USA Network’s veteran spy show took a turn for the deadly serious in Season 6 with the murder of a supporting character, a dark tone that continues throughout the seventh and final season. What started as a light-hearted action show devolves here into a grueling test of viewer loyalty as lead character Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) enters a deep cover mission working for an evil mastermind, leaving us and Michael questioning whether or not he’s still a good guy. It’s as if creator Matt Nix forgot his show was on USA, land of breezy comfort TV, and instead wanted it to go out as a gritty prestige drama.
With Michael firmly ensconced behind enemy lines, his long-time supporting crew members are left to fend for themselves, occasionally taking on the odd neighborhood assistance case as always but mostly just wondering about how to carry on without Michael. His girlfriend Fiona has moved on to another man, while his best friend Sam and compatriot Jesse just seem rudderless, and his mother clings to faint hope that Michael will miraculously return to them. It’s really a bummer seeing the previously peppy gang in such disarray, especially as it drags on throughout the season.
Meanwhile, Michael is potentially falling for an enemy combatant while also falling under the spell of the persuasive evil leader, helping them carry out dangerous rogue missions that increasingly put his loyalty to the CIA and his original friends in question. The season gets plenty of mileage out of his ongoing dialogue with the highly intelligent baddie, constantly forcing us to wonder whether the compelling anarchic messages are legitimately brainwashing our hero. One of the strengths of the show was always Michael and friends working together for a common goal, and with that core aspect in question, the results ultimately suffer.
The acting performances from the veteran cast continue to be strong all around, although serious Bruce Campbell as Sam is never as fun or believable as jokey Bruce Campbell. The cast recognizes the high stakes developed for the final arc and puts in valiant efforts to stick the landing, and while the story ultimately does arrive at a mostly satisfying albeit bittersweet conclusion, it’s such a depressing and joyless trek to get there that it may not be worth the effort.
For a series-concluding DVD set, the collection is strangely short on bonus features. Common and unenlightening deleted scenes and gag reel anchor the offerings, while only one worthwhile featurette celebrates the production of the final episodes.