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 S3/4 EP 10

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PostSubject: S3/4 EP 10   Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:08 pm


'Strike Back' S.3 finale preview: 'Hiding in Plane Sight'

By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol RedEye

2:46 p.m. CDT, October 17, 2013

It's that bittersweet time of the year again: the end of another "Strike Back" season. But it's not going away without a fight, a car chase and a crash or two.

The finale, which I'm going to call "Hiding in Plane Sight" since the production fails to title the episodes, debuts at 9 p.m. CT Oct. 18 on Cinemax with multiple reairings throughout the week before the Oct. 24 premiere of "Strike Back: Origins," which is the original 6-episode British season of the series and stars Andrew Lincoln and Richard Armitage.

The current series stars, Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton, get to show off their stunt work again in "Hiding in Plane Sight." As you can see in the episode previes and behind-the-scenes clip below, Winchester rides atop a moving vehicle and the two of them flip their car. Obviously this episode was directed by Michael J. Bassett, who loves putting the guys in precarious positions.

So why are they stealing a car only to wreck it? Well, I probably shouldn't say, but ... In their efforts to foil Al-Zuhari's plan for a major biological attack, Scott and Stonebridge let a key player in his organization slip through their fingers. But as you all know, they don't give up so easily.

Meanwhile, Col. Philip Locke (Robson Green) confronts the Russain mobster Arkady Ulyanov (Marcel Iures). If you remember, his son is the man Scott and Stonebridge killed in Colombia. Um, one of the men they killed in Colombia.

Ulyanov wants them dead, and says as much to Locke, who explains that he understands the loss of a child. The scene once again illustrates one of the big themes of this season, which is how much these operatives sacrifice to make the world safe. Later in the episode, another theme is revisited: How these operatives are often treated like chess pieces by their superiors.

Watch tense Locke-Ulyanov meeting in the exclusive clip at the top of this post.

Scott, who stands by his pledge to protect Kamali's daughter, Ester (Amy-Leigh Hickman), is reunited with her in the episode. This summer at San Diego Comic-Con Stapleton talked about working with Hickman. Watch that video below. You'll find Hickman in the episode photo gallery by clicking this link or the one in the Related Field to the left.

"Hiding in Plane Sight" was written by Richard Zajdlic and directed by Bassett.
Enjoy the finale and see you next year. (That is, if "Strike Back" returns for another season.)
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PostSubject: Re: S3/4 EP 10   Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:03 pm


Exclusive ‘Strike Back’ Season 3 Episode 10 Preview Scene
In the aftermath of a betrayal, Section 20 turns against each other.
October 18th, 2013 Blair Marnell

Strike Back Season 3 Episode 10 Preview Scene

During last week’s penultimate episode of “Strike Back” Season 3, Al-Zuhari’s plan was set in motion and a bio-weapon was unleashed. Section 20 may have kept the bio-weapon out of a populated area, but the train attack was only the first part of a larger assault.

More disturbingly, Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) came face-to-face with the apparent mastermind, Leo Kamali (Zubin Varla); who deceived them for weeks while acting as if he was on their side.

In this week’s exclusive preview scene from the season finale of “Strike Back,” Scott and Stonebridge take out their anger over Kamali’s betrayal on each other and their commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Philip Locke (Robson Green).

But this is “Strike Back” and that means that action isn’t taking a backseat to personal conflicts. In the second clip from this week’s episode, Scott and Stonebridge attempt to pull off a dangerous escape from enemy forces, including one of the most daring stunts in the history of the show!

And in this behind-the-scenes video, Philip Winchester shows us how the scene was filmed and hints at an even bigger stunt involving the two vehicles.

Cinemax’s synopsis for the episode seems to indicate that there may be deeper divisions in Section 20 as to how to handle the terrorist attack.

“Scott and Stonebridge come face-to-face with a new key player in Al-Zuhari’s plan. As the timetable for the attack accelerates, the team resorts to questionable measures, sparking conflict within the unit.”

