Burn Notice and it Utopic Sentiment

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Burn Notice on the USA Network is an engrossing action/drama series that appeals to a large portion of the average discerning viewer. It may be one of the most cinematically skilled long-running TV shows of the modern period. It accurately captures real-life situations by giving them just the right amount of intensity and realism. The show is all the more fascinating because of the characters' almost exact representation and the show's well-balanced flit between reality and fiction. (Gabrielli et al. 34). The characters' level of skill or luck as they go about their everyday lives is unreal and otherworldly, and viewers enjoy this. Thus the show is a proficiently representation of a utopic society in a real life setting.

The show shall be utilized to discuss the various aspects of utopia. Using evidences from the show, this article shall attempt to confer a deeper understanding of the show’s departure from reality. It shall discuss certain scenes that appear to support this narrative. The paper shall considerably prey the lead actor’s apparent infallibility to develop its discourse. Among the most common themes it shall explore is that of a utopic all-enduring love between the lead characters, Michael and Fiona, Mike’s seeming vast pool of knowledge of contemporary crime culture, and Michael’s propensity to always get out of trouble as well as the picture-perfect, predictable society the characters live in.


Burn Notice explores the experiences of the main character, Michael Westen, as he attempts to survive after being disposed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Michael, a spy, finds himself at odds with the institution he served for many years when realizes he had been “burnt.’ Ideally, a burn notice is issued buy intelligence agencies to announce the dismissal or decommissioning of agents or sources deemed unreliable of problematic to the advancement of the institution’s cause. Their access to privileged agency facilities and resources is revoked regardless of their physical location, state of health, or any other critical factors. In effect, they are left without cash or influence as they have no work history, identity, support network or background whatsoever. Burn Notice exploits this narrative to develop one of the most cinematically engaging shows of all time. It utilizes a second person narrative to offer context and exhibits a sustained use of voice-overs to create viewer spillover effect. The narration also serves to offer exposition on Westen’s perspective of covert operations.

Michael Westen is heralded into a world of official oblivion after he realizes that he has been burnt by the agency. He is under constant surveillance and has limited access to funds as all his assets have been frozen. All his usual contact have abandoned him save for his long-time ex-girlfriend Fiona Glenanne, who tends to him. Surprised at his dishonorable exit from intelligence service, Michael sets out unmask the faces behind his unfortunate fate. He understands that he cannot leave Miami lest he be hunted down and detained. Reluctantly, he establishes himself as a private investigator to fund his exploits. He soon realizes that powerful forces were behind his ouster further strengthening his resolve to unearth their identities. In classic TV ‘good guy’ fashion, Westen battles a vast array of criminals including war criminals, arms, sex, and drug traffickers, rapists, murderers, mobsters, and foreign wet-work operatives under the nose of the authorities while famously skipping their attention. All this while, he stays focused on his primary objective on finding those who got him blacklisted.

At the same time, Michael must follow the trail that leads him to the people responsible for his being burned, and later finding out why (Master and Riedmiller 181). The television series successfully juggles two primary sentiments; Michael finding out why he was burn and who burnt him, as well as his work as a private investigator.

How Burn Notice Expresses the Utopian Sentiment

Burn Notice is dotted with a plethora of idealistic circumstances. These scenes make the prospect of being a burnt, broke, destroyed, and lonely agent quite alluring. Westen’s consistent conquest of his enemies and his vast archive of practical knowledge is a little too ideal but nonetheless, thrilling. His characteristic spewing of street wisdom is unsurpassed and adds to the whole flavor and mystery of the show. An example is when Michael narrates how to escape a hostile pursuit.

“Figuring out if a car is tailing you is mostly about driving like you're an idiot. You speed up, slow down, signal one way, turn the other. Actually, losing a tail isn't about driving fast. A high-speed pursuit is just gonna land you on the six o'clock news. So you just keep driving like an idiot until the other guy makes a mistake (Gabrielli et al 78).”

