The countdown has begun on the seventh, and final, season of USA Network's "Burn Notice," and as fans will see in this week's episode — the series' 100th — things are going to get a lot worse for spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, who also directed the installment) before they get better.
Series creator Matt Nix talked to Yahoo! TV about the 100th episode, the road to the finale, the future of Miami now that his show and "Dexter" are ending, and which two characters might make a fine "Burn Notice" spinoff.
The 100th episode, with the flashbacks to when Michael and Fiona met … we don't think we've ever been so heartbroken at the end of a "Burn Notice" episode.
Good. Good. (Laughs) We wanted to break your heart.
But please tell us it gets a little better for Michael.
Well … uh, yes, it does. It gets better and worse, kind of at the same time.
When we first met Michael, he didn't want to be in Miami. He was a loner, very much by choice, didn't want any permanent connections with his family, with his friends. Now, he's isolated from them, and he realizes how much he wants to be with them. Is that ultimately the story of "Burn Notice," this transformation of Michael?
I think that this season, and the 100th episode specifically, really crystallizes this. Jeffrey did an amazing job of directing it and acting in it and bringing this theme to the fore. Basically, one of the questions we were asking ourselves going into this episode was, "What has Michael been doing for the last six years, and what does that mean for who he was before?" What he's been doing for the last six years is forging bonds with people. He's been helping real people in real situations. He's made a family for himself. He has all of these relationships. And so, with the [season premiere], the idea was, now he's going back to try to be who he was [when the series began]. Can he be who he was? What does that mean? When he comes back [to Miami], he sees his friends moving on, he sees Fiona moving on … I think the 100th episode is really about Michael realizing how much he's changed, and how much it hurts to have gained a family and lost it. We talked about the story of "Burn Notice" sort of being the story of Michael learning to be a human being. That's like the "Afterschool Special" version of it. (Laughs) But he's a guy who came into the show very isolated and very much about doing a certain kind of job. And then establishing the human connections, he forges these bonds. He's always explored the way that those human connections are in conflict with his life as a spy.
Watch the Season 7 premiere episode:
In this season, that conflict is coming to a head. That's what this season is about. I think it really starts with this 100th episode, where those two sides of Michael clash like they've never clashed before. You see just what a toll that takes on the character.
You're a little more than halfway through production on the final 13 episodes … what's the feeling on set, with the cast and the writers and the crew, with the end so near?
It's a little odd in the sense that you're running right through to the end, and indeed, like the end of every season, it's always a mad scramble. I'd also say, this year, one of the things that we've been conscious of, extra conscious of, [is] that we're coming to the point where writers who are writing episodes, who have been on the show since the first year, are writing their last episode of the series. So we're taking a little bit more time with stuff. There's really big stuff happening in every episode.
As we're going forward now, things are taking a little bit more time, yet I know we're coming up on the end. I go through these weird moments of sadness that I don't have any time at all to indulge. (Laughs) At the time same, I'm really grateful that we have the chance to bring the series to a satisfactory end, and it's a whole new way of thinking. To actually be able to think, "OK, so what do we want to pay off from these seven years? What do we want to bring to a close? How do we want to do this?" That's very satisfying. It's sad, but it's fun, too.
Have you always had some idea of where you wanted Michael to end up, or where you wanted the series in general to end up?
It's a little bit the same with episodes, or seasons … you have a sense of where you want to go, so when somebody asks me, "Oh, did you always know how it'd end?" the answer is, "Absolutely yes and absolutely no." Are things sort of coming back around, and are we doing more or less what I imagined from the beginning? In many ways, yes. At the same time, the specifics are all new, obviously, and there are a lot of discoveries along the way.
I had a kernel of an idea of how the series would end, and that kernel hasn't changed much. But there is a long distance between the kernel of an idea and the actual expression of that idea. That's what we're moving through now.
NEXT: Are there plans for a "Burning Notice" spinoff?
Have there been any major storylines or something with one of the major characters that has been a surprise to you along the way, in how they started to develop, or the reaction to them?
