Burn Notice is an American television action/drama series created by Matt Nix. The show stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, and Sharon Gless. The series premiered on June 28, 2007 on the USA Network. On July 28, 2009, Burn Notice was renewed for a fourth season
The title refers to the burn notices issued by intelligence agencies to discredit or announce the dismissal of agents or sources who are considered to have become unreliable. When a spy is burned, they are wiped off the grid, without access to cash or influence. According to the narration during the opening credits, the burned spy has no prior work history, no money; in essence, no identity. The television series is a first-person narrative (including frequent voice-overs providing nuggets of exposition) from the viewpoint of covert-operations agent Michael Westen, played by Jeffrey Donovan
After fleeing a Nigerian operation blown apart by the sudden and unexplained non-cooperation of his U.S. contact, Westen finds himself in his hometown of Miami, Florida, attended to by his ex-girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne, but abandoned by all his normal intelligence contacts, under continuous surveillance with his personal assets frozen. Extraordinary efforts to reach his U.S. government handler eventually yield only a grudging admission that someone powerful wants him "on ice" in Miami; if he leaves the city he will be hunted down and taken into custody, whereas by staying there he can remain relatively free. Consumed by the desire to find out why he has been burned, and by whom, Westen goes to work as an unlicensed private investigator/spy/soldier of fortune for anyone in town who can pay him any money in order to fund his personal investigation into his own situation as a blacklisted agent. Throughout the series Westen battles and outwits an array of mobsters, con artists, contract killers, professional thieves, drug traffickers, sex traffickers, deadbeat dads, arms dealers, kidnappers and war criminals. The series makes frequent use of jury rigging, with the characters improvising devices to do the job of more expensive, harder-to-obtain items
During Season Two, Michael is introduced to Carla, an agent of the company behind his burn notice. She assigns him various tasks to complete for her organization, which are revealed to be preparation for an assassination. The operation is sabotaged by a rogue agent of Carla's organization, and Michael is assigned to find out who it was. At the end of Season Two, Westen has an encounter with "the Management" who allows him out of their grasp, but revoke their "protection", meaning his activities will be given police attention, and enemies he made as a US covert operative will be able to track him down. After a dramatic leap from a helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean, Westen finds himself arrested by Miami police who think he is an illegal immigrant after he washes up on South Beach
Season Three picks up with Westen under surveillance by Detective Paxson (played by Moon Bloodgood), who has been tasked with monitoring his activities. Michael is able to secure the arrest of a major Miami criminal Paxson has long been targeting, and threatens to reveal the true circumstances of the arrest if Paxson does not stop bothering him. Paxson agrees to the deal. Michael is then contacted by a man named Tom Strickler, who is very heavily connected and offers Michael the chance to regain his old job if he does some work for him. In the midseason finale, Michael is forced to kill Strickler in order to save Fiona's life, an action which has unforeseen consequences
- Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen: A covert operative who has been burned (identified as an unreliable or dangerous agent) who now finds himself in his hometown of Miami, unable to leave. With his assets frozen, he is forced to live off his wits and any small investigative jobs he can find while he searches for answers about who burned him and why. Highly skilled and extremely clever, he displays his abilities by quickly thinking on his feet, improvising electronic devices from commonly available commercial equipment such as radios and cellphones, and by using ordinary items ranging from duct tape or cake frosting in highly unorthodox ways in order to complete a job. He has two black belts (or as he put it in one episode "thirty years of karate") and is "rated with anything that fires a bullet or holds an edge." He believes that his unhappy childhood, largely at the hands of an abusive father, helped make him into a natural covert operative, but made relationships difficult for him. He presents himself as a cynic hardened by experience, but soon reveals a soft, and sometimes vulnerable, side. His favorite food is yogurt. Michael Westen drives a 1973 Dodge Charger Rallye Edition; the car, which had been Michael's father's, was given to him by his mother, Madeline.
- Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne: A former IRA operative and Westen's ex-girlfriend. Fiona re-enters Michael's life when he is dumped, half-dead, in Miami, and she decides to stay, quickly making herself valuable to him. Aside from serving as his explosives expert, she provides support to him on his investigations and at times, assists him in missions to find out who burned him. In the pilot episode, she speaks with an Irish accent. In the second episode, she changes to an American accent, along with a change in her style of dress, in an effort to distance herself from her past and blend in, showing her own ability to adapt. She is both a complement to Michael and his match in many ways, both intellectually and tactically. Series creator Matt Nix has said about Michael and Fiona's relationship:
|“||The thing about the relationship with Fiona is…They are two people who really don't have anybody else they can be with. Anybody else is going to be afraid of what Michael does, and it sort of turns her on, and anybody else for Michael is going to be uninteresting. He is attracted to her, but part of what we explore over the first season is they really are attracted with each other, and yet there is a reason they broke up. She is an incredibly chaotic person who just thrives on disorder…Violence is foreplay for her.||”|
- Where Michael is concerned, Fiona is not entirely willing to let go of their past relationship, which continues to simmer. Fiona drives a 2008 Saab 9-3 Convertible (acquired from a client of Michael's who left it to him when the client left the country, sold in the midseason finale to Season Three).
- Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe: An aging semi-retired intelligence operative and former Navy SEAL. With a low amount of cash-on-hand to his name, Axe spends most of his time sleeping with rich, older Miami women in exchange for food and shelter. He and Westen are old buddies; Sam is also Westen's last, tenuous contact in the official spy community. Sam presents himself as "the guy who knows a guy." He also uses the alias "Charles (or Chuck) Finley" frequently during jobs. It is revealed in the pilot that he is also an FBI informant, reporting on Westen under duress. Knowing this, Westen is able to pass false information to the FBI through Sam, who is glad to become his double agent. Sam drives a red 1960 Buick LeSabre (wrecked in the Season Three midseason finale).
- Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen: Michael's mother, a chain smoking retiree. Although attempting to keep a sense of gravitas and self-importance, she is family-oriented and fully supports both her sons in times of need. Until recently, she has had only infrequent communication with Michael, who does not relish her company. Despite this, her appeals for help are Michael's one great weakness, and she has the ability to persuade him to do as she wishes.