STRIKE BACK: ORIGINS 1.05 & 1.06 Review
Writer: Robert Murphy
Director: Edward Hall
Previously on “Strike Back: Origins”
There are full spoilers ahead for the final two episodes of “Strike Back: Origins” and the first episode of Cinemax’s “Strike Back.” You’ve been warned…
The story of John Porter (Richard Armitage) has ended, but there’s a lot of loose ends that may never be tied up. “Strike Back: Origins” aka “Chris Ryan’s Strike Back” doesn’t offer a lot in the way of closure. It’s messy and ambiguous at best as Porter goes off to his fate in the Cinemax incarnation of “Strike Back.”
Aside from Section 20, Porter is the only connective tissue between the original “Strike Back” and the three seasons that followed on Cinemax. If there’s a purpose to finally showing these episodes to the American viewers I hope it would be to lay the groundwork to wrap up some of these threads in the final season next year. That may not be likely, but there are at least two intriguing adversaries whom I’d love to see Scott and Stonebridge take on before the end of their story.
The fifth and sixth episodes of “Strike Back: Origins” once again pull the audience into the theater of war that’s still ongoing today: Afghanistan. Computer hacker Gerald Baxter (Ewen Bremner) has seemingly sided with the insurgents and he’s found a way to redirect air strikes into hitting U.S. forces. Technological superiority is one of the tenets of Western military power. Without that edge, the implications are quite frightening.
Section 20 chief Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) sends Porter in to extract Baxter, but along the way they are both captured by U.S. troops who plan to kill them. This was an unusually bold choice, as it isn’t a rogue group of U.S. forces who are targeting Porter, it’s the real deal as personified by Frank Arlington (Toby Stephens), a man who seems to enjoy demonstrating his power over Collinson.
Arlington wants Porter and Baxter dead to cover up the fact that Baxter was a CIA asset before he turned and in order to pin the botched air strike on the British military. To top things off, Arlington is working with Zahar Sharq (Alexander Siddig), an insurgent power broker who has been pulling Baxter’s strings.
The hardest part to accept about this finale is that both Arlington and Sharq escape the story without consequence. Siddig seems to have played a lot of terrorist related roles since his “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” days. And on a side note, I think that Siddig might be the only actor to have appeared on both “Strike Back” and “24.” It wouldn’t be too surprising if Siddig was available to return for season 4 of “Strike Back.” Toby Stephens is another matter. As the star of the upcoming pirate series “Black Sails,” his availability seems less open for a return appearance.
The bulk of the two part episode finds Porter and Baxter forming a “bromance” as Porter tries to turn Baxter into a British asset and remember the family man that he used to be. It took me a while to warm up to Baxter, but the sequence in the mine field finally made me care about him as a character. After surviving that, Baxter and Porter share a laugh about their bromance moments before Baxter catches a bullet to the head. That was so screwed up. A great moment, but really harsh.
On the home front, Collinson has never seemed as powerless as he did in these two episodes. Collinson’s attempts to force Franklin into allowing Porter and Baxter to survive backfire as Franklin browbeats him into giving up the rendezvous point. Then Layla Thompson (Jodhi May) essentially blackmails Collinson into going to Afghanistan himself to save Porter. Because the ballistic report has come in, and the weapon that killed Porter’s men in Iraq was fired by Collinson.
The final confrontation between Porter and Collinson did not disappoint. In Collinson’s desperation, he couldn’t see that it was over for him and he actually pulls a gun on Porter with murder on his mind. Eventually Porter gets the upper hand and forces Collinson to admit that he accidentally shot their own troops, but he covered up the truth and let Porter take the blame.
Lincoln’s emotional breakdown in that scene was quite good and Collinson gets a measure of redemption when he and Porter are forced to team up one last time to deal with the Taliban fighters surrounding their position. That was a really great action sequence, but Collinson is fatally injured and he uses his last moments to blow up the Taliban fighters while Porter gets away.
The really messed up thing about this ending is that Porter is branded a threat by the U.S. military as we hear the audio of an air strike being ordered to take him out. We know that Porter ultimately survived that incident, before he reappeared in Cinemax’s “Strike Back.” But it’s not a happy ending for John Porter.
If you’ve forgotten what happened to Porter in Cinemax’s “Strike Back,” this is your last chance to stop reading.
Richard Armitage probably made the right choice for his career when he left “Strike Back” and accepted a lead role in The Hobbit. I have no idea if Armitage contractually had to return for Porter’s cameo in Cinemax’s “Strike Back,” but it was good to see him pass the torch, however briefly.
John Porter is dead, the victim of a terrorist execution not unlike the one he broke up in the second episode of this series. And we never see Porter’s daughter, Alexandra (Laura Greenwood) react to the news of her father’s death or that he was exonerated of responsibility for the deaths of his men. That’s a pretty big emotional beat that should have been closed.
Out of nowhere in episode five, we learn that Porter has started a relationship with Danni Prendiville (Shelley Conn); which felt a little jarring. Danni was one of the characters who didn’t transition over to the Cinemax “Strike Back,” probably because she was tied to “Terra Nova” in 2011. But I’d like to see both Danni and Layla show up at least one more time.
Despite the lack of resolution to a few major plot threads, “Strike Back: Origins” was still a really entertaining series and the finale was gripping. I just there were more shows like this on television.