not too, too much...) but when you take the series as a whole the events are pretty outlandish.  They tried to get away from that by having three shorter story arcs this time around, but it mainly served to remind people of just how much had gone on before.  Yeah, I'll admit that I'm thinking about this too much and this is not a show that stands up to close inspection.  (Even the whole premise is a bit daft.  The CIA basically forces their 'burnt' spies to go rogue since they're cut off from their work history, credit, and bank accounts making it impossible for them to get a legal job.  Yeah, that makes sense.)
As for the cast, they do a good job bringing the show to life.  Jeffrey Donovan is cut from the James Bond mold, a dashing pretty boy who isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, and Gabrielle Anwar is fine as his trigger happy female counterpart.  Anwar is a bit too petit and waif-like to really pull off fight scenes, but that's forgivable.  The real standout among the cast is Bruce Campbell.  Without him the program wouldn't be half as good.  He plays the womanizing ex-Navy Seal boozehound to perfection.  Whenever he's on the screen the show is much more interesting (and the writers get kudos for his name, Sam Axe, an homage to the role that started his career.)
The DVD:

The 16 episodes that make up season three arrive on 4 DVDs that are housed in a space saving single-width keepcase.
The show's DD 5.1 soundtrack fits it well, though with a little tweaking the show could have a more engulfing feel.  The whole soundstage is used to good effect in the action sequences with exploding buildings and crashes filling the room with noise.  Unfortunately when these are over, the audio collapses for the most part into a stereo mix.  When the main characters are sitting at a table in a bar, boosting the ambient sound effects going to the rears just a bit would have improved things a lot.  Aside from that the show sounds good with strong dialog and a full dynamic range.  
The visual impact of this show takes a bit of getting used to.  The 1.78:1 anamorphic image reproduces the show very well, but the look of the show may cause some viewers to think the disc was poorly mastered.  This isn't the case.  The show itself is soft and grainy, and some scenes are overblown with washed out colors and white that overpower fine details (these are usually exterior shots during the day, to simulate the bright Miami sun).  That was the look the creators were going for, and while it's not my favorite style, it does manage to create an atmosphere.  The overall image is pretty good, but it is a step down from the Blu-ray release that they had for season two.  The detail isn't quite as fine.  I finished up season two immediately before starting season three and the difference was obvious but not great.  On the digital side of things there is some aliasing, especially when they pan across the Miami skyline, but its never distracting.
The bonus material is pretty disappointing this time around.  There are no commentaries like the previous season sets, and all fans get this time are a pair of featurettes.  Smash, Crash, Boom:  Inside the Burn Notice Stunt Unit, is, as the title suggests, a behind-the-scenes look that the stunts that are a routine part of the show.  It was interesting enough, but there wasn't much new here.  The other item is a discussion panel with the cast that was held at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con.  It was pretty amusing, especially when Bruce Campbell was talking.
Final Thoughts:
This is one of those shows where everything comes together in just the right way to make a highly enjoyable hour's worth of entertainment.  An action/spy show with a good dollop of comedy and just a touch of romance and mystery, it's a favorite at my house.  Highly Recommended.
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