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Jeffrey Donovan stars in “Burn Notice,” the action drama that airs its final episode tonight after seven seasons on USA.

‘Burn Notice’ prepares to say goodbye

– The cable spy drama “Burn Notice” is coming to an end, but it’s certainly not being burned itself.

The USA Network series – still strong in the ratings and popular with fans after seven seasons – gets a big finale tonight.

Set and filmed almost entirely in South Florida, the series has centered on the exploits of super spy Michael Westen, who was framed for crimes he didn’t commit, unceremoniously kicked out of the CIA and dumped in his hometown of Miami.

Over more than a hundred episodes, Westen, his friends and family have hunted down those who got him burned, brought his enemies to justice and helped many innocent victims along the way. Now, the cast and crew members who brought “Burn Notice” to life are saying goodbye.

Series creator and executive producer Matt Nix said he and the other writers have been planning the finale since last year.

“One thing I’m really grateful for is the opportunity to go out on our own terms and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion,” Nix said. “Knowing that this was our final season, it gave us the opportunity to really tie things up.”

The term “Burn Notice” hails from the world of espionage as notice given by an intelligence agency to other agencies that a person has become unreliable and his information should be “burned” or dismissed. In short, it’s a way to put a spy out into the cold, whether merited or not.

The series has always balanced a story of the week with the larger narrative elements of who burned Michael and why.

“The show is about Michael Westen learning to be a human being,” Nix said. “Reconnecting with his family and friends and romantic relationships is a big part of that.”

But all the progress Westen has made in rebuilding those relationships has been strained to the breaking point in the final season. The stories of the week have taken a back seat to one, big 13-episode arc. Again working for the CIA, Westen has been trying to infiltrate an international terrorist organization. The problem is that Westen has started to lose track of who his real friends are and whether he’s fighting for the right side.

Westen’s choice and the subsequent consequences will be revealed in the finale.

“I think it’s a fitting ending because it’s what I know the fans wanted,” series star Jeffrey Donovan said. “It’s very fitting for what the show started as in the beginning.”

While the ending may be appropriate, that doesn’t mean it will be completely happy. Donovan’s co-star Gabrielle Anwar, who plays Westen’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, said she was satisfied with her own character’s fate but felt differently about another.

“There’s one character in particular that I’m sort of still devastated by,” Anwar said. “I’m reeling; I’m grieving; I’m in mourning.”

Executive producer Terry Miller acknowledged that seven years is a long time for a crew to stay together in the television business, but he couldn’t help feeling a little sentimental.

“We’ve had babies born. We’ve had people pass away,” Miller said. “We’ve had marriages. We’ve had divorces. It’s like a family.”

Graham Winick, the city of Miami Beach’s film coordinator and a past-president of Film Florida, said “Burn Notice” reignited South Florida as a TV production destination. It became the first scripted series made there since “Miami Vice” went off the air in 1989 to last longer than two seasons. And at seven seasons, the production of “Burn Notice” actually surpassed “Miami Vice” by two years.

“ ‘Burn Notice’ was our signature show for the last seven years,” Winick said.

Though several film productions came to South Florida in the 1990s, “Burn Notice” was the starting point for the area becoming a major television destination, Winick said.

Since then, Fox Television Studios, which produced “Burn Notice,” also brought USA’s “Graceland,” which is actually set in Southern California, and the now-canceled A&E series “The Glades” to South Florida. The Starz Network filmed two seasons of the period drama “Magic City” in Miami, and ABC tried to revive “Charlie’s Angels” with a short-lived reboot two years ago.