“Guns make you stupid. Better to fight your wars with duct tape. Duct tape makes you smart.” — Michael Weston
Burn Notice is a show that ended in 2013. To this day, it is one of my personal favorites. From a technical standpoint, of course, it is a pleasure to watch with its real explosions and tight camera-work. But the story and the characters are all well done and, unlike some shows, it was able to come to a conclusion instead of going on for ages, getting progressively worse.
Michael Weston, in particular, is an interesting character. Here is a man who has all of the emotional range of an A-list actor with all of the restraint of a man who has to lie in order to survive to see the next day. And, in spite of the sins that he commits—primarily the usual sins that one finds in secular shows—he still has some virtues. In fact, I would argue that he has shown signs of the Four Cardinal Virtues.
The Four Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.
- Prudence is defined as “wise or judicious in practical affairs,” or “careful in providing for the future.”
Throughout the show, Michael Weston faces adversity in many varying forms, from guys in suits who want to kill him, to a girlfriend whose morality is considerably looser than his. He only kills when absolutely necessary and she kills on a whim. Michael Weston is prudent because that is necessary in being a spy. He is as careful as he can be so that he can have a future. This is especially evident when contrasting it with his girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne.
Fiona tends to be somewhat cocky and overly eager to shoot her way out of places where Michael would be able to, and prefer to, talk his way out. For instance, some federal agents were tailing both Michael and Fiona, and she asked if they should shoot them, whereas there are many instances where Michael talked his way out of trouble. There was the time when the brother of a drug smuggler, who Michael was attempting to befriend, was pointing a gun at him. Rather than fighting back, Michael discerned what the man knew, and then was able to talk the man out of killing him.
- Justice is defined as righteousness, rightfulness, or lawfulness.
Michael is just. At first, this may appear to be false, since he works outside of the law and justice has lawfulness in its definition. But he helps the people the police cannot help. He helped a mother get her child back from a man who had strapped a bomb to the kid. He worked to take down the conspiracy that had burned him in the first place and which had been ruining other people’s lives.
And even when he was a spy, before his freelance do-gooder work, he was trying to make the world a better place through his covert operations. Over and over again in the show, Michael tells his mother, among others, that all the things he did, he did for those he loves and the country he loves. During his military service and his spy years, he was working for a government in which he believes, on behalf of people he loves, believing he was on the right side of things.
- Fortitude is defined as “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty.”
Michael exercises fortitude. When faced with the many complex problems that people expect him to solve, he faces them with strength. Whether these are interpersonal or professional issues, he is a man. When faced with people who are trained to break people, he is strong.
When he is infiltrating a terrorist organization, they test him. They put him in a room with loud noises and flashing lights for hours, keeping him from sleeping or resting, they interrogated him and tried to find any flaw in his story. Though it is not technically considered torture by the Geneva Convention, when it is happening to you, it feels like it is. But still, he did not break.
- Temperance is defined as self-restraint in action or statement.
Michael shows temperance, which is another necessity in being a spy. He shows this through his dealings with other people. There are times when he obviously wanted to say something, but he holds himself back.
This virtue actually represents Michael most of all of the four of these virtues because it can be seen in the very way he presents himself. He is trained and disciplined. Even when he yells, when it is not part of his spy act, it always seems to be held back, as though he is not simply out of control. He often looks quite tenderly and lovingly at Fiona, but never gushes emotionally about how much he loves her. Perhaps most of all he takes care of his mother, even though she annoys him and often judges him harshly.
All of this is not to say that Michael Weston should be raised up as the pinnacle of virtue. He has committed some grave sins. But we should give praise to a popular depiction of the Cardinal Virtues, as well as those who demonstrate virtue overall, since that is somewhat of a rarity nowadays.
And we can use these depictions to show us people who are sinners—and maybe they have more sin than virtue—and use them to identify instances of virtue in our own lives and, conversely, where we can grow to become more virtuous.
Image Sources: Wikimedia