With continuous momentum throughout, the Burn Notice season 6 premiere proves that the series has, above all else, perfected the use of a cliffhanger to kick off a new season. Appearing as if it were the second half of the Burn Notice season 5 finale, the action-packed season starter paves the way for what may be the series’ best season yet.

Finally freeing up Anson to become Michael’s new focus, the battle of wits that fans have been hoping for can finally begin. And it does – is in a very big way. The season 6 premiere contains some of the best collective performances from the cast to date as the fast-paced chess match between Anson and Michael provides a wonderful platform for everyone to shine.

Jere Burns’ performance as the uncomfortably-calm mastermind Anson Fuller – always a pleasure to watch – plays perfectly against Jeffery Donovan’s quiet intensity as the vengeful Michael Weston.  Having been matched with many equally intense nemeses in the past, Anson’s methodical, though vicious, attacks toward Michael set him up to be as brilliantly evil as anyone could have imagined the source of Michael’s “burn notice” to be.

Not to be left out on all the fun, though certainly on her own, Fiona’s one-room extended interrogation provided some well-timed moments away from everything else that’s occurring in the episode. While it creates an intriguing storyline that’ll be interesting to see play out in subsequent episodes, the seriousness of Fiona’s situation wasn’t properly conveyed.

Stepping out in top form, a svelte Bruce Campbell takes Sam Axe to a new level. Previously proving to Michael that he’s willing to stand against him, it was nice to see Sam paired with Michael as they made their way toward Anson. Often used more as a comic relief than serious character interaction, throwing Sam in the middle of the fight hopefully hints at some more upcoming Sam Axe action.

Briefly appearing to fend off an impending attack, Madeline (Sharon Gless) and Jesse’s (Coby Bell) appearance in the premiere showed that everyone is stepping up their game this season. A perfectly placed shotgun blast through the ceiling indicates that Michael’s mother has been picking up some tricks from her son. While it’s doubtful that Madeline is going to be joining in on all the action in the rest of the season, the moments in the series when she’s put to the test are always as rewarding as Michael succeeding in his missions.

Using a somewhat extended finale premiere, Burn Notice has kicked off its sixth year in a truly exciting way. By replicating the same suspenseful cliffhangers that audiences typically have to wait months to see, the anticipation for next week’s episode feels as strong as it did following the Burn Notice season 5 finale.

While the season 6 premiere is an incredibly entertaining and perfectly paced three-act adventure, it doesn’t exactly give viewers an idea of what they can expect as the season progresses. It’ll be interesting to see how Anson’s extremely compelling story-arc will be weaved into the series’ familiar episode format.

With next week’s episode likely returning to episodic storylines and person-of-the-week appearances, hopefully the writers will continue this wonderful storyline by more seamlessly incorporating aspects of the seasonal story arc, instead of simply using it to bookend episodes.

Now that Michael is facing a (more than) equally matched nemesis, Burn Notice has a chance to deliver its best season yet. Whether it takes advantage of all the talent it has on hand remains to be seen. If the season 6 premiere is any sign of what’s to come, there’s no doubt that some wonderful storytelling awaits us.

Burn Notice season 6 airs Thursday @9pm on USA.

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