So, thinking about teams again: one character I really like is the goofy-but-loyal sidekick who comes through big. Sam Axe from Burn Notice is one of my favorites. And image-searching for pics for this post gave me such a yearning to re-watch the series that I’ve got the pilot playing in the background now. I love every single one of the main characters; it’s interesting to think that I almost quit after the pilot (only stuck with it based on a friend’s recommendation).
The Burn Notice team fits Crusie’s requirements for a team (eventually):
Common Goal: help Michael (find out who burned him/help random people/not get killed by the CIA/get back into the CIA/get back out of the CIA).
- Complementary Skill Sets: they can all fight, kill, and con, but Michael’s the leader, Fi’s the brawn, Sam’s the heart, Jesse’s the…. hot one?? (lancer, I guess, since he’s Michael’s foil in a lot of ways), and of course we’ve got Momma Westen as… the… hmm. The Smart Guy? She’s physically the most fragile (but give her a pack of cigarettes and a shotgun and you’d better watch out!). I guess that’s not exactly “no redundancies” (it’s a lot of them, actually) but the characters are visually well-defined and well differentiated in terms of dialog.
- Character Arcs (individual and team): Oh, most definitely. Not sure how to analyze without spoilers…? Michael tells Fiona in the pilot that “There are a few things I’m good at: tactical analysis, hand to hand combat, and I’m a decent cook. But relationships–they’re just not my thing. They never were.” Re-watching the pilot is really helping me see what a good job they did of planting the seeds of major themes (deliberately or not, who knows?) very early on.
Individual Relationships: Yup! What’s interesting is that most of the team have previous (bad) experience with one another, so most of the arcs involve them mending those relationships. Michael, in particular, has nothing but broken relationships, and the series ends (vague spoilers?) with him having repaired those and achieved a stable, loving family to replace his fractured, fragmented one. Some of this is about family love and some is romantic, but mostly the team members start as people who are frustrated with Michael for how he’s hurt them, but who love and forgive him. (The exception is Sam, who loves everybody, n’est pas!)
A Leader who deserves to lead, whose worldview shapes the team’s goals: Michael is an excellent leader, although he’s so used to working alone that he has to adjust significantly to actually having a team. Not to mention that he actually says in the pilot that “Fighting for the little guy is for suckers.” He does say that getting out without getting involved “is one trick I never mastered,” but still. He goes from a loner (“it’s better if my mom and I aren’t on the same continent”) to someone with a close, trusting relationship with her, who loves and supports his brother, who has worked out his issues with Fiona, who has hurt and then made amends with Jesse, and who keeps on fighting for the little guy, even when he’s a sucker.
You know, if the Burn Notice team is a five-man band…
The Leader is obviously Michael. The Lancer could be Fiona, Jesse, or Sam, but since it’s supposed to be a contrast to the leader, I’m going to go with Jesse (who was burned by burned spy Michael, and who’s clearly a foil for a Michael in many ways). The Smart Guy is Madeline, who’s “physically weak but…clever,” although instead of being unconventionally young she’s unconventionally old. The Big Guy is probably Fiona (who, I had completely forgotten, drunkenly headbutts a musclebound guy, takes the gun he was holding on her, pistol-whips him, and then tries to drag Michael to bed immediately afterward). And, once again, I’m assigning a dude to be The Chick, because Sam is definitely the big soft teddy-bear “heart of the group” who’s in “a peacekeeping role to balance out the other members’ aggression” but come on, TV Tropes, why do you insist this HAS to be a female character? It’s obviously not Fi or Madeline.
Thematically, I love this show because it’s got some of those ideas that really resonate with me:
- Sometimes the world is bad, but we can make it better.
- Hard work can make up for past mistakes.
- Use your strength to help others (that’s how you save yourself).
These ideas pop up in most (all?) of my favorite works of fiction. And this show definitely shows that cleverness trumps strength (“I’d take duct tape over a gun any day. Guns make you stupid. Duct tape makes you smart”).
AND the last episode of Burn Notice does one of my very favorite things, which is give you a new piece of information that recontextualizes the entire series without contradicting any of it in any way. I seriously am happy/jealous/floored every time I think about it, you guys. Every time.
Ugh. It’s now about an hour and a half later than when I planned to go to bed (WHOOPS) but it was worth it… it was all worth it. Mostly for all the fun I had doing Burn Notice image searches. <3
So I’ll just leave you with this delightful Before/After combo (both from Season 1):
I really need to figure out how to get this dynamic going in my TCWRSWIP.