I think Madeline is a character who started off the series not knowing what Michael did. Over the years, we realized, OK, well, she's now done more and more, she knows more and more about what Michael does and what's going on in his life. At this point, we can't play clueless Madeline anymore. I think she's evolved into a much richer and deeper character, who is, in many ways, Michael's conscience, and his connection to humanity writ large.
And I think all the characters' relationships to each other have deepened. Actually, one thing that you really see has changed, in a fun way, is the relationship between Jesse and Sam. Jesse came on in a certain way, and he's evolved as a character, and now, everybody loves writing scenes for Jesse and Sam to do together. You see that in the [season] premiere.
It's not like they're always together, but they're really funny together. They play off each other really well, they have a similar moral perspective, so that's another one that's evolved.
"Burn Notice" is ending this summer, "Dexter" and "Breaking Bad" are ending this year, too, and there's been talk of spinoff series with those finales approaching. Is that something you've thought about? You mentioned the fun relationship, the buddy chemistry with Jesse and Sam … is there any possibility for a spinoff?
I'd love to do that. My main worry is that with both "Dexter" and "Burn Notice" ending, there's going to be a horrific crime spree in Miami. [Laughs.] No, I would love to do something else with these characters. It's up to the USA Network, but yeah. If the opportunity ever arose, I would love to do that.
"Burn Notice" airs on USA Thursdays at 9 p.m.
The "Burn Notice: Season Six" DVD boxed set, with an episode commentary, deleted scenes, and a gag reel, is now available from Fox Home Entertainment.
Other noteworthy new TV DVD releases:
"House of Cards: The Complete First Season" Blu-ray (Sony)
Those without a Netflix hookup can now watch the entire 13-episode first season of Netflix's awards-worthy first original drama, starring Oscar winner Kevin Spacey as ruthlessly ambitious congressman Francis Underwood. The set is also available on DVD, though the Blu-ray version includes Ultraviolet digital copies of every episode.
"The Newsroom: The Complete First Season" Blu-ray (HBO)
Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston, Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, and Dev Patel star in this Aaron Sorkin-created drama about a cable news show. Jane Fonda, as CEO of the company that owns cable network ACN, won a Critics' Choice Television Award for her role on the show this week, and the series' second season premieres on July 14. Catch up before then with this Blu-ray set, which includes digital copies of the episodes, cast and crew interviews, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a featurette on the show's sets.
"Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Third Season" (Warner Home Video)
The titular BFFs are back on TNT for their fourth season on June 25. This collection of the show's 15 Season 3 episodes includes bonus featurettes on the Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and Isles (Sasha Alexander) friendship, Rizzoli's family, and the show's supporting cast members.
"Killing Lincoln" Blu-ray (Fox Home Entertainment)
Tom Hanks narrates, and Billy Campbell stars as Abraham Lincoln in this National Geographic Channel retelling of the president's assassination, based on the bestselling book written by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. The Blu-ray collection also includes a digital copy of the docudrama, as well as audio commentary, featurettes on the cast and production, and an interview with O'Reilly.
"Perry Mason: The Ninth and Final Season, Vol. 1" (Paramount)
Perry Mason fans, your collection is almost complete! This penultimate DVD release of the Raymond Burr series includes the first 15 episodes of the final season, including alliteratively titled installments like "The Case of the Cheating Chancellor," "The Case of the Fatal Fortune," "The Case of the Bogus Buccaneers," and "The Case of the Fugitive Fraulein."
"Wedding Band: The Complete First Season" (Fox)
Aka the complete series, as TBS canceled the comedy starring Brian Austin Green and Harold Perrineau as wedding band cohorts after one season.
"Wagon Train: The Eighth and Final Season" (Timeless Media)
Guest stars in the final season of the 1957-65 NBC/ABC western series include a 23-year-old Ryan O'Neal, Leslie Nielsen, Linda Evans, and Ernest Borgnine.
"The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Third Season" Blu-ray (Image Entertainment)
The show's classic third season (1963-64) was its highest-rated one, and all 32 episodes are included, along with audio commentaries by Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner, interviews with directors and cast (including Mary Tyler Moore), rehearsal footage, MTM's appearance on Van Dyke's 1975 variety show, and a TV Academy tribute to Reiner, led by George Clooney.