Michael Westen has a problem. It seems that he is a super spy whose services the CIA no longer requires for the time being. Fortunately this did not involve having him terminated with extreme prejudice or sent to The Village.
Unfortunately it means that Westen has gotten something called a “burn notice” (hence the title of the series.) Every last connection between Westen and the Agency has been severed, including his access to equipment, support, and most importantly bank accounts. This happens at a very inopportune time as he is negotiating with a Russia Mafioso to stop attacks on Nigerian oil facilities.
But Westen is a super spy and escapes the Russian and his minions. Eventually he winds up in Miami, abandoned by his former employers, but under their ceaseless watch. He has no idea why he has been treated this way, but he intends to find out. Meanwhile, he must make a living. Fortunately he has some marketable skills, involving guile, deceit and, when all else fails, mayhem.
Michael Westen is played with sardonic panache by Jeffrey Donovan. Much of the joy of the series comes from his sarcastic voice overs, usually in the form if instruction about spy craft. “When losing a tail, it is never a good idea to drive fast. That would just attract the attention of the local police.”
In the course of the series, we soon find that beneath that hard, sardonic shell, Westen has a soft, sentimental core. We suspect that he first became a spook not just to get away from a lousy home life, but because he really wanted to do some good. He finds himself using his considerable skills to help the down trodden, some of whom are not actually able to pay his fee. He is not a total altruist like Robert McCall. Westen has to eat.
Westen is aided in his efforts by Sam Axe, played by a much grayer and slightly heaver Bruce Campbell than in his Evil Dead days, and Fiona Glenanne, played by the lovely and gracious Gabrielle Anwar. Sam Axe is a down on his heels ex military intelligence operative who is now surviving as, among other things, a gigolo. Fiona used to be Westen’s girlfriend and once robbed banks for the IRA. Fiona is as scary as she is attractive. For one thing, violence is her idea of foreplay.
Complicating Westen’s life is the fact that he now lives in the same city as his mother, Madeline Westen, played by Sharon Gless. Westen feels he should be even in the same hemisphere as his mom.
And of course there are the two feds who keep following Westen around. Westen teaches us one way to elude a tail that involves paying off a couple of kids to whine to the police that the two scary men in dark suits and sun glasses tried to molest them.
Burn Notice looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.