It’s torture time as Strike Back heads into the back-half of its final season.
Let’s bitch it out…
After being caught by the North Koreans at the end of episode 4×05, Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) find themselves in a bad position: they are declared rogue and disowned by the British government and simultaneously blackmailed by Mei (Michelle Yeoh) to confess on video that their intrusion is an act of terrorism and war. Unfortunately rather than focus on the global implications of their predicament, Strike Back‘s writers elect to keep the story intimate by keeping the conflict personal – a battle of wills between Mei and Scott with Finn (Christian Antidormi) caught in the middle as leverage.
The fact that Scott goes along with Mei’s request is a given. Despite my misgivings about Finn’s inclusion in this final season as the thinnest of plot devices, the writers clearly want to sell us on the idea that Scott legitimately cares for and loves the son he only just met. So it’s not a surprise that Scott cracks and films a confession. Things only really get interesting when Stonebridge stands up to Mei. Stonebridge not only (unintentionally) drudges up Mei’s tenuous position among her people after her decades-long undercover mission; he rightfully realizes that her actions are influenced by her belief in the mission, which makes her susceptible to personal attacks. Side Bar: If 4×05’s mission to destroy the factory seemed a little simple, it’s nice of Strike Back to acknowledge how easily the boys destroyed Mei’s entire plan in a single well-executed mission.
Naturally since this is Strike Back, the guys are not restrained for long. The ensuing escape includes a ridiculous fire fight (explosions EVERYWHERE) and an expected casualty when Finn is shot. The mortal wound requires a stop-over at a local hospital where Finn is patched up by a kindly doctor (Minhee Yeo) that feels both rushed and mildly unnecessary – a delay tactic to pad out the episode’s run time. The detour also includes the most difficult-to-watch part of the episode when Scott is made to punch the doctor in the face as they escape (Question: did he really have to wind up so much?!). The final leg to the rendezvous point is full-on hilarious: after a roadblock disables their truck, the last sprint includes the adoption of a horse-led buggy racing against a bevy of jeeps and a last minute rescue by Locke (Robson Green), Martinez (Milauna Jackson) and Scott’s one-time bedmate, Russian Nina (Tereza Srbová) who arrive by helicopter to provide air support. It’s the closest that Strike Back has come to a Western and it almost makes me wish we could get some kind of weird alt-series with the boys as Wild West gunslingers.
Surprisingly the episode doesn’t end with the expected leak of Scott’s videotaped confession. Instead we learn via Nina’s contacts that Kwon (Will Yun Lee) and Mei have survived and have begun preparations to mount a new attack. This development should provide enough conflict to drive the remaining episodes of the series, though I’ll be happy if it allows Lee and Yeoh a chance to cut loose after being reigned in for the recent slate of N. Korean episodes. I want to see these two go crazy and the preview looks like we’re European city-bound for the final conflict, which should continue to shake things up heading into the series finale.
- Early in the episode Mei encourages Kwon to let her go, knowing that her reputation is damaged and is not a good fit for his political ambitions. It still feels strange to dedicate a few minutes of every episode to the villains’ state of mind and motivations, so I’m interested to see if we’ll continue to see these kinds of scenes in the remaining four episodes. Do we really need to understand their psychology?
- I’m prepared to go with the flow when it comes to the boys’ ability to survive ridiculous carnage, but it is a little more challenging to accept that there would be that many English speaking medical staff at the hospital.
- Is anyone surprised that Finn is revealed to be a womanizer just like his father? Anyone? Bueller?
- Finally, after participating in one final Section 20 mission, Martinez bows out with a drink and a question for Michael about why they never hooked up. It’s a disappointingly understated end for the character (if this is in the fact the last we’ll see of her). Admittedly the series never seemed as interested in her and it strikes me as strange that Nina is reintroduced as Martinez is sent packing. The women of Strike Back have never been as developed as the men and that doesn’t seem like it’s apt to change as the series heads off into the sunset.
- Nina (to Locke, when he makes an emotional argument for her help freeing Scott): “See this is why I like you. You think like a girl, too”
- Scott (stating the obvious after their truck dies): “Mikey, that truck’s fucked! How we gonna get out of here?”
Your turn: were you surprised at how easily Scott and Stonebridge escape from interrogation? Disappointed that Finn didn’t actually die? Looking forward to seeing Kwon and Mei cut loose? Glad to see Nina again? Sad to see Martinez go? And will we ever see Scott’s confession? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers if you watched the UK broadcasts.
Strike Back airs Fridays at 10pm EST on Cinemax