Strike Back's Season 2 Premiere: Stuff Exploding Is Cool

By Ryan Sandoval

Aug 18, 2012

Strike Back S02E01 & S02E02: "Episode 11" & "Episode 12"

Cinemax's series Strike Back is a no-brainer in every sense of the phrase. Back for its second season (third—and subtitled Strike Back: Vengeance—if you're British), the action series uses straightforward storytelling to facilitate maximum explosions, kill shots, and nudity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize how unnecessarily layered paid programming has gotten in terms of presenting the holy entertainment trinity of violence, swearing, and good ol' fashioned T&A.; Your Game of Throneses, Dexters, and True Bloods all insist on wrapping up these adult treats in pesky clever dialogue and characters with lame emotional depth. Overachieving fools! Like the elite force soldiers at its center, Strike Back does what others in basic cable can't in a universe as cinematic and highly produced as its subscription-based peers (minus the pansy Shakespeare stuff). Essentially it's the world of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, if either of those had the balls to pull a hard R.

Season 1 followed the adventures of Section 20, a secret branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) (double secret!) and its efforts to take down a Pakistani terrorist as led by Sergeant Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and former American Delta Force operative Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton). In last night's two-part premiere, we picked up with the former relegated to military teaching, and the latter continuing his work with the private organization. Scott's current mission was helping British Diplomat Patrick Burton and his attache Rachel (a perfectly welcome Rhona Mitra) acquire a Libyan asset from Gaddafi's regime. That's right, the same real-life dictator who was famously sodomized via knife is a reference point in this fictional universe. After all, this is a world of global war crimes, so it followed that while driving through a Somalian hotbed of civil strife, Scott and company were attacked by guerrilla fighters commanded by a local overlord known as Waabri. Rachel, the Diplomat, and a Libyan were all taken hostage and Damian Scott was given his first mission of the season: Rescue the prisoners. Before things got all explode-y though, we were treated to an example of what some might describe as gratuitous sex, when a representative of the British Consulate arrived to escort Damian Scott to a Somalian guide, and the two starred in an impromptu nipple-nibbling montage intercut with scenes of the jeep containing this carnal match-up as it drove across the African desert. Yep, this is Cinemax alright!

So the Libyan bargained for his release by offering the overlord a secret device (unlimited Taco Bell taco card? Next-gen iPod?). After the Libyan was killed handing over the still secret device (a set of bocce balls?) Damian too was taken hostage, but not before slaughtering upwards of 45 Somalians. By the way, the kill count is pretty high on this show, making Rambo look like a member of the Peace Corp. So back in the U.K., where Michael was teaching training camp, a trainee of his freaked the hell out and killed several others. Michael had no choice but to take him down in cold blood, leading to a very tortured and appropriate man-scream under a sheet of night rain. He was so shaken by the incident he requested to go back into combat and rescue the hostages against his wife's wishes. You can tell a man wrote this stuff, because the wife actually apologized for having a miscarriage. Shame on you, lady! You should feel extremely terrible for losing that child. Anyway, when a soldier has seen so much war, playing house just doesn't cut it. Damian was experiencing his own strife, getting tortured in a standard action-movie kind of way, via being chained up and speechified to by the villain Waabri, after which the Somali overlord arranged to sell the weird device to an unknown source (yes, that source is just sinister lips talking next to a cell phone receiver).

Michael and Sergeant Julia Richmond (Michelle Lukes) headed in and retrieved the prisoners while Rachel surprised everyone with her military-like knowledge of weaponry. Turned out she's actually Rachel Durant, a member of the British military and the super-duper secret items were (you guessed it) nuclear triggers. Man, everyone is trying to get their hands on nuclear triggers these days. It's just like the war on drugs: We should legalize all the nuclear triggers and then they wouldn't be so special, right? After a series of narrow escapes involving awesome helicopters and half of Africa being turned into human Swiss cheese, the mysterious bad guy shot the hell out of Waabri and it was revealed that the suitcase housing the triggers had been tampered with (i.e. the items are missing!). Under attack from the locals, finally some support showed up, more explosions happened, the dust settled, and Rachel Dalton became Section 20's new leader. Some old rich guy in cahoots with the mysterious dude who killed Waabri made an old rich dude speech out in the South African countryside and demanded those nuclear triggers be retrieved. Back in Somalia, Waabri's lady was in possession of said devices, until Waabri's heretofore peaceful religious leader had her stabbed to death. Michael shared a special moment with his wife and it looked like the two were about to start a new chapter of marriage, but then she too was killed by a sniper: the brother of the guy who flipped out (Craig Hanson).

At times Strike Back is a pretty fun buddy cop movie set in a high-stakes world at war. There's a lot to be impressed with in a show daring enough to use real-life civil strife as a backdrop for guilty-pleasure adventures, weapon fetishism, and the occasional saucy hook-up. When all is said and done, though, there's a reason this airs on Friday nights. Beyond the excessive bloodshed, high production values, and pert nipples, there's not much else to take away. It's like eating fast food—delicious at first, empty calories at best. Until a modern-day Band of Brothers or another Generation Kill set in the world of secret spies comes along, Strike Back will continue to take point on deep cover missions, succeeding on looks alone. But hey, without much competition, this team looks pretty damn good.

Have you checked out Strike Back? What do you think?

  • Comments (17)
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  • RichyHolmes Sep 23, 2012

    Stonebridge is one peeved guy right now and i pity the guy when he gets him. Scott, but what is he guilty about? great series

  • Catherine-Mary Aug 21, 2012

    I'm pretty sure Stonebridge's wife was apologising for saying that he was glad that she miscarried.

  • estella87 Aug 19, 2012

    I only liked the BBC version; dropped it after watching the first US episode.

