STRIKE BACK 1.09 ‘Episode 9’

Stonebridge and Scott close in on Latif as the endgame begins to fall into place.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Episode 9"

Writer: Tony Saint

Director: Daniel Percival

Previously on "Strike Back"

Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) were sent to Kosovo to free five European Union representatives from Hasani (Mel Raido), a Heroin kingpin who demanded the release of his cousin, Agim Rama (Zsolt Nagy) in exchange for the hostages. Section 20's primary interest in this case was John Allen (Adrian Rawlins), an MI6 agent who was named by Gerald Crawford (Iain Glen) as an inside man for the terrorist known as Latif (Jimi Mistry). When Rama was executed at the exchange site, Scott and Stonebridge managed to escape with Allen and the other hostages before eventually meeting up with the KFOR peacekeeping forces led by Donoghue (Peter O'Meara).

However, Donghue's forces handing Scott and Stonebridge over to Hassani, who planned to sell the female hostages into slavery and use the rest as unwilling organ donors. While waiting for their chance to escape, Scott and Stonebridge confronted Allen, who said that he was a double agent for MI6 who was attempting to win Latif's trust and learn about his plans to attack the Western countries. Shortly thereafter, a sympathetic peacekeeper slipped Scott a weapon which allowed them to escape. But in the chaos that followed, Latif had Allen and Hassani killed after he learned about a weapons bunker in Chechnya.

Story:

Back home, Stonebridge spends time with his pregnant wife who urges him to give up his career in the special forces to focus on being a father and a husband. Meanwhile, Scott focuses on having sex with Marianna (Natalia Avelon) again, seeing as she's become his favorite partner of late. As for Col. Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing), she goes over a file about Scott that seems to prove that he was intentionally framed in Iraq to silence him if he came across the plans to hide weapons of mass destruction within the country in order to justify the 2003 war. But when she goes to Scott's apartment to share this information, Grant finds Scott with Marianna and instantly recognizes her as the woman she sent to do a psych evaluation of Scott.

Upset, Grant leaves without telling Scott about what she knows. Later, Grant and Major Oliver Sinclair (Rhashan Stone) brief Section 20 about the weapons bunker in Chechnya, where they believe Latif is still located. Stonebridge and Scott are sent in alongside Georgian special forces, who accidentally trigger a bomb, leaving Scott and Stonebridge the only survivors deep beneath the bunker. Inside, they find proof that Latif has found a cache of VX gas and escaped through the large complex. Scott and Stonebridge make their way out and track Latif to a nearby town where he looks for radicalized young men to serve as his suicide bombers.

Back at Section 20, Sinclair and Grant clash over whether to send Scott and Stonebridge in without backup and whether starting a firefight around so many civilians would set off an international incident. The point is made moot when one of the female spotters alerts Latif's men, setting off a fierce firefight. Sinclair practically has to blackmail the Georgian officials to get an evac helicopter out to Stonebridge and Scott before they are overrun. Back in the U.K., the duo report that they believe that Latif's plan is to use the VX gas on civilian targets. Scott also goes home for another round of casual sex with Marianna, who accidentally reveals her connection to Grant.

Furious, Scott confronts Grant about sending someone to spy on him and he walks out of Section 20. Stonebridge chases after him and the two men argue before being called inside about a new lead on Latif. They learn that Latif plans to attack a World Summit in Budapest, causing Grant to order the entire unit to relocate their base there immediately. Once in the country, a local official shoots down Grant's attempt to warn him about Latif's threat. Moving forward without official sanction, Grant orders Scott and Stonebridge to follow a suspicious van that they have been tracking.

Finding the van at a warehouse, Scott and Stonebridge enter just as Latif is executing his co-conspirator and attempting to burn down the building. As the complex goes up in flames, Stonebridge disregards the danger and chases after him. Reluctantly, Scott follows him into the flames. Sometime later, Grant and Section 20 are worried about their radio silence until Scott and Stonebridge show up at their temporary headquarters with Latif in their custody.

Breakdown:

For a penultimate cliffhanger, it's actually very clever of the writer, Tony Saint to leave us with Latif in custody of Section 20. Clearly that moment was built around the reveal of Latif's face when they took the bag off of his head; which explains why we didn't see his face when Latif was executing his co-conspirator and pouring gasoline on the floor. But it did rob us of seeing Stonebridge and Scott finally take him down. Although this is clearly not over yet.

This was one of the more action packed episodes of "Strike Back," and the firefight in the small Georgian town was well shot and carried a sense of desperation that the series hasn't had since the hotel siege in episode 2. The only misstep is that Scott and Stonebridge escaped almost completely without injury while practically the entire radicalized town descended upon them. I know that a certain amount of suspended disbelief is necessary for all scripted TV shows, but who taught that town to aim? Cobra soldiers?

There's a strange moment with Grant near the beginning of the episode as she finds Marianna with Scott. It's almost as if she's disappointed to see Scott with another woman. It could also be that Grant was pissed off to see Marianna pursuing her sexual relationship with Scott despite the risk of exposure. But the emotion on Grant's face seemed different than anger. Her feelings towards Scott have seemed more antagonistic than anything else and I've never detected any romantic interest coming from her. But whatever it was, Grant left without sharing the information that could finally clear Scott's name and reputation. It's an interesting angle to give Grant more of a rounded character even if her intent isn't very clear.

On the other hand, Stonebridge's dilemma with his wife fell a little flat, largely because his wife has been sparsely used during the season. She's just not well developed enough as a character for the audience to invest in. And it's also obvious that even if Stonebridge gives in to her demands, he's still going to be back in Section 20 at some point. Unless Philip Winchester is actually leaving the show, I don't see "Strike Back" putting him in "Mr. Mom" territory. The only real couple on this show is the one made up of Stonebridge and Scott and there's no way that the producers are breaking these guys up after spending so much time building them up.

I do have to note that Marianna's accidental exposure of her ties to Colonel Grant was pretty sloppy. I have trouble buying that someone who spies on her fellow soldiers for her country would give up a secret like that so easily. And we also don't get to see Scott's reaction to learning the truth directly from her; which was disappointing but not a deal breaker. 

"Strike Back" is hugely unappreciated despite some very impressive stunts and action sequences on a weekly basis. It hasn't quite filled the "24" sized hole in my heart, but it's getting close.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.