Burn Notice, “Neighborhood Watch”

I will say this about Burn Notice‘s start to season four: It totally makes me realize how scattershot and sometimes below mediocre season three was. I’m not sure if this opening string of efforts is better than the height of season two, but it’s been a much more satisfying and entertaining ride this summer.

One of the interesting things about “Neighborhood Watch” was how the ongoing thread of contract killer Kendra (Navi Rawat) kept popping out throughout. Fans of the series and USA products in general are that long-term arcs pop up at the beginning two minutes and the ending two minutes of every episode just as a reminder of “Hey, this is happening too!” However, this week, Michael’s cat and mouse game with Kendra took up a good 10 minutes or more of the episode, which made the story more interesting than it would have been stretched across two episodes. I’d like to see Burn Notice try this structure more often in the future.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the story with Kendra is a home run. I think the series has lost its grasp on the overarching plot that had so much promise back in the first two episodes when Bunny Colvin from The Wire was around talking about a “bad man.” Now, we’ve moved through a batch of files, a body, etc. and now stuck with this contract killer. On an individual episode level, the events have unspooled nicely and in an entertaining way. But when you step back and think back how the pieces fall together, it’s all very, very vague at this point. I understand that’s the kind of protocol the series likes to work with and it is possible that this is a season-long arc instead of just a half-season arc, but I need more Bunny Colvin. I need more references to Management.

But any episode and plot beat that ends with Michael fighting off a killer woman with a steel-enforced briefcase, knocking her out, tying her up and preparing for a little torturing/questioning, I’m in. I also like how much odd fun Michael and Fi are having bantering over whether or not Michael is attracted to Kendra. It’s always nice to be reminded that they’re somewhat of a couple. Man, these USA series cannot commit to anything, can they?

The case this week was also enjoyable. Sometimes the series gets bogged down in being too smart and having Michael always be one step ahead of both his client and the villain, but this week, he and the team were totally out of options and just turned to blowing stuff up and shooting at people. I like that. I know that Michael is smart, slick and always ready for anything. But it’s also awesome to see him organize some sniping from afar and a sweet character for his client.

I haven’t seen any season two episode since I picked up with the series early last summer, but I’d be willing to say that the first five of season four are nearly on the same level and have the potential of adding up to something as good on a whole season scape.

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