'Burn Notice' Boss Previews Explosive Death and the 'Enormous Fallout' (Q&A)

Series creator Matt Nix tells THR of how Thursday's episode impacts season six: "By the end of the season, the show is in a place you wouldn't have seen it going."
Glenn Watson/USA; Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Burn Notice is about to lose one of its own.

It has been teased for weeks that a major character will be biting the dust at the end of Thursday's episode, which pulls Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his team into separate directions. With Fiona's (Gabrielle Anwar) impending release from jail and Michael hot on Anson's (Jere Burns) tail, things in Miami are -- at the moment -- playing in the former CIA spy's favor.

Series creator Matt Nix spoke to The Hollywood Reporter at length about the decision to kill off the major character at this moment during the season, the trickiest part of executing the episode ("it was a stylistic break") and the aftermath following the unexpected death.

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[Warning: Some spoilers ahead.]

The Hollywood Reporter: How would you describe this coming episode, appropriately titled "Shock Wave"?

Matt Nix: At the very moment where Michael is getting what he has always wanted since the beginning of the show -- resolution and closure to the question of who burned him and why, and he's getting the woman he loves out of prison and his family's together -- the life he imagined he wanted, it slips out. Suddenly, things are at their worst. In getting one woman who is incredibly important to him back, he kind of loses the other. This episode is all about flipping those things on their heads. And suddenly Michael has an even more personal quest that he's dealing with that complicates everything, including his relationship with the intelligence community, his friends and his family.

THR: Season six has, in a sense, been ramping up to this week's episode. Was there any discussion about the landmark moments possibly happening earlier or later in the season?

Nix: We kicked it around as a season finale. We asked ourselves what if we moved it up and what we found was that really, the thing that was most interesting to me about this was what Michael does once [the death] happens. A big part of this season has been taking the things that we knew about Burn Notice, like the patterns we had fallen into over the course of five seasons and systematically setting out to break all of them. In six episodes, they've never had a single traditional client. Everything has been in service of their main goal. What was once a very self-contained show is now very serialized. The other thing is that we've done a lot of "big bad of the season gets resolved" so though it has been ramping up to [episode six], boy does it ramp up right after it. It was definitely intentional that this major game-changing event should happen in what traditionally would have been a midseason finale.

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THR: What was the trickiest part of executing this particular episode?

Nix: Burn Notice is a pretty talky show and so we don't do a lot of long sequences without voiceover or dialogue and certainly the end of this episode is, I think, the longest sequence we've ever done with minimal dialogue or voiceover in the history of the show. From that standpoint, it was a stylistic break. It was a question of what do we do in this kind of moment? Normally, you're inside Michael's head and he has this distance from whatever's happening. In this episode, he doesn't. You're observing these things happen to him and what does Michael have to say about dealing with this situation, for once, he's never seen this kind of situation before.

THR: The team was split up for most of the episode. What was the reasoning behind that?

Nix: It was definitely intentional. One thing about splitting up the team was we were interested in doing a stoy line on the Sam side, which is something that we haven't done a lot on the show. Something that they did in the past has negative consequences for someone else at a very inconvenient time. They didn't just do a job, wrap it up and everything's OK. This is the case where everyone is stretched so thin, no one can help Fiona, Sam can't help Michael.

THR: Without revealing the major character who ultimately dies, why was this the right time to have this happen?

Nix: By having this happen in the middle of the season, it allowed us to really play out the more personal consequences that would be more immediate for the audience.

THR: Were you toying with other characters or was this person always the one?

Nix: There was a lot of joking about it. [Laughs] I think everybody felt like the team has a certain dynamic and there are plenty of dramatic people to kill off but I think Burn Notice still needs to be Burn Notice. As much plot and action as there is on the show, when I think of it, I think about it in terms of the relationships between characters. What does this external action represent emotionally for Michael and how does that impact his central relationships on the show. With the death, it was simultaneously personal and would have an impact on everybody. There were other serialized characters we could've killed off but I don't know if it would have that much drive if Sugar, Michael's former drug dealer neighbor had died.

THR: What can we expect in the aftermath?

Nix: There is an enormous amount of fallout. [One of the characters] does not forgive Michael easily and the emotional consequences for their relationship echo not for a few episodes but for the rest of the season. In terms of members of own team, it leads everybody to question some fundamental things, like how far is Michael willing to go with this and how far will this cost us?

THR: How close does Michael get to losing everything by season's end? Are there drastic changes afoot?

Nix: Really drastic, yea. Michael's driven and it starts unraveling his life in a huge way. By the end of the season, the show is in a place you wouldn't have seen it going and that is no place we've ever been.

Burn Notice airs 9 p.m. Thursdays on USA.