The Burn Notice season 5 premiere removes almost all familiarity that fans of the series expect, and unfortunately takes with it the core reason for why the series exists in the first place: to find out why Michael was burned.

With a set of unfamiliar characters (Grant Show) and awkward scenery, the season 5 premiere of Burn Notice opens in a manner much different to what was expected from those who fought their way through the season 4 finale.

As the introductory scene continues, not only are we presented with Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) in a new environment, but we’re also shown why the series has worked so well with its familiar series format and Miami-locale.

While seeing Michael Westen in new environment was an interesting prospect, the lack of familiarity serves to provide an awkward setting for the fifth season of USA’s hit series to begin. To add insult to this proverbial injury, the given plotline of Michael on the hunt to capture the last remaining member of those who burned him was presented in such a way that the actual importance of this storyline was all but lost.

Besides proving that Michael’s rag-tag team of Sam and Fiona can pull of an operation better than anything the government may officially sanction, the majority of the premiere feels like we’re watching The Sam Axe Movie 2 – and not in a good way. Even though Sam and Fiona are able to become a part of the CIA’s “off-the-books” style of missionary endeavors, the overall feel of the series is noticeably different.

Whether it’s the chaotic handheld camerawork, the awkward storytelling, or the fact that the production designers did that good of a job at playing the Miami filming locations as another country, the notion of “what has this series become” will certainly resonate for those who tune in. Following the monumental revelation in the season 4 finale that Michael has all but returned to his former occupation, the progressive attitude in storytelling that Burn Notice chose to take in its fifth season premiere does nothing but disconnect the fans with what they original loved in this series – something that one can only hope will soon be corrected.

As Michel, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) walk their way through this technically important mission (from the standpoint of the series’ mythos), the action scenes seem similar, the supplemental episodic characters feel familiar… yet there’s something missing. Alas, after three viewings, I am still unable to confidently specify what that may be – but it’s not good.

With a simple gunshot to the head, the all but quick importance that the character of Kessler was given is gone – and so is the entire plotline that this series was created around. Like White Collar, Burn Notice has swiftly thrown aside the core reason that it was based on. For four seasons, fans watched as Michael took the lengthy trail of escalating bad guys and unknown “powers that be” to find out who burned him – and why. Unfortunately, as the premiere presents itself, Kessler was the last remaining character behind it all. Without even the slightest bit of cliffhanger, the episode ends on this fact: we will never know why Michael Westen was burned.

While it’s likely that this is not the end of Michael’s “burned” story-arc, the information presented does nothing to combat the theory that it might very well be. If the aforementioned White Collar can quickly toss away Neil’s entire motivation for “doing what he’s doing,” why can’t Burn Notice? More importantly, why would Burn Notice do that in this manner?

Even if a complete redux of the series’ core motivation is what the producers had in mind, why would it occur in such a lack-luster fashion. If one even acknowledges that this isn’t as “over” as is appears, the motivation to present such a definitive conclusion to something that’s most likely not is nothing but poor storytelling and a disregard for those watching.

As this season of Burn Notice is just beginning, it’s hard to completely dismiss the series as a whole. For all of the faults that are present in the season 5 premiere, one cannot help but think of the wonderfully engaging storytelling that preceded it. For fans of the series, a return to form has certainly become the overall hope and expectation as this season progresses. I suppose only time will tell whether or not this will be the case.

…it would be a pity if it didn’t.

Burn Notice airs Thursdays @9pm, on USA

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