Burn Notice: The Spinoff

I’d completely forgotten that there even was a prequel movie for Burn Notice on the docket, much less that it was anywhere close to being completed, until it showed up on my TV listings last night. The premise was that it showed how Michael’s sidekick Sam (otherwise known as Bruce Campbell playing himself) got from badass Navy Seal his backstory suggested to the Hawaiian-shirted retiree wooing cougars and drinking away his pension we got in the pilot.

It wasn’t too bad, all told. Unsurprisingly, it turns out Sam became persona non grata with the U.S. government after disobeying orders in the field. For a good cause, naturally, but nevertheless. Like most of Burn Notice, I had the whole thing pegged from the beginning, but it was still fun to watch the show go through the motions anyway.

I was happy to see that the movie was more or less self-contained. A major risk when you dream up one of these spinoff projects is an overreliance on the mythology of the main series, but this one stands on its own pretty well. Michael only makes a brief appearance at the beginning (stating the obvious, as usual), and there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to Fiona, but that’s about it. The film even ditches the narrator conventions of its parent show — the show is narrated by Michael, who always remains detached and distant from whatever he’s talking about (and the circumstances of his narration have yet to be elaborated upon), but the movie is narrated by Sam, who speaks a bit more personally (and uses the narration as the framing device for the movie). It’s a small variation and doesn’t affect much in the grand scheme of things, but as a longtime fan of the show it’s an interesting little change.

Along those lines is a more openly military tone. Michael’s a spy, and his series is about espionage — avoiding fights rather than winning them and remaining on speaking terms with your enemies. Sam, though, is a soldier, and his story’s about war — how they’re fought and how they’re won. A guerrilla war, of course, and one with probably fewer than a hundred combatants total, but a war nonetheless.

Really, the movie makes more nods to Bruce Campbell than it does to Burn Notice. The small resistance group calls Sam “the Chin”, he says “Groovy” at one point, and he throws a chainsaw at a guy. All we need is a Spider-Man reference and we’re home free!

So yeah, I’d say it’s worth watching. It’s not a paragon of originality or anything, but who would watch anything Burn Notice-derived for that? At the very least, it’s a good holdover until the real show starts back up again in June. I can’t wait to see what plot contrivance keeps Michael in Miami this season!

Maybe I’m just tickled because my pet theory as to how Sam came up with his alias was finally made canon. (Namely, that he named himself after longtime Angels pitcher Chuck Finley. Never mind that the timeline doesn’t quite match up — the movie supposedly takes place in 2005, and Finley had been long retired and out of the news by then, certainly not pressing enough to be on the cover of a Sports Illustrated analogue. Oooh, plot hole! Let me go to TV Tropes and deface the pages bitching about it.)


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