Burn Notice Season 7 Review “Psychological Warfare”

Burn Notice Season 7 Episode 7 Psychological Warfare (5)

I am almost at a total loss of what to say about tonight’s Burn Notice. It has to be one of the most intense hours of tv this show has ever done, and they did it well. There weren’t any shootouts. There weren’t any innocents to be saved. There was just Michael going through torture of the worst sort. This wasn’t psychological warfare so much as it was a psychological beat down. I could probably do with a rewatch of this episode before writing this review, but since I can’t do that, I’m going to give this my best shot.

There are very few things more terrifying than slowly losing your mind. Feeling your grip on reality gradually slipping away from you while you’re powerless to stop it creates such a sense of helpless desperation. That’s pretty much where Michael was tonight. Sonya finally took him to meet the big boss James (I’ll get to him in a minute) and boy did that guy do a number on Michael. After James subjected Michael to several days of sleep deprivation and noise torture, he injected some sort of hallucinogenic/truth serum hybrid drug into Michael. That’s when the real torture began. Michael began seeing dead people. He saw himself in different places from past missions. He was talking to people who weren’t there. Basically, Michael was on one heck of a trip.

We’ve seen Michael go through a lot on this show, but nothing like this. Michael was forced to confront the one thing he’s been avoiding his whole life: himself. James wanted to dig deep into Michael’s past so he could figure out what makes Michael Westen tick. I was surprised to find that we had to go all the way back to Larry Sizemore to find that out. I was never a Larry fan. He was unnecessarily brutal and crazy to boot. I can’t say that I was sorry when he met his demise. However, it was interesting to find just how profound an effect Larry had on Michael. Michael admitted that working with Larry scared him because he saw himself turning into Larry. Under the drug’s effects, Michael admitted that on his last mission with Larry he killed a bunch of innocent people and he didn’t care. That terrified him and that’s the reason he keeps the body count so low on his missions. He allowed himself to lose control one time and a lot of innocent people died. He said he could still hear their screams all these years later. That’s something I don’t think Michael has ever admitted to anyone before. That’s something I don’t think he’s even admitted to himself before.

After confronting what he became while working with Larry, Michael had to confront something even more personal. He had to confront his father. It’s been pretty clear throughout the series that Michael’s father was a drunk and a bully. He beat Maddie. He beat the kids. He just wasn’t a good guy. Michael has spent a lifetime angry at him for failing in his responsibilities as a father, and many of the choices Michael has made were because of the kind of man his father was. But as it turns out, the brutality that Michael had to endure as a child and the way in which he learned to cope with it were the only things that saved his life. It was because of his abusive, drunk of a father that Michael was able to pass James’s final test.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much Fiona helped Michael get through this ordeal. Or at least, Michael’s memory of her. In the early days of the torture, Michael wasn’t sure he could take it. He wasn’t sure he could endure. While he was in a drug-induced haze, Fiona appeared to him to give him strength. Although he wasn’t talking to the real Fiona, what he said was still true. He needs her. He can’t go on without her. I don’t know that he’ll ever say it like that to the real her, but the fact remains that he does need her. I think perhaps she realized just how much when he saw her and couldn’t stop crying. It seems this ordeal may have put a slight crack in Fiona’s resolve.

This was without a doubt Jeffrey Donovan’s episode. He has given some fantastic performances on this show, but nothing like this. He grabbed us at the beginning of this journey and held on tight until the end. He was alternatively the strong, silent Michael that we’ve come to know and love; and a weak, scared, broken Michael that we have never seen before. Kudos to Mr. Donovan for a truly outstanding job in tonight’s episode.

I don’t know what to say about this James character. He is like the psychiatrist from Hell. On the one hand, Michael needed to confront the demons that he’s kept buried all these years. I don’t know that there’s any way that Michael will ever truly forgive himself for some of the stuff he’s done, but he at least needed to acknowledged that it happened. James helped him do that. But on the other hand, I don’t think James is to be trusted at all. When you spend so much time breaking someone down so that you can reshape them into what you want them to be, that can’t be a good thing. I look at how willing Burke was to die for this, and if he had to go through what Michael went through, I can see why he gave up his life so willingly for Sonya. The problem for Michael now is that James has gotten into his head. I don’t know whether Michael realizes how screwed he is yet, but this James fellow knows what he’s doing. That makes him extremely dangerous. Add to that the fact that he apparently is paranoid enough to demolish the place where he took Michael, has access to all of Michael’s CIA files, and has a small army of believers at his command. I have a bad feeling about this. But what exactly is James’s endgame? Why is he recruiting all these people? Is he truly the head of the organization or is he just a front man? So many questions!

This was an absolutely outstanding episode. With the exception of the Winchester brothers on Supernatural, I have never wanted to reach into the tv and hug a character as much as I wanted to hug Michael tonight. He broke in those sessions with James. It’ll be up to the Team to help him piece himself back together. I hope Michael will remember that he’s already got a family and, no matter what James says, those people James has recruited are not his family. Michael should especially keep an eye on Sonya. That chick is not to be trusted. When we come back next week, we get a chance to see just what kind of lasting effects these mind tricks will have on Michael. So what did y’all think of this week’s Burn Notice?

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