Out of the first four episodes of “Strike Back: Origins” aka “Chris Ryan’s Stirke Back,” this was the episode that felt the most similar to the “Strike Back” series co-produced by Cinemax.
Having spared the life of Felix Masuku (Shaun Parkes), John Porter (Richard Armitage) finally had someone in the field who could watch his back and engage in a few buddy comedy moments. I loved the scene early in the episode where Porter dryly apologized because he “only packed for one,” since the original plan was for Masuku to be killed.
Masuku actually seemed to fill in the gaps of Porter’s soul during this episode. Note that it was never Porter’s immediate intention to jump into another dangerous situation and rescue civilians. Porter had to be goaded into doing the right thing, but he still did it. Masuku was practically Porter’s surrogate conscience, but it made for a very good dynamic as Porter and Masuku played off of each other. This was a very promising partnership that seems like it was cut short.
The other striking thing about Episode 4 is that Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) was shifted from his adversarial role into a co-protagonist with Porter and Masuku. Contrary to my expectations, Collinson was not the man behind Masuku’s disastrous assassination attempt of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe or the attempt to leave Porter and Masuku to die within the country.
Instead, Collinson seemed genuinely shocked by the revelation that Masuku thought he had been hired by British intelligence. So Collinson headed to Africa to find out the truth for himself. And along the way, Collinson helped Porter’s daughter, Alexandra (Laura Greenwood) through an emotional loss. It’s hard to stay mad at Collinson when he goes through all of that and saves the day. But Collinson is still the guy who (accidentally?) killed his own troops and let Porter suffer the consequences. The show won’t let us forget that.
There are full spoilers ahead for Episode 4, so if you missed last night’s episode of “Strike Back: Origins” then you should probably skip this review or else Stickman will find you.
It’s amazing how many actors from the first season of ‘Strike Back” went on to bigger roles in U.S. television. Former “Homeland” co-star David Harewood is featured in this episode as Colonel Tshuma, the man leading the hunt for Porter and Masuku.
Tshuma’s final fate at Porter’s hands was darkly comic, but the guy I was hoping to see bite the bullet was the expert tracker (whom I’m calling Stickman) who seemed to have an almost magical ability to find Porter and Masuku despite their attempts to throw him off. The Stickman even ducks and escapes while Porter takes out his companions. For all we know, Stickman was just doing his job. But since his job was to hunt down the main character and his new friend, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for that character.
Surprisingly, it was Masuku who turned out to be the most sympathetic character in this hour. It was he who insisted upon saving a young girl from a rapist and on protecting the schoolchildren and Sister Bernadette (Sibulele Gcilitshana). Hilariously, Sister Bernadette was having none of Porter’s stoic warrior shtick and she slapped him for “finding killing so easy.” She’s not wrong. Porter is very much like a machine when it comes to dealing out death.
However, Porter still comes off heroically because he follows Masuku’s lead and he even performs a solo rescue for two of the children from Sister Bernadette’s school. But soon enough, both Porter and Masuku are injured and preparing to play Home Alone “Strike Back” style with Tshuma and his men.
Meanwhile, Collinson and Danni (Shelley Conn) quickly figure out that the man behind Masuku’s assassination attempt was the South African embassy contact that Layla Thompson (Jodhi May) had met in the previous episode. Collinson’s attempts to blackmail the traitor into working for the British government as a triple agent backfires when the man commits suicide in front of him. Up until that point, I didn’t quite buy Collinson’s innocence in this operation, but he seemed legitimately upset by how it played out.
Back at Sister Bernadette’s now empty school, Porter and Masuku held off the army in a valiant last stand. As many times as Porter told Masuku that he should have killed him, he clearly didn’t mean it. That was just their way of bonding. Their interactions were very entertaining and Porter must have grown fond of Masuku or else he wouldn’t have covered for his escape when Collinson arrived with reinforcements.
Although Collinson is hit by a bullet, Porter still punches him for leaving him without a getaway vehicle during the operation. Porter even rejects Collinson’s attempts to help Alexandra through the death of her mother, Diane Porter (Nicola Stephenson). Porter doesn’t want to be emotionally indebted to a man that he hates, and yet he is.
I was wondering how Porter’s family would factor into this show given the end of Porter’s story in Cinemax’s “Strike Back.” With Diane dead, there’s no one back home for Porter except Alexandra. And I’m not betting on a happy ending there.
The episode does end on a promising note as Thompson confronts Porter about the friendly fire incident in Iraq because she no longer trusts Collinson. That means that Porter could have at least one ally in Section 20 as “Strike Back: Origins” heads into the final two episodes.
This show is still pretty far removed from “Strike Back” as we’ve known it, but it would be interesting to see some of these characters back on the show next year for the final season provided that they make it out of “Origins” alive.
Blair Marnell is best known for his two year stint as a columnist for Comics Bulletin before writing professionally for Wizard Magazine, Geek Monthly and MTV Splash Page. He has also previously worked as a freelance editor for Tokyopop and Radical Comics in addition to serving as an executive producer for the popular web series, Comics on Comics.
As Crave Online's TV Channel Editor, Blair indulges his television addiction by writing about some of the best TV series on the air.