Writer: Jed Mercurio
Director: Daniel Percival
Previously on “Strike Back: Origins”
One of the unintended consequences of broadcasting “Strike Back: Origins” three years after it debuted in the United Kingdom is that viewers of the Cinemax version of “Strike Back” already know how John Porter’s (Richard Armitage) story ends up. And the events in the second episode of “Origins” seem to directly parallel Porter’s predicament in the first episode of “Strike Back” on Cinemax.
It’s not hard to imagine a version of “Strike Back” on Cinemax that would have included Porter fighting alongside Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton). Porter is a more damaged individual than Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester), but Porter and Scott were supposed to have been friends during their stint in the Middle East. That was retcon designed to bring Scott into Section 20’s orbit, but it’s a shame we never got to see those two characters play off of each other on screen.
The current version of “Strike Back” is a buddy story, yet “Origins” is anything but. Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) is not Porter’s friend, he’s his nemesis. And the stage seems to be set for a showdown between Porter and Collinson sometime in the remaining four episodes.
There are full spoilers ahead for “Strike Back: Origins” Episode 2, so if you missed Friday’s episode then you should probably skip this review or else Porter will be getting more impromptu dental work.
The revelation that Collinson killed his fellow soldiers in Iraq was a great twist. From the brief flashback, it seemed like Collinson’s actions may have been accidental. But he knowingly let Porter believe that he was responsible for those deaths because he spared As’ad (Fenar Mohammed Ali).
Collinson has compounding his mistake by covering it up. His entire career is predicated on that lie and he can’t let the truth come out. Thus when Porter tries to extract As’ad, Collinson refuses and he orders As’ad to be left behind for the terrorists to eliminate. The last time that As’ad appears on screen, he’s running for his life and his chances don’t look good. I was very tempted to peek ahead to see As’ad reappears in the remaining episodes.
I’d also love to know if Katie Dartmouth (Orla Brady) stayed around on the series, as the emotional bond she formed with Porter was engaging. But for now, I’m content to remain unspoiled about the remainder of the story. Within this episode, it was refreshing to see that Porter had to plan ahead his escape and that the story actually took a few moments to establish how and where Porter hid his weapon before he was captured.
With Porter missing and presumed dead, his daughter, Alexandra Porter (Laura Greenwood) openly grieved while her mother, Diane Porter (Nicola Stephenson) was surprisingly bitter towards her ex-husband, presumably as a defense mechanism. When they were eventually reunited with Porter, those negative emotions seemed to wash away.
Note that Collinson delivered the news Porter’s apparent death himself. If he didn’t care about Porter at all, Collinson could have simply sent Layla Thompson (Jodhi May) or someone else tell Porter’s family. Collinson’s actions may have also been born out of his guilt, but his affection for Porter and his family adds some nice dimension to his character.
Porter’s escape from captivity and his rescue of Dartmouth may have been inevitable, but it was fun to watch. The current “Strike Back” has kind of spoiled us with how easily Scott and Stonebridge escape from captivity. It felt like Porter really had to earn his escape here and his showdown with the terrorist leader was suitably brutal.
Despite getting only a few scenes, Ali managed to generate some sympathy for As’ad while conveying his inner conflict about his actions. It wasn’t quite enough to make the audience care about him, but it did make his ambiguous fate register a little more strongly.
By the end of the episode, Porter and Collinson seem to be following the Machiavellian creed of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. Both men appear to be circling each other like sharks while avoiding the issue that lies between them. Collinson seems to suspect that Porter knows the truth about the incident in Iraq; which of course he does.
The question is, what will Porter do with that information? That’s a very strong hook to leave the story on. I just wish there were more than four episodes to explore the dynamic between these two men.