Strike Back (S08E01) “Episode One”

It’s always difficult when a show you love ends, when you head into a season knowing it’ll be the last. But if, for Strike Back, it means a season like what we saw in the premiere episode? I’m ok with that.

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Ready for Action

***spoilers ahead***

Kicking off in brilliant Strike Back style, the team is already in the field when we kick off. We know right from the start that this is going to be a Coltrane (Jamie Bamber) heavy episode. Learning more about his background and intertwining that with The Balkans and all the tension inherent in that place was an emotionally heavy beginning. I’m already getting the sense that Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer Jack Lothian will be going darker this season.

Transitioning quickly to action, the scene with the AMRAP plowing through a wall impeccably timed to an operatic crescendo is exactly what I love about this show. The ability to walk the line between sheer explosive action and emotional beats is something that everyone associated with Strike Back does very well.

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Our Team

Appearing to be about 6 months after last season ended, all hard feeling have been put aside. Novin (Alin Sumarwata), McAllister (Warren Brown) and Wyatt (Dan MacPherson) are clearly gelling again as a unit, now joined in the field by Chetters (Varada Seethu). Each of them is struggling personally, not something new, but it’s set up some extremely difficult times ahead.

Mac is stepping up, standing up to Coltrane and taking charge when necessary. We saw this progression last year and I’m glad to see that continue. We haven’t really seen the sort of emotional performances from Warren Brown over the last 2 years as some of the other cast members, but it looks like that could be changing. I hope so, he’s a brilliant actor, if you haven’t seen him in the short-lived BBC series “Good Cop” I highly recommend it.

Novin is spiraling. There is honestly no other way I can interpret what happened in this episode. Her shooting of a civilian doctor was truly shocking. She’s consistently been locked on, so that slip is huge. There is no doubt this will continue to haunt her, already at the end of the episode we see her unable to shoot the bad guy because of her mistake. It’ll be interesting to see where else she starts to slip.

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Wyatt is cold. We know last year that his kills got more and more personal as he flailed to find emotion and meaning in the work. Now, after losing his wife (his own fault yes, but still) it seems like he can’t feel at all. His flippant “not my place” to Novin when pressed on why he didn’t also stand up to Coltrane felt so off. If you’ll remember, in the first-ever episode we saw Wyatt, he was cautioning Mac to not kill people needlessly, “They were just doing their job”. For him to be so callous now is worrying.

Our baddies

Dealing with the Albanian mafia is an interesting choice this season. Purely out for money, motivated by complex inter-family drama, they’re a shiny new toy for Jack Lothian to torture us with. Add in the mention of a mysterious “Zayif” in Venice and I’m interested who our overall “bad guy” will be this season. The mini-movie style of Strike Back is part of why it’s so compelling, new baddies every block (every 2 episodes is a block) with that overarching nemesis, makes it so much more enthralling.

Highlights

*The opening opera music with that solid entrance through a wall. Beautifully timed and really gets your heart pumping

*Coltrane talking to Harovich (Tomi May) in the hospital. The sheer rage and anguish he holds in check is incredible.  Bamber is a phenomenal actor and he really shines in this moment. “My old friend” gave me literal chills.

*Novin’s kitchen fight. Nobody does action like Strike Back, period. This crazy fight, flipping all around the kitchen, using any tools she can find, shows what a total badass Alin Sumarwata is.  Novin has been a fan favorite from day one and she earns that title every episode.

*Coltrane and Mac talking about McAllister’s promotion. When Coltrane commented on Mac being in shape “more or less” I cracked up. Perfectly written and delivered.

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What’s coming

Darkness. That’s what’s coming. Right now I’m waiting for Coltrane to snap, you can’t press down that much rage for long. Last season we saw his control almost slip with Chetters threatened to report him for not following orders. It’s simmering right at the surface and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens when it explodes.

Wyatt is walking a dangerous path. Section 20 has always toed the “good guy” line, staying on the correct side by sheer will and desire to save the world. What happens when Wyatt can no longer find the line?

Right now, and based on last season, Mac seems the most emotionally healthy. What that means in the context of 20 though is danger. Strike Back hasn’t ever been kind to our healthy characters. Fingers crossed he continues that upward trajectory and he doesn’t start to spiral as well.

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All in all, a great start to the season. Can’t wait to see what comes next! Strike Back airs next on Friday, February 21st at 10/9c on Cinemax. LT with us on @tvserieshub and @strikebackcrib

Check out the latest Strike Back Crib #SitRep podcast, featuring exclusive BTS content from Jack Lothian, a chat with Dan MacPherson on why nothing is Wyatt’s fault, and an interview with Jamie Bamber.  Anchor link below, also available anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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