Burn Notice Boss Matt Nix Talks About Last Week’s Explosive Episode & More

If you saw last Friday’s explosive episode of Burn Notice, you are probably still coming to terms with (possible spoilers) the death of Nate (Seth Peterson). If you need some closure, TV Equals has gotten some answers from the show’s creator, Matt Nix during a recent conference call.

The reason for Nate’s death

Nate’s death came about as a way to shake up the storyline for this season, said Nix.
“We’re in our sixth season and I just really wanted to shake up the show and do some really new stuff. So part of that was really putting the people who burned Michael to bed. Anson is the last of them and he is gone. So then the question becomes what is something that keeps.a propulsive sense to Michael, something that’s personal to him, so when thinking about what to do with this season, [Nate’s death] was part of it,” he said.

“Just this idea that over the course of these five ½ seasons, Michael has really grown closer to his family, he developed friends, all of the things that he didn’t have at the beginning of the series he now has,” he said. “That means good things for him as a human being in some ways but it also means that there’s a lot more that can be taken away. So in taking that away, it sort of launches him with a new.personal mission that can beat through all sorts of complications going forward.”

Nate’s death also affects the production of the show itself, according to Nix. “We had sort of fallen into a bit of a pattern of.the big things happen in Episode One and the half-season finale and then at the second half of the season premiere and then at the second half of the season,” he said. “So, just doing something in the middle of the season, in the middle of by far the most serialized season of the finale, was also a priority. Just shaking up.Michael [as a character], the show, all of it.”

Michael’s relationship with Madeline

Nate’s death affects all of the characters, especially Nate’s brother (and main character) Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and their mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless). Nix said that everyone on Burn Notice, from the writers to the actors, wanted to do something with a lot of emotional weight.

“We all.wanted to something that had emotional consequences that continued. “When we have to do very self-contained episodes, [characters] sort of have to forgive each other very quickly and be done with stuff…in relatively short order,” said Nix. “We’ve had some of that, like Michael and Fiona’s relationship and things like that, but this has far greater impact than anything we’ve ever done from an emotional perspective.”

Nix also spoke about the long conversations he had with Gless about Madeline’s feelings toward Michael in light of his brother’s death.

“[Madeline is] in this very difficult position of kind-of blaming Michael for putting his brother in harm’s way but also realizing that her remaining son is still in danger and in a difficult situation and his situation only gets more difficult over the course of the season. So to what extent can she forgive? To what extent was she responsible? All of those questions come up in the course of the season, and not just in one episode.”

More serialized episodes

Another new factor of this season is more of a serialized storytelling instead of the classic case-of-the-week storytelling that was prominent in other seasons of Burn Notice. Not only are the serialized episodes the most popular with audiences, according to Nix, serialized storytelling also gives the Burn Notice crew something new to work with.

“We have not really had a traditional client all season,” said Nix. “I think we were sort of sick of [the case-of-the-week storytelling]. We wanted to do something new. So this season is really about focusing on the team and making sure that everything they’re doing is really focused on the characters, focused on what it means to them, and it fits well with this serialized form of storytelling.

Advice on character killing

When it comes to writing Burn Notice, particularly when it comes killing characters, some advice Nix takes to heart is the advice of his wife.

“When I started on the show six seasons ago.[my wife] made the point about the Sopranos that part of what made it compelling to watch was this sense that things could happen on this show that really mattered to you. And that things could actually change and as part of that conversation, she basically said, `If you kill a character off and then say, `We didn’t mean it, he’s really dead, you don’t get to sleep in the same bed anymore.'”

Nix joked that he stayed firm on characters staying dead to “preserve [his] marriage,” but, on a more serious note, Nix’s wife’s advice kept him reminded of the serious nature of the show. “If we’re going to take it seriously, then we have to do things with real consequences,” he said.

Catch new episodes of Burn Notice Thursdays at 9/8c on the USA Network.