Viewers can help but adore his character. It is often that one might even imagine themselves achieving Westen’s feats. Unfortunate, it is nearly impossible to attain that level of accomplishment or be accosted by such circumstances in real life. This adds to the utopic sentiment that surrounds the show.

One of the most exemplary scenes that perpetuate the utopic conversation is the introduction of Fiona in the pilot episode. After a thorough beatdown by Nigerian mobsters and international hit men, Mike is admitted to a Miami hospital. As he recuperates, viewers are introduced to a voluptuous sexy siren, Fiona, who they learn is Mike’s ex-girlfriend. While it is typical, even pedestrian to have an exceptionally beautiful girlfriend, finding one with Fiona’s attributes is nearly utopic (Mazierska and Kristensen 39). Fiona is depicted as aware of her beauty yet with the propensity to love whole heatedly. She loves pain and the idea of inflicting it. She is infatuated by the prospect of making ‘bad guy’ suffer. Also, shows an extraordinary apprehension for lethal weapons. It is very unlikely to find a lady who espouses all these characteristics and is more less interest in you. In classic utopian style, she elects to join her ex-boyfriend in his dangerous missions and serves as his very capable comrade.

Another idealistic scene occurs in the seventh episode of the first season. Michael poses as a leader of a crime mob syndicate threatened by the encroachment of his territory by a rival gang (Wayne 143). Realizing his limited ability to combat the enemy’s well-oiled fighting machinery, Westen resorts to trickery. He confronts members of the gang in a back alley and traps them in their car. Michael then bores holes through the car’s roof and soaks the gangsters in paint thinner. He then threatens to burn them to the steak if they fail to yield to his demand of leaving the town. They cowardly oblige. Again, realizing such levels of success against a way more powerful adversary with a vast array of resources needs more than just luck, skill, and assistance from two friends. It is mystic. A viewer develops a utopic mawkishness from such observing such a perfect cocktail reality and fiction and imagines themselves in such a world.

Michael Weston is depicted as being exceptionally gifted in selling show’s utopic agenda. His advocacy of a “whatever works” attitude makes the shoe immensely appealing and a ton the more utopic. He advises “sometimes the truth hurts. In these situations, I recommend lying,” an obvious indicator of his approval of getting the problem fixed no matter the approach taken. Michael is accommodating of his huge ego and intelligent self. He makes it clear that in a sentiment when he states “if you're gonna collapse on a plane, I recommend business class. The seats are bigger if you start convulsing. Although once you pass out, it really doesn't matter”

All through its seven seasons, Westen disguises himself as several other people. He plays gangster, corporate executive, engineer, construction assistance, black market trader among many other roles. In one particular scene, Michael plays a chemist. He dons the characteristic thick nerdy glasses with pocket pen and an unnerving piercing stare. His lingua franca bears significant similarity to that of professional chemist. It is quite improbable to find a real-life human being who espouses all these professional facets.


The exploration of a utopic dimension in real life offer viewers the ability to identify with a perfect yet unreal world. It offers them the feeling of being able to grasp an idealistic dimension while still maintaining rationality in the process. Burn Notice represents much of its audience’s internal desires should they find themselves in situation. Its perfect balance of reality and fiction further sells the utopic sentiment, as a result, entertaining its target viewership.

Works Cited

Gabrielli, Joy, et al. "Industry television ratings for violence, sex, and substance use." Pediatrics (2016): e20160487.

Master, Aaron Steven, and Jeffrey Riedmiller. "Hybrid Automatic Content Recognition and Watermarking." U.S. Patent Application No. 14/606,181.

Mazierska, Ewa, and Lars Kristensen, eds. Marx at the movies: revisiting history, theory and practice. Springer, 2014.

Wayne, Michael L. "Post-network audiences and cable crime drama." Northern Lights: Film & Media Studies Yearbook 14.1 (2016): 141-157.

June 19, 2023

Learning TV

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