Last summer, Cinmax's original series "Strike Back" rewrote the rule book for action on TV with a cinematic flair and sequences that seemed to be far beyond the capabilities of most weekly television series.
Of course, our U.K. readers have been quick to remind us that "Strike Back" previously had a season on the British network Sky which featured Andrew Lincoln ("The Walking Dead") as Hugh Collinson and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) as John Porter; both of whom were operatives of the secret British paramilitary unit known as Section 20. When Cinemax came onboard to co-produce "Strike Back" for an American audience, it basically started over. However, the show maintained continuity from the earlier incarnation of "Strike Back' and Armitage briefly reprised his role as Porter.
That's just the backstory. All you really need to know about the current incarnation of "Strike Back" is that it follows a wrongly disgraced Delta Force operative named Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and his new partner, Sgt. Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester); who recruited Scott into Section 20 after Porter was kidnapped by the terrorist known as Latif (Jimi Mistry). After a series of tragic events, Scott and Stonebridge decide that they can only trust each other as they chase terrorist threats around the world.
It's the chemistry between Stapleton and Winchester that makes "Strike Back" work. I'm hesitant to use the word "bromance," but the grudging respect that builds between Scott and Stonebridge is fun to watch and their interplay grounds the show. Both Winchester and Stapleton are believable action heroes and the on-location shoots give the series its own sense of reality. The action itself is impressively shot and the characters don't always get out alive. More than once, some serious consequences catch up to the Section 20 operatives and everyone around them.
In many ways, "Strike Back" is the ideal TV show for men. There is plenty of gunplay and explosions, as well as a copious amount sex and nudity. Stapleton's ass shows up so often that it should have been given third billing in the opening credits. The writing is also unexpectedly good. It's not the deep, thoughtful drama of "Man Men," but it runs rings around "Burn Notice' and the last few seasons of "24." There's strong direction throughout, which compliments the scripts nicely. The only real downside is that the character development isn't given much focus and a lot of the supporting characters don't get any real personality… or anything meaningful to do. This show pretty much belongs to Scott and Stonebridge exclusively.
Another hallmark for "Strike Back" is that the villains are allowed to perform some truly horrific actions, especially Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's African warlord, Tahir; who mutilates a woman in front of our heroes. "Game of Thrones" veterans, Iain Glen and Liam Cunningham both have memorable guest turns as well. Every mission of the series is told over the course of two episodes, which makes "Strike Back" feel more like movie series than a TV show. Even then, "Strike Back" is still more fun than you're likely to get out of the standard Hollywood action movie.
If you're a fan of "Strike Back" or of action in general, this set is a pretty good value. Aside from a lack of extras, there's nothing not to like.