What you’ve been watching unspool on USA Network’s Burn Notice in recent weeks is pretty much on par with what series creator Matt Nix had in mind when he first pondered how the spy drama would one day conclude.
“What Michael (played by Jeffrey Donovan) has been going through this season, in dealing with James Kendrick (John Pyper-Ferguson) and his organization, was in my mind from maybe not the pilot but that first year,” Nix shared with TVLine during a conference call. “I had a sense that we needed to land in a place that wasn’t just about Michael fighting another bad guy but was really about Michael wrestling with the demons in himself and tempted in a way to become the very thing that destroyed him in the beginning of the series.”
Perhaps the only deviation from Nix’s very early notions about the series finale and what viewers will see happen over the final two episodes (airing Sept. 5 and 12, at 9/8c) is the impact of friends and family. “Over the course of seven years you discover new things,” Nix admits, “and the emphasis on the team and the way that family came together … was a much bigger element than I anticipated at the beginning.”
And yet, there shall be a death in this family before all is said and done.
Next Thursday, as Burn Notice fires up its final hour, Michael will need to face the last of his demons — and to do so, sacrifices will need to be made and lives risked. It all leads to “an explosive conclusion that one beloved character will not survive,” USA Network has revealed.
There’s probably no pat, “When you’re a spy…” tip to bust out that will make this blow easy for longtime fans. And yet, it’s true to the series’ DNA.
As series lead Donovan explains, “Burn Notice created a family for the audiences to watch, and though we’ve been humorous throughout the years, there’s always been an underbelly of seriousness and tragedy — and I don’t think we could end the series with a bow tie and smiles on everyone’s faces. There has to be some sort of tragedy to show how important their journey was over the years.”
For Nix, the mission was to answer the questions: “’Why have the last seven years mattered? Are those things that we’ve addressed over the years real?’ I think the answer to that has to be yes.” And since burned CIA agent Michael Westen has forever juggled his “work” with “family” (oftentimes with harrowing results), “The final two episodes are about choices and sacrifices and not just about being sad or killing off the character,” Nix says. “It’s also about taking seriously the things that we’ve talked about.”
But before Burn Notice can even tee up that shocking swan song, Michael must first escape from the dire dilemma he put himself in when last we tuned in. Having tipped off his CIA cohorts to James’ top-secret plans — yet ultimately for naught — Michael put Sonya (Alona Tal) in her boss’ literal crosshairs. And James was rarin’ to pull the trigger, until Michael ‘fessed up that the mole was him.
Will another classic bit of fast-talking by Michael somehow save his hide? “I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying Michael does not die at the end of Episode 11,” Nix answers. “But it’s not simply a matter of weaving another little web of lies.”
Instead, the super-spy’s salvation — in whatever form that now may come — will demand “a very different turn for Michael,” Nix teases. “I think it will surprise some fans, but it’s ultimately all about addressing these things that have emerged over the years and these elements of Michael’s character.”