Don’t miss the third season finale of “Strike Back” tonight on Cinemax!
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PostSubject: Re: S3/4 EP 10   Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:51 am


‘Strike Back’ Season 3 Finale Review
Published by Kevin Yeoman

Philip Winchester Sullivan Stapleton and Amy Leigh Hickman in Strike Back S3E10 Cinemax Strike Back Season 3 Finale Review

[This is a review of the Strike Back Season 3 finale. It contains SPOILERS.]

There is a certain vicarious thrill that can come from watching another person take pleasure in his or her work. That’s certainly the case when it comes to Strike Back and, more specifically, Damien Scott and Michael Stonebridge, but it’s also true of the actors playing them (Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester, respectively). Hearing them hoot, holler and cheer each other on while dodging terrorist bullets or leaping from one speeding vehicle to the next, just to make disposing of the bad guy a little quicker (and exciting), makes the camaraderie they share feel as if it actually extends to those watching as well. They cheer when one another does well, we cheer them when they do well; it’s a win-win.

In that regard, Strike Back isn’t exactly the kind of series that typically ends a season without a win. Season 2 was certainly a downer for Stonebridge personally, but on the up side, he and Scott learned just how well they work together as a team. And the depth of that burgeoning partnership was definitely reflected here in season 3, but never more than it was in the finale. For the past nine episodes, the dynamic duo have been discussing whether or not they would be staying with Section 20. They’ve seen things they’re never going to unsee, done things they will never be able to take back, and watched as the system they are such an intrinsic part of chews up and spits out people like Baxter and, most affectingly, Major Rachel Dalton, whose unbridled intensity was mistaken for madness and instability when it was really just a burning gut instinct that saw her gauge the quality of Leo Kamali’s character with pinpoint accuracy.

Dalton’s death certainly came as a surprise, but the writers managed to use it to punctuate that lingering bit of doubt Scott and Stonebridge shared about their future with Section 20. The demise of her character also gave the season an interesting edge where it felt as though the stakes could be high enough that the lives of either man might genuinely be on the line. That was certainly the case when Stonebridge’s inadvertent exposure to a deadly neurotoxin nearly took him out of the game entirely; and again when Victor Ulyanov made a deal with Locke to trade Leo Kamali for Bravo One and Bravo Two, so he might have the opportunity to enact some revenge for the death of his son earlier in the season.

Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton in Strike Back S3E10 Strike Back Season 3 Finale Review

Tying Ulyanov’s desire to kill Scott and Stonebridge back to the beginning of the season serves as a reminder just how far the storyline came, and just how early the seeds of Kamali’s betrayal had been sewn. When the cross-country motorcycle excursion of the season premiere was cut short, so “the boys” could make a quick trip down to Colombia to be introduced to the Leo, he was painted as Baxter’s murderer and an obsession of Dalton’s that would eventually lead her to Al-Zuhari and whatever horrible plot the terrorist leader had been cooking up since his last transmission. But all of that was quickly turned around the moment Kamali cried CIA and Section 20 was introduced to Ester, the daughter he’d been hiding from Al-Zuhari while working as a deep cover operative for the United States government.

It was all a smokescreen, of course, but it was one that didn’t point out the intelligence failures of the people doing the job so much as it highlighted the desperate need those working against such a shadowy and elusive foe have, to believe horrible actions might be pardoned as long as they’re done in service of “the greater good.” The Kamali who painted himself as a tortured hero driven to make insanely difficult life and death choices was, in many ways, a reflection of those working at Section 20. While corroboration of his story from a source at the CIA helped, Section 20′s willingness to believe Kamali’s story (and in turn doubt Dalton) was, at least partially, born out of a desire to save themselves, and to believe that if someone in as deep as Kamali could be pulled from the proverbial fire, then perhaps they could as well.

That desperation and concern about future exit strategies meant the team would make the mistake of considering Dalton past the point of return, and so no one extended the necessary helping hand – a terrible blunder made worse by hindsight. Scott’s eruption at Locke and Stonebridge after the two narrowly escaped death with a little Morse code and the last minute fastening of their seat belts, was as much about the team having been so easily duped as it was about seeing another individual – who reminded Scott of himself – be swallowed whole by the circumstances of the environment in which they all live.

