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Strike Back (2010) 1.5-6

TV series episode review: Strike Back (2010), season 1, episodes 5-6 (directed by Edward Hall)

Ultimate Hero Mr Porter did his final turn on TV last week, and I have to admit, these were probably the episodes I enjoyed most. There was no glazing over family matters, because they simply didn’t have his family involved at all, and the story was definitely Spooks territory.

Porter goes to Afghanistan and pretends he’s an arms dealer to find his way to a British guy called Gerald Baxter, who has become chummy with the Taliban. He finds him, they get captured by the Americans, they escape and go to the lair of the up-and-coming leader of the area … and all the while, back in London, Collinson is trying to negotiate with an American [Embassy or Consulate, I forget which] bloke, while the ladies try to figure out who killed the men back in Basra all those years ago.

Things happen to keep you interested, and if not at least there’s plenty of Porter to go around – and Toby Stephens! Oh, that man does a good American accent! Always a pleasure to see him on screen, even if he’s not in tight breeches and cravat here, but rather a plain suit and tie. Is he a bad guy, though? That’s the question! Or not, actually, let’s be honest – think about it – since when were the Americans really up to any good in Spooks? With this episode being decidedly Spooksy, you do the maths.

Ewen Bremner repeated his Spooks 8.6 role. He wasn’t trying to defraud a bank here, he was messing with missiles, but hey, a Scottish computer geek who’s lost the plot and fears for his family, is annoying and does stupid things. It’s the same character.

“Baxter, WTH? ‘heading to secret lair now lol #roadtrip’ – Seriously?”

Even though he says his name is Josef/Yussuf or however you want to spell it, he hasn’t become a convert to Islam. Instead, he’s converted to the cult of Sharq, the man it’s considered will rule the roost eventually. He’s played by Alexander Siddig, who also made an appearance in Spooks, but way before Lucas’s time (episode 2.2), and is probably most known for being Dr Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Which brings us nicely on to Mr Hero Man! Strung up like Christ on the cross. It probably was supposed to symbolise that, come to think of it, with Porter as a crucified Christ figure, considering the false accusations about Basra and all that. But then again, is that giving the hitherto not-very-brainy film makers too much credit?

The elusive chest hair is one of the amused comments that have been floating between me and Mr T for the past week, and technically also the previous two weeks, because we’ve both been watching the show and both have been rather underwhelmed. Oh yes, Strike Back has been our favourite choice of things to poke fun at recently. And I seem to have deleted the first two parts off the DVR by mistake, so now I’ll definitely get the DVD (when it comes down in price a bit – I’m not desperate). It better have plenty of extra features! (UPDATE 2021: I don’t think I ever got around to buying it?)

Strike Back was predictable, clichéd and suffered from a script with more brawn than brains, plot that doesn’t quite make sense … but at least the acting was good. Perhaps not in all cases and not all of the time, but Richard Armitage – wow, you da man! While in parts, I pitied him for having to act through some of the lines and events (“cringeworthy” is the word, I believe), the sixth and final episode really showed off his wonderful acting ability. The scene where he breaks down and talks of how his life has been since Basra was mindblowing, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Riveting! Marvellous! Brilliant! Spectacular! Stunning! Downright awesome! And he didn’t even take his top off.

The confrontation with Collinson was a bit of a let-down on the part of Collinson. Turns out he’s just a scared man who made a huge mistake and that’s it. No supervillain who wants to take over the world. What really happened in Basra and the aftermath was probably the most realistic of scenarios, unlike a quest for world domination, but with all that action and pretty ladies throwing themselves at Porter (okay, so just the one …), they could’ve gone the whole hog and turned it into a James Bond type story. They didn’t. Fitting end, though, although I’m not quite sure how Porter’s name can be wiped clean officially, considering the outcome. Mr T said they mentioned having “Porter gave Collinson his gun” on file, but it would just be one man’s word against another’s.

The way the final episode ended, with Porter on the loose being America’s Most Wanted … it seemed a bit naff, while at the same time really setting it up for a sequel. We shall see. The return of Super-Porter – if still played by Richard Armitage – will always be welcome. Just work on the script a bit more first, ‘k? (Not that I’ve read the source material, so for all I know, it might be down to that, but hey.)

Ohh, I loved the female roadblock. Right giggle that was. 🙂

“Friends of yours, Baxter?”
“It’s the Afghani wing of the Armitage Army. I believe they’re yours.”

All in all, Strike Back showed that Britain can do more than just perennial soaps, light-hearted sitcoms, delightful murder mysteries, brooding period drama and endless shows about antiques, gardening and cooking. Britain also does action! Well done. Just a shame the show as such wasn’t all that interesting and felt a bit … well, like they could’ve done so much more with it. It could’ve been a brilliant show, but aside from great visuals, there was not enough substance. Important parts of characterisation got lost or not enough care put into them. Take Porter’s unconvincing family life as an example. I mean, didn’t his (ex?) wife die on the operating table in the previous episode? All forgotten about, and he’s off snogging with the pretty brunette! How does that work? The Armitage Army will of course not be disappointed by seeing him star in a show where he gets the most amount of screen time, especially not as he kept losing bits of clothing a lot of the time. Well, every cloud has a silver lining, as they say …

Traxy

An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

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