Tag Archives: Last Man Standing

Burn Notice 5:6 "Enemy of my enemy"

This show is becoming worse. This episode contains several mistakes, which are now indicative of every episode.

The first scene is completely unnecessary. The four principle characters, Jesse (Coby Bell: Halo: Reach) is no longer a major player, are watching the surveillance tape of the Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan: Hitch) look alike. We, the audience, have already seen this tape and nothing new is gained from this scene except at the very end. That lesson is not even important to the scene, for we already know Michael is in a dillemma: he is supposed to disclose the tape’s contents to Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile: Community) of the CIA, but the tape is there to frame him. What to do? This lesson could have easily been done in another scene, leaving more room for more action or more jokes or even more advertising. Anything besides redundancy.

The second problem with the show appears in the third scene. Westen is established as a nice guy who cares about normal folk, civilians. The episode plot, opposed to the continuing arc, centers around some Serbians who have purchased a Predator drone — egads! the horror of someone else having our killing technology. This intel comes via a confidential informant. The sale happens and CIA brass is impatient so they want to take immediate actions, but those actions will expose the asset and get him killed. Pearce tells this to Westen and Westen in an uncharacterisitic manner asks, “do you care about this asset?” That’s not at all consistent with the Westen of the previous 4 seasons and 5 episodes. It’s more Bourne before amnesia than it is Bourne. This is the second rule of good writing violated by this episode: internal consistinency.

I could also spend time delving into the silliness of Agent Pearce’s disclosure of a past burned asset and how she really cared for him. She’s a person. Got it. In the future we will need to care about her, but this pathway to our hearts seems overly mechanistic and forced.

So far we have two violated rules: redundancy and internal consistency. The third rule this episode violates is the most important: do not explain in dialogue what characters already know. It’s easy to follow this rule in novels because of narrators, but harder to do in televaision shows. Although Burn Notice is odd because of its sometimes present narrator. The plan goes awry and Sam (Bruce Campbell: The Evil Dead) is put into further danger. Michael and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar: Scent of a Woman) discuss how the plan went wrong and what could happen, but they both already know it. When this happens in reality one person will often silence the other, especially when as frustrated as Michael and Fiona should be. Instead it just goes on. Michael ends the scene saying, “Sam can handle it.” The episode’s producers should have cut out all the previous conversation and just said this. That would be enough for the audience to know something awful has just happened, although the audience already knew, and that the plot just became much more involved.

I will keep watching. It’s still an entertaining show with the occasional joke that makes me chuckle. I am also a bit of a sucker for espionage stories, and while the craft in this show isn’t great I do appreciate the commentary on the tropes of the espionage genre. This episode gave a nice shout out to the Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa: Seven Samurai) storyline. It’s a clever allusion because of Yojimbo‘s importance and kudos to them for not referencing it as A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) or even Last Man Standing (Walter Hill: 48 Hrs.). The producers do know their history, and that is worth something.

The show has already been downgraded to one of those shows I watch while also doing something in the foreground. It doesn’t deserve to be struck from my queue completely. not yet, anyways.