Michelle Lukes Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton in Strike Back S3E10 Cinemax Strike Back Season 3 Finale Review

But perhaps what’s most interesting about Kamali, as a villain, is that the qualities Scott, Stonebridge, and even Locke (briefly) saw in him were also aspects of his character that made him such a dangerous foe in the season finale. He was not only driven, but he also believed himself the hero of his own story – it just so happened that his story was the attempted release of an engineered smallpox virus for which only he had the vaccine. The members of Section 20 are tasked with making split-second decisions that could impact not only their lives, but the lives of countless other people as well; the trick is to weigh the options and come up with the right decision. More often than not, that means the few may be sacrificed for the good of the whole – which was never more prevalent than when Scott and Stonebridge attempted to surrender themselves to Ulyanov in exchange for Kamali and the vaccine.

It was a bleak ending for one bitter man that tied things up in a “win” for Locke and Section 20. But it also put a brighter spin on Scott and Stonebridge’s future with the group and their belief in the job as a whole. The plot elements of Strike Back season 3 broke down in a similar fashion to the previous two seasons, but this time around the effect of the storyline wound up having more of a distinct impact on the show’s primary characters. In doing so, it also developed an entertaining arc for them both, and demonstrated the series understands how to generate and reconcile its characters’ storylines in an effective manner that leaves them and the audience looking forward to what’s next.

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PostSubject: Re: S3/4 EP 10   Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:08 pm


"Season Three, Episodes 9 And 10" S3 / E9-10
by Myles McNutt October 18, 2013

A- Community Grade

Strike Back is built for climax.

We can take this as a joke about the series’ softcore interludes, but ultimately it’s a comment on its sense of narrative momentum. The series’ structure leaves little room for concentrated character development, shoving brief moments of exposition and conversation amidst what is otherwise primarily driven by action and reaction. Within a single episode, there is a limit on how much character development or serialization the series can handle, often creating a sense of going through the—explosive—motions.

In the third season, those limited character moments have been framed around two central ideas. The first is Scott and Stonebridge’s reluctant return to Section 20, and the idea of whether this is truly something they’ve wanted: as the series’ string of firefights and hostage situations unfolded, the characters became more and more reflective, pondering riding off into the sunset with a collection of uncut diamonds. The second thread, meanwhile, is the undercurrent of revenge narratives that threatened Scott and Stonebridge (for their murder of Ulyanov’s son), haunted Locke (who lost his son to an attack), and defined Pirogova (who spent the penultimate two-parter searching for vengeance against Ulyanov).

These ideas never manifested as particularly spectacular or brilliant in individual episodes, but they share one thing in common: they both emphasize consequence and accumulation. Scott and Stonebridge’s ambivalence to their future in Section 20 isn’t about one specific event, but rather the day-to-day drudgery of working this sometimes thankless job. Similarly, revenge narratives are all about how things in our past affect us, and how the time that has passed since those events has in most cases only made the pain stronger. Because of this, both themes fit comfortably within patterns of serialization: By definition, narratives of revenge and narratives of reflection are stronger as they accumulate on a week-to-week basis.

The final two episodes of the season often showcase Strike Back at its best, successfully raising the stakes from the rest of the season’s action sequences to deliver some of the series’ finest work in this area to date. The train sequence that anchors “Episode Nine” is a tremendous bit of stunt work, all the more impressive for coming immediately after an equally impressive grenade launcher attack on the training facility. The way the series strings together its action setpieces has always been one of its strongest suits, and the moment Locke told the pilot to chart an intercept course for the train I found myself with a giant smile on my face. The subsequent sequence was built on basic elements—like the couple separated by the virus who the camera fixates on beforehand and can use as a face for the tragedy afterwards—but those elements are perfectly calibrated to fit the high-stakes action around them. Even if it was inevitable neither Scott nor Stonebridge would die on that train, and even if the conveniently arriving Fertilizer truck is a contrivance and a half, the sequence is impressive in scale, execution, and general entertainment.

