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STRIKE BACK Season 2: bullets and bloodbaths, bromance and bo0bies
on December 15, 2012
STRIKE BACK is so prolific with its nude scenes, even the showmakers of GAME OF THRONES are awestruck. Just goes to show that, 'neath all that placid tea-drinking and scone-munching, the Brits flaunt quite the salacious streak. But gratuitous nekkidness aside, STRIKE BACK also rewards the viewer with gritty character development, a runaway train of a narrative, and, of course, the explosive, explosive gunplay. And with its secretive counter-terrorist task force deployed on a globetrotting pace, you may even soak up culture and end up a worldlier person.
STRIKE BACK is the only reason I keep Cinemax. Season 2 (or Series 3, if you're in the UK) offers ten more episodes and, at the start, shuffles the make-up of Section 20. Sgt. Stonebridge (Philip Winchester, a Yank actor posing as a Brit) is off the team, having opted for assignment on British soil to be near his wife. Nowadays, Stonebridge is a training officer at the local S.A.S. Training Camp. Or as one of his mates mockingly addresses him: "Mr. Stonebridge, desk jockey."
This leaves Sgt. Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton, an Aussie posing as a Yank) as Section 20's primary field agent. And when Damian is taken prisoner during a soured ops, who else but Stonebridge gets tapped for a bit of a rescue? I guess I can encapsulate stuff and just say that, this time out, Section 20 targets a hijacked set of nuclear triggers. But that's doing a disservice to the show. These ten new episodes make up another thrilling season. There are twists and turns and setback after setback, and, early on, a stroke of tragedy that turns the tables on the Scott/Stonebridge dynamics. Season 2 finds the formerly by-the-book Stonebridge suddenly the loose cannon of the bunch, and the disaffected American, Scott, now the steadying presence. However, in keeping with his bad boy image, light is shed on Scott's murky past, particularly his shady affiliation with the CIA. As always, STRIKE BACK excels in showcasing the emotional toll the brutal missions exact on these super-soldiers. Winchester and Stapleton are so good. They sink into the skins of their characters. Even their silences convey depths of meaning. On the fun side, their tough guy banter is endlessly entertaining.
If you've been a fan of stay-at-base tech support, Sgt. Richmond (Michelle Lukes), know that she now deploys to the field more. And, as it turns out, she's a cool-headed badasss. Section 20 is also assigned a prickly new director. Thankfully, British diplomat Rachel Dalton (played by Rhona Mitra, goddess of cheekbones), looks as good in a military uniform as did the late Colonel Eleanor Grant. Charles Dance - whom I mostly know from GAME OF THRONES and from the bad guy in THE LAST ACTION HERO - is wicked good as this season's central villain.
The body count meter keeps breaking down on this show. Even Jack Bauer is impressed. It'll be a challenge coming up with a similarly scaled threat for Section 20 to combat next. This unit has already thwarted a biological attack and now nuclear winter. What could top those? What's more daunting? I can't wait to find out.