When we last left Michael Westen, he’d just won a battle but lost the war: Fiona had turned herself in to the feds on the false charges Anson had trumped up against her, so Michael might be free to stalk his nemesis without the constant threat of her being sent away on Anson's whims. On top of that, Anson and his henchwoman Rebecca are both still on the loose, and still determined to eliminate Michael and his family to gain their own freedom.So how does our favorite spy cope with life without Fiona in this week’s season premier?
The answer is ‘pretty badly’.In a highly emotionally charged atmosphere, Michael loses control of his typical icy reserve and goes all-but-mad in the face of Anson’s retreat, eventually going to amazing lengths to chase the man down and murder him. Sam – whose mysterious pronunciation of the words ‘I’m so sorry’ in the season finale are cleared up fairly quickly – is pressed to take charge of the situation and keep Michael from getting himself killed; his role as the show’s conscious is even more prevalent in this week’s episode than ever.
While the center of the plot revolves around Michael’s love for Fiona and her love for him, it’s also about the fact that Sam and Michael love one another like brothers.Sam’s loyalty to the group is in turn cemented through incredible lengths, and Michael’s declaration at the beginning of the episode that he has no one left in the world to care for but Fiona is soundly disproven.
Meanwhile, Jesse tries to save Madeline from an assassin, with surprising new results for Madeline's character.The two main plots dovetail together beautifully with a nicely-acted phone call between Michael and Madeline that results in an emotional breakthrough for both characters.
And as for Fiona? She meets up with an old enemy who tries to get her to turn state’s evidence on Michael through several harsh and unique methods.The acting in these scenes proves much more subtle and quiet, and Gabrielle Anwar knocks Fiona’s desperation combined with her utter loyalty to Michael flat out of the park.
The acting in general is in fact exquisite all around. Both Donovan and Campbell do bewildered and desperate very well; Donovan is particularly impressive as he explores Michael’s unhinged side. Sharon Gless continues to be incredible as the haunted but steely Madeline, nailing her moments in this episode, and Coby Bell is stalwart, funny and smooth in Jesse’s portion of the plot.
One of the best season openers ever in this show’s history – and including one of the best explosions ever filmed for it – “Scorched Earth” is an intense continuation of the show’s evolution toward serious action drama.
Letter Grade: AAnd in closing, I’m thrilled the updated-new version of the theme won out. The remade version was terribly serious and drained the show of its unpretentious, snarky humor