However, beyond the natural climax of derailing virus-infested locomotives and blowing up virus-infested aircraft (which followed in “Episode Ten”), these episodes also need to resolve Section 20’s ongoing battle with Al-Zuhari, who was the one behind these viral attacks. The choice for Al-Zuhari to be revealed as a back-from-the-dead Kamali—who had taken over Al-Zuhari’s identity following the terrorist leader’s death—is a practical one. In truth, the character’s allegiance shifted too many times for this last reveal to have any deeper meaning: I had my suspicions early in “Episode Nine” that he could have faked his death, and so I was not necessarily shocked to see him return, but he’s flip-flopped so many times it wouldn’t have had a huge impact regardless. As much as I’ve enjoyed Zubin Varla’s performance, there is no clear arc for Leo Kamali as a character, making this less about a clearly defined villain and more about giving us a recognizable face with which to associate the threat during the final showdown.

To the show’s credit, it works tremendously well in the moment. Ester’s role in the story often felt engineered to get Scott reflecting on the son he abandoned fifteen years earlier, but her presence gave the start of “Episode Nine” a sense of purpose and her relationship with her father added valuable dimension to the climax of “Episode Ten.” Amy-Leigh Hickman proved a valuable asset, pulling out the emotional side of Sullivan Stapleton while simultaneously humanizing the season’s villain. Even if we can’t chart a clean arc for Kamali, the character was human enough and memorable enough to use as a compelling foil. When “Episode Ten” ends with Kamali holding the last canister of the virus in a public space as Scott and Stonebridge threaten to shoot him, it didn’t feel like a random terrorist threat, which had been a possibility at the beginning of “Episode Nine” when Locke threw out a bunch of exposition about a global threat that seemed disconnected from our characters. It felt like a human drama, an important dimension in a series where it could easily be lost amid the action.

On the whole, the third season worked slightly better than its second. While Charles Dance’s Conrad Knox was perhaps a more memorable figure throughout the season, the year was better for the absence of a figure like Shane Taylor’s Craig Hanson who singularly focused the energies of a single character (in that case Stonebridge). The choice to highlight strong, clearly identifiable villains from the beginning resulted in a simpler sense of conflict, but terrorism is rarely as simple as that, and the third season better captured the chaos inherent to terrorist threats. The result was some messier episodes toward the middle of the season, but the mixture of characters and themes floating around coalesced better in the finale, which never lost track of personal stakes in the midst of viral outbreaks but also never made them so personal they felt contrived, overly simplistic.

The one issue with the season, frankly, is how all of this mess and chaos resolves itself so cleanly at episode’s end. Early in “Episode Ten,” Scott wonders how they never realized Kamali was playing them after he shot Baxter, retroactively understanding that Dalton had been the only person who had been adequately cynical regarding his motives. It’s a reminder that this was a season with a substantial body count, and so I was not necessarily shocked to see the season end without another major death (with Richmond rescued from Kamali’s plane and Martinez receiving the anti-virus in time to survive the airbase attack).

At the same time, though, the concluding montage is a bit too pat for a season that was so complicated. Scott plans to connect with his fifteen-year-old son Finn, and the series exaggerates existing sexual tension between Scott and Richmond to pull the two characters together (and giving us a rare case of two series regulars participating in a softcore sequence). Stonebridge visits Martinez at the hospital, with Martinez reaffirming her commitment to Section 20 and building on the characters’ friendship (or relationship). Pirogova and Locke exchange quick words to remind us of their similar revenge motives and leave the door open for the former to return. And Scott and Stonebridge, driving in a car to nowhere in particular, reaffirm their commitment to Section 20, turn over the diamonds to Locke, and set the table for another season of run-and-gun fun.

I like these characters enough to enjoy the happy tone of the concluding sequence, but it felt at odds with the season that came before—beyond Richmond questioning whether or not this counted as a “win,” the tone was primarily celebratory rather than reflective. Where was the coda for Ester, who lost her father and is left only with the solace that he gave up the cure before he died (and that he had kept it with her for safekeeping)? Where was the trip to Dalton and Baxter’s graves to pay respects for those lost in the interest of bringing down this threat? For a season that was all about accumulating emotional weight and reflecting on its impact on the characters’ future, it all disappeared the second Kamali died and the anti-virus as obtained. While climaxes may be Strike Back’s forte, it would appear that denouements are not necessarily within their capability, choosing instead to deliver a transitional epilogue promising a sunny future in opposition to a bleak season.

