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'Burn Notice' review: The fire's about to go out

Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Kenny Johnson as

Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, Kenny Johnson as Tyler Gray, Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe, Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne "Burn Notice." Credit: USA Network

THE SHOW "Burn Notice"

WHEN | WHERE The seventh and final season begins Thursday at 9 p.m. on USA

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) -- the ex-spy with a "burn notice," meaning his entire past and identity were wiped out after he was canned by the CIA -- is faced with a deal he probably can't refuse. The love of his life (now estranged), Fiona "Fee" Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar); his closest pals, Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), and even his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) -- have been jailed. To get them out, he must do one big thing. It involves going to the Dominican Republic and infiltrating the inner circle of a terrorist (Adrian Pasdar). Will Mike, or won't Mike? What do you think?

MY SAY "Burn Notice" may well be the most unknown hit on television -- a reason the "SNL" skit "What Is 'Burn Notice'?" was not uninspired. It's sailed happily and comfortably beneath the radar of critical attention for six seasons. It has attracted lots of excellent actors in supporting roles over the years (most recently Jere Burns and John C. McGinley). It boasts a beloved cult actor (Campbell) and a TV classic (Gless). And special effects? Oh, man, they really know how to blow things up here.

So why the persistent "What Is Burn Notice?" questions? Forget 'em. The big question is: Why has it been canceled with many millions of "Burnheads" (more than 4 million last year) still out there? Because "Burn Notice" is done. The narrative arc of the show essentially wrapped more than a year ago, when Westen finally found the man who "burned" him. He still needs to win back a measure of respect from the CIA -- and good luck with that, Mike -- but especially needs to win back Fee.

That's the final lap here: The conclusion of a romantic cliffhanger. "Notice" began to shed a playful tone of quirky nonchalance years ago, but there's nothing like unrequited love to kill it off altogether.

BOTTOM LINE As such, the first couple of episodes are on the tedious side. Bad guys still die, things still get blown up. But love is in the air, and after all the mayhem of the first six seasons, perhaps the only other question left is: Who cares?


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