    Does it get any better or is it really just a bunch of explosions connected by scenes featuring gun battles?

  • doctorwho747 Oct 08, 2012

    As an American viewer I just wanted to say that I like the first SB season with Armitage better than S 2 and 3. However this post RA version is not as bad as some people say it is. Yes there are gun battles and explosions aplenty, didn't season 1 have that?, but it seems some people can't past that cuz the show is much more, it's also a very character show.

    For one the characters especially the main ones Michael and Scott are very interesting and the actors do a wonderful job. All the main characters good and bad have secrets that haunt them, some retaining to the main plot, and some about their personal lives Oh and here's something ironic, in the show the two main characters Scott is an American and Stonebrie British, however in real life the guy who plays Stonebridge is American and Scott is Australian, weird right? There have been other awesome actors I mean this year they have Rhona Mitra and Charles Dance(AKA Tywin Lannister on "Game of Thrones" just to name a couple.

    Second being that this is a collaboration of two major UK an US channels the budget and action are way up and also done well, although personally I'd like some hand to hand fights.

    Now I am not gonna say the show is without flaws, cuz it isn't. As I said Armitage's John Porter was a much much more interesting character. Early on in the the second season it has a last minute rewrite feel but that changes. And as much as i like to see T and A as the next guy seein Scott get it on with a different women every episode is redundant. It seems like they are trying to make him a Bond ladies man which he most definitly is not. So I'm gonna end with sayin if your one who hasn't seen the actual first season will dive right in, while the others who have seen S1 like myself, don't judge it to much in the first 3 or 4 eps, give it a chance it gets way better, especially the new season which is even better than S2

  • Hitchhiker Aug 19, 2012

    There are some excessive nudity, and witty comebacks, but the show is pretty much just explosions and gunfights on a mission to save the day.

  • Hauntme1 Aug 19, 2012

    i m little bit confused there was definitely a show named as strike back i saw this complete season with different cast & crew & i totally loved it but then show with Philip winchester & Sullivan Stapleton came .I was 1st confused but then i didn't like it.

  • Hitchhiker Aug 19, 2012

    After selling the title the writers made a vague connection with the first season with a 2 minute video with Richard Armitage(John Porter), where he uses a secret code to tell about a mole in section 20, which can only be decripted by Sullivan Stapleton(Damien Scott), becouse he was burned to cover up a conspiracy, that involved the mole... Clever writing, ain't it?

    The second season was about avenging John Porter, flushing out the mole and capturing the supervillan, while killing some really mean guys and their henchman by the dozen on the way.

  • silverscreenluv Aug 19, 2012

    Richard Armitage was too busy to do another season, Cinemax decided to pick it up and give it to America anyway, and thus you have project dawn & whatever the hell this season is called.

  • Hauntme1 Aug 19, 2012

    thanks for helping but that season was definitely better written than these ones

  • silverscreenluv Aug 19, 2012

    No kidding. I still like it though b/c of Philip Winchester. Cinemax kind of sucks.

  • jaden84 Aug 19, 2012

    My show is back!

    Well it seems there is going to be a whole lot of sh.. I mean stuff (besides the main story line) that's going to go down this season. I really what to know more about Scott and his involvement with the CIA. Rhona Mitra is in this season, that makes me happy.

  • silverscreenluv Aug 19, 2012

    Before you comment on the dialogue, you need to listen to it. Kerry didn't apologize for having a miscarriage, she apologized for accusing Michael of being relieved that she had one. In season 2 her pregnancy is what convinced him to come home to her and take a desk job even though their marriage had been on the rocks for a while.

    Also, I agree w/hulutvp3 that there are multiple plot-lines that are more interesting than you have implied. The character development has been going on throughout the show, you can't judge it on what was revealed about people in 1 season opener. Especially since Strike Back tends to do sort of 2-episode stories-within-the-story that add up to a series arch in the end.

  • SlidUK Aug 20, 2012

    I have to wonder if the reviewer actually bothered watched the episode, or writing this review off someone else's 5 minute verbal run down of what happened.

    It's either that, or someone who decided they weren't going to like it before hand!

    Any chance this could get handed to someone who cares about their work next time?

  • hulutvp3 Aug 19, 2012

    Strike back Is not your "buddy cop show" or as was said the show is like "empty calories". Strike back has set up a number of storylines for this season like Stonebrige's wife's murder, Rachel being the new head of section 20, Michael dealing with the PTSD because he has to live with the mistake he made while teaching the elite soldier and their deaths, and section 20 having to go after a new threat that has nuclear triggers. Isn't it the job of a TV writer to pick up on the set up for the season oh I forgot this is the only thing you can understand are the pictures on the page like a five year old. For real news go to IMDB. Wow the staff of should be embarrassed by this immaturely written drivel!

  • safibwana Aug 19, 2012

    I'm pretty sure I've never heard of this. I'm also pretty sure that 5 minutes after leaving this page I'lll be pretty sure I've never heard of this.

  • jaden84 Aug 19, 2012

    Is this suppose to be a joke but if not your missing out on one hell of a show.

  • safibwana Aug 19, 2012

    What I meant to convey is that at no time in the last two years have I ever heard anything about this show that caused an impression such that a memory was formed. This article itself did not contain any information that was likely to do so. The only possible exception being that Rhona Mitra is in it, so that MIGHT have stuck, but I doubt it, the name and plot are too generic; I'm pretty sure I'd have forgotten this show existed the second this article was off the front page. Your one sentence comment is actually the only thing I've seen so far that might have the effect that Cinemax's entire marketing budget has failed to do. As of this exchange I now officially know that this show exists and I still might tomorrow.