Ironically, that happy conclusion is the one sour note in an otherwise thrilling and exciting pair of episodes that despite a lack of clarity in its conflict nonetheless brought together the series’ disjointed patterns of character development and narrative into a meaningful statement for Scott, Stonebridge, the rest of Section 20, and Strike Back as a whole.

Episodes Grade: A-

Season Grade: B+

Stray observations:

I appreciated the fact that there wasn’t time to save the infected train car—we didn’t spend enough time there for their deaths to really resonate, but it helped give the conclusion at least some teeth.
While not as flashy or as large-scale as the other action sequences, Scott and Stonebridge’s escape from the van transporting them to Ulyanov had some great stylistic touches (like the half-shrouded shots as they fight with their faces covered) and the wonderful moment of the one guy flying out of the van into the follow car. Really great stuff on a smaller scale.
My favorite shot overall, though, has to be the shot of Scott and Stonebridge in the jeep on the runway as the two cars crash behind them—a great piece of timing.
I enjoyed the running joke about Scott and Stonebridge being incapable of delivering a live body—I less enjoyed seeing such a matter-of-fact effective use of torture, but I suppose that’s part of the job.
I may have seen Kamali being alive coming, but I nonetheless enjoyed the realization that Ester wasn’t being lied to when the enforcer offered to take her to see her father.
Thanks to everyone who stuck it out in these two-week breaks, which enabled us to keep coverage of the show. I don’t know if the readership levels are enough that we'd be back for a likely fourth season, but in the interim it’s possible we might drop in on Strike Back: Origins—which debuts next week on U.S. television for the first time—in the TV Reviews section. I can make no promises.

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PostSubject: Re: S3/4 EP 10   Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:01 pm


Season 3 finale review: 'Strike Back': Whatever you need, Leo gets

Stonebridge and Scott try to foil a terrorist attack on an American military base

By Alan Sepinwall Friday, Oct 18, 2013 11:00 PM

"Strike Back" just wrapped up its latest season, and I have thoughts on the finale and the season as a whole coming up just as soon as I say "please"...

I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching the Richard Armitage season, which Cinemax is going to debut next week under the title "Strike Back: Origins," but boy howdy am I satisfied with the series' current incarnation. These last two episodes featured some of the show's best stunt work (the train sequence last week, and the escape from the van here), and the finale nicely paid off a whole lot of character and story beats from the season, not least of which was Leo Kamali. I was both surprised and impressed when he returned to life at the end of last week's episode, and looking back(*), I appreciate how much mileage the show got out of the question of Kamali's loyalties, and how the finale was still calling back to Dalton's murder, the death of the Russian mob boss' son, the stolen diamonds, etc. For a show that's built its reputation on kick-ass action and abundant sex(**), "Strike Back" pays attention to basic storytelling craft, and feels more rewarding as a result of that.

(*) Wondering if any obsessives spent the past week rewatching episodes 1-8 to be sure that all of Kamali's behavior — and the reaction of other terror cell members to him — tracks with the idea that he's been the big bad all along. Nothing egregious comes to mind thinking back on it.

(**) The sex was actually toned down this season — when I ran into Philip Winchester right before the premiere, he noted with some surprise that neither he nor Sullivan Stapleton were nude all that much, and when they were (like the first prison episode) it wasn't always for sex — and it felt like the Scott and Richmond scene near the end of the finale was trying to make up for it in one go.

It's always going to be ridiculous on some level — this season, even more than the previous two, had me raising my eyebrows at the severity of the deathtraps Stonebridge and/or Scott kept escaping, and the finale spent a large chunk of time on an American military base where our heroes were the only two getting anything done — and the mid-laughter freeze frame at the end of the finale all but begged for Frank Drebin and the rest of Police Squad to join in, but the execution of the individual elements and the chemistry between Winchester and Stapleton are so strong that I spend most episodes with a big smile on my face. (And when it goes away, it's because the show is aiming for and hitting a genuine character moment, like Scott ruefully noting that if the two of them aren't up for torturing a terrorist for information, "Where does that leave everyone else?")

What did everybody else think? Did you buy Kamali as a villain? Are you surprised that other than Dalton, all the supporting players survived? And did you have a favorite two-parter this time out?
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