Burn Notice, “Bloodlines”

After last week’s somewhat awkward premiere, Burn Notice made a more pronounced effort to get out of the middle ground between the CIA world and Miami and unsurprisingly chose Michael’s more local exploits over his possible future with the agency. Even though I’m still very intrigued by how the series is going to integrate Michael’s two worlds when both sides have interesting cooking at once, I personally enjoyed tonight’s local case. This is mostly true because “Bloodlines” adds a slight wrinkle to the usual Burn Notice proceedings by making Madeline a major piece of Michael’s performance and wouldn’t you believe it, things happened to get a bit too personal.

Sharon Gless is somehow both underused and overrated for her performance on the series. I’m guessing most of the overrated part has to do with the fact that she was nominated for an Emmy, which is really just insanely dumb. No offense to Sharon whatsoever, but c’mon. In any event, when the series does decide to throw her in the middle of a case, the story benefits. But tonight’s episode might have been the series’ best use of her yet and probably featured Gless’ best performance on the series to-date.

The use of Madeline works in a few ways in “Bloodlines.” First of all, she (unfortunately) gets to see Michael in his performative glory, which isn’t always the most attractive picture. At the end of season three, there was some discussion about Madeline not really knowing the kinds of things Michael did and what kind of person he actually was/is, but it was mostly underdeveloped and then dropped. I’m not sure if the series is looking to rekindle that flame, but putting Madeline in circumstances where Michael is forced to yell at her and physically assault her certainly might raise some eyebrows. However, it seemed like Madeline was more than willing to get involved, despite all of Michael’s reservations.

More importantly, this episode touches on Burn Notice‘s sole quasi-untouchable: Michael’s father. I know that there has always been discussion in the fandom about Michael’s father and the possibility of him having a role in the burning, but I’ve appreciated how Matt Nix has stuck to his guns thus far and basically avoided falling into the usual trappings of dead-beat fathers (i.e. introducing them into the series in like season three for a surprise return that creates all sorts of wonky problems for the lead). As far as I can remember, Michael’s father has gotten the occasional mention, but the series hasn’t divulged many super-concrete details about him. This makes tonight’s episode even more special, as Michael decides the only true way to make sure that his mother will be sufficiently scared of his character is to model it after his father, accent included. It works. Madeline is appalled and Michael is very broken up himself. It’s eventually revealed that Michael’s father hit Madeline as well, which is something I don’t think we knew before (or at least I don’t remember it).

Other than that, “Bloodlines” isn’t particularly special. Madeline continues her involvement with the case until the very dangerous end — including a nicely plotted car chase sequence — and the CIA side of things is mostly filler. Also, Michael decides to ask Fiona to move in with him! But despite the general predictability of the episode’s last 15 minutes, “Bloodlines” works really well on a character level. It is probably a little goofy that it has taken the series this long to give up more details about Michael’s father and how he treated his mother, but the wait was worth it. Jeffrey Donovan and Sharon Gless did really solid work with the similarly solid material given to them and it was generally nice to watch a fairly standard case that included some personal stakes and character work.

I still have no idea where the season is going in the long-term and “Bloodlines” doesn’t really do much to curb that confusion. Like I said, the CIA plot was frivolous, but not entirely bad. I did like how the episode made it a point to show that CIA work is actually much more boring and dry than what Michael is used to, where watching a drunk asset to make sure he keeps it in his pants becomes a moderate priority good enough for Max and Michael’s pay grade. I’m guessing that a few of those kinds of assignments in a row will cause Michael to become a bit more listless, but there’s no denying the fact that undercooked CIA plots allow the series to integrate its typical Miami-based case-of-the-week structure back into the proceedings. It did, however, feel kind of pointless that Fiona spent most of the time with the asset. I understand that there was a story reason for it — Michael and Madeline’s issues — but that decision highlighted the fact that it wasn’t really needed in the episode to begin with.

Other thoughts:

  • I found it quite odd that Jesse showed up with the information about the case and the suspect, only to quickly disappear until late in the episode. It’s nice to see that he’s gone from ally to antagonist to exposition machine.
  • Michael and Fiona moving in together is probably a bigger deal than I’m making it out to be. It’s not that I don’t care about the two of them together, but…, okay, yeah, I don’t care. I like them, but the series’ doesn’t need to make their relationship a dominant element anymore. I don’t think they will, but I guess yay!
  • Apparently Michael’s dad had a southern accent. Southern accent + spousal abuse means we should probably assume we drank High Life and wore dirty wife-beaters, right?
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