We’re cooking with fire now y’all!! This week finally felt like all the pieces came together to form a true Strike Back episode. There was great stunt work on the part of the cast – taking more of that on really shows in the final product. Some great quippy moments, some weird ass bad guys (but not too caricature) and some spot-on action scenes.
We pick up directly after MacAllister (Warren Brown) has been kidnapped along with the mystery doctor that Jane Lowry (Katherine Kelly) is looking for. We get another look at Josef and Rosa Varga’s flashbacks to childhood – maybe an attempt to explain the super weird vibes coming off of them. Turns out little sister hasn’t been entirely honest – Josef doesn’t know that Lowry is working with Muslim terrorists – that wouldn’t jive well with his white nationalist tendencies. Mac gets stuck in a cage with the mystery doctor at Josef’s separatist camp. He gets to work trying to figure out who the doctor and why Lowry wants him. No joy, but oh fun, he does get a lecture from Josef’s #2 about how “white genocide isn’t a myth” which really makes me want to barf.
While Mac tries to sow seeds of discord between Josef and Rosa (including telling Josef exactly who Rosa has been working with) Section 20 is busy trying to get him free. The team is able to track down where he’s been taken and the 3 operators head in. We get a little inkling of back story on Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson) when he mentions having grown up around militia people like this – it’ll be interesting to learn how he went from that to working for the big bad government.
The team moves smoothly through the forest, I love the shots here, the 3 actors were so in control, steady and looked the part 100%. As they approach the camp, Novin (Alin Sumarwata) is sent to provide the distraction, Reynolds telling her to make it seem like they have an army with them. Novin gets an awesome takedown here right off the bat – I’ve said it before, she’s stellar on this show. She flips a bad guy off a truck and slashes down with her knife in one fluid motion. She’s so smooth!
Josef is having Mac is being dragged and hung by a noose when the team gets in position. Reynolds ends up shooting the rope to let him down, just as Novin’s distraction (a rolling car on fire!) came tumbling into camp. Mac almost gets away but is caught by Josef’s second and almost taken out when – boom -Novin does it again. This woman is everywhere. I was half expecting him to say “I had it” in shades of Wyatt, but he seems a little better able to handle the assistance. Take notes, Wyatt!
Rosa uses the chaos around her to try to make a break for it, apparently deciding her life with creepy big bro was just not cutting it anymore. She grabs the doctor and heads for a truck. Thankfully the truck stalls and Mac appears. Rosa escapes, but Mac and Novin grab the doctor and start driving away. This scene was really fun, you had Mac hanging out the rear window shooting into the distance, and Novin up front driving, seeming to oh so casually dodge bullets as they come whizzing by her head. Just the right amount of tension and nonchalance for Strike Back.
Josef, having a tantrum because he doesn’t want to believe his sister could betray him, orders all communications blocked and rounds up the rest of his men to chase down both Rosa and 20. It’s at this point back in “headquarters” that the local General barges in and shuts Donovan down. Section 20 coloring outside the lines – who’d have thought? So now the team has no comms and no backup. Typical.
We get a little more backstory with Wyatt as he and Reynolds move through the forest. She questions him on his statement about growing up around these people – he answers vaguely and then we get the hilarious (winning!) quip from Reynolds, “You’re an excellent soldier, but I’m concerned you might be an amateur human being.” Wyatt scoffs this off and tries to press Reynolds on her story – after all, everyone who gets recruited by 20 has to have one. She claims to be the exception to the rule, which honestly makes me want her backstory more. I can’t wait to dig into her history!
Wyatt and Reynolds happen upon Rosa who begs for help, they’re skeptical but, when they’re surrounded by her own people, she shoots at her guys just to prove she wants out! She offers them information on Lowry, so they drag her along.
While this is happening Donovan and Jensen have set up in a van on the street in order to a) try to get comms working again and b) find Lowry. Donovan is chit chatting on the phone when lo and behold who should appear – the phantom herself. I swear Lowry is always one step ahead – makes you wonder right? Just when I thought we were losing yet another section head (boy we go through those regularly here don’t we) Jensen charges around the corner, shooting and only narrowly missing Lowry. Not just a computer guy after all. After this, Jensen is able to locate a photo of the doctor and Donovan’s reaction is NOT good. She immediately identifies him as Dr. Markov – a Russian scientist who created a nerve gas so terrifying that the Russians blew the whistle on themselves rather than let his research continue. Not the guy you want working with Jane Lowry.
We’re back to Mac, Novin, and Dr. Markov trudging through the forest. Mac “casually” brings up Wyatt, and Novin is not here for that BS. When he tries to act like he had no choice but to stab Wyatt in order to preserve the mission she tells him, “Honestly Mac, you had a choice, and you made a choice. Probably the right one doesn’t mean Wyatt is going to trust you again.” As they’re walking we get another really cool forest action shot – they spot someone coming, drop down into the long grass. The bad guys come walking across the field, we’re holding our breath and then bam bam bam – the bad guys go down so fast it seems in sync. Wyatt and Reynolds have arrived!
The team manages to find the communication building for Josef’s camp and take down the jammer. Mac and Wyatt are at each other’s throats right off the bat – Wyatt tells him, “I’ve been through this before. Either I can trust the guy at my shoulder or I walk.” This statement makes Rosa pipe up with a couple of tidbits we need to file away. One – she grins and says, “He’s talking about Task Force 18” to which everyone reacts shocked – obviously this is a known thing that she shouldn’t know about. She tells them that Lowry told her about it. Two – she looks at Reynolds and says, “you must have loved him a lot to cover for him.” Boom! Reynolds clocks her and now I’m guessing Reynolds isn’t the exception to the rule after all….backstory coming I’m sure!
We have a grand Strike Back style shootout that travels throughout the building, down pathways, down stairs, around corners. That traveling battle was extremely interesting to watch and this team gelled magnificently. Have I gushed enough about how good the team looked tonight? Josef stops them at the end and confronts his sister, in the end, he shoots her rather than live with her betrayal – ah sibling love. The team makes a beeline for the exit amid a hailstorm of bullets, exploding gas cans, fire (on the road? I don’t know but it looked cool) and then slow-mo dive into the waiting van driven by Jensen. Phew. A lot of action crammed in there and really felt like old seasons of Strike Back. Well done!
It can’t ever be simple though – the local General confiscates Dr. Markov, then Lowry confiscates him back – and by confiscates that time I mean kills the General and all his men. Now we have a crazy terrorist and a crazy scientist – what could go wrong?
This season has been met with fairly lukewarm reviews across the board, including by me. But tonight really changed that. I’ve seen the actors posting on social media messages like “wait for it” and this made the wait worth it. Here’s to hoping they can keep this momentum going!
See you next Friday at 10/9c on Cinemax.
photo credit @alinsumarwata