“A Dark Road”
January 21st, 2010
Did you remember what happened last year on Burn Notice? Because I didn’t. Luckily, the show offered a nice bit of catchup to remind us about the end of the Strickler arc, and even more importantly the show jumps onto its next story point with vigor so that what happened before is a nice bit of shading as opposed to something we have to remember.
“A Dark Road” is a really compelling hour of television in a lot of ways, but it’s also a lot of fun: the show is at its best when we’re just sort of hanging out in this universe, and I thought that this was a really enjoyable re-entry into that world with both a strong episodic story and some nice hints at the newest initially unseen antagonist to enter Michael Westen’s life, plus the best material that Sharon Gless has been given all season.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about the episode as a whole: the story with the insurance scammers made for some fun car chases and some neat technology bits, the introduction of the new antagonist was nicely handled in terms of seeming mysterious and connected to Michael’s history, and the underlying tension surrounding Fi and Michael was well integrated and didn’t dominate the episode either in conflict (Fiona selling Michael as her employee) or in resolution (their moment sautering the bug). I had a lot of fun with this particular story, and I think the setup for the future seems more intriguing than the Strickler story last half-season, so I’m glad to have the show back on my television.
Two years ago, Sharon Gless made the shortlist for the Emmys’ Top 10 for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and my eyebrows raised. I like Gless, and the role of Madeline is fun, but the idea that she beat out any number of far meatier roles felt wrong to me, and was the worst kind of awards show mistake that is driven entirely by genuine appreciation of the performer by the people voting. It’s the worst kind because it has nothing to do with the performance itself, and while Gless didn’t have a tape to actually earn her a nomination it still rankled me that she had that spot over someone who might have had the material to grab a nomination (like, say, Elizabeth Mitchell).
But in tonight’s episode, sure to garner some awards attention for both Gless and her Cagney and Lacey co-star Tyne Daly (although Daly didn’t have much to do, she’s much beloved by the Emmy folk), Madeline finally came into her own as a character, and while she and Michael have had some serious conversations in the past the final scene here was just absolutely fantastic. Madeline was put into a tough position by Michael, and how she dealt with it showed that she understands the game Michael plays too well for her to sit idly by. She attacks him based on why he does it, believing it to be for the money as there is nothing else she could think of that would make him do that to himself, or to her. Of course, as we know, it’s not about the money, and Michael just has to do this in a way that very few could understand. And Gless completely sold me on Madeline’s anger, just as she sold her harmless fun with Tina and her incredulousness that Michael would in any way be angry with her for spending time with someone she could relate with.
I don’t know if the show can always do stories like this, but it was the first time Madeline really came into her own as a character, and I applaud Gless and the writers for crafting a really engaging arc for her that really elevated the episode.
- I really liked the idea that Michael’s reckless behaviour (like his rather great torching at the bikers’ spot) would create a volatile response from the son, as it felt very true to life (of course the son with daddy issues would have issues with Michael getting closer to his father’s ear than he’s ever been) and was unpredictable enough that it kept Michael on his toes.
- Some nice humour moments here, but a lot of the episode managed to be fun without being hilarious, which is something the show more often than not pulls off quite well.