We’re four episodes into Strike Back season 7, and it just feels like Section 20 is being dropped into a bigger and bigger hole. It’s a really cool hole with a lot of fights and some explosions, but in some ways this season does feel like staring into the abyss.
Maybe that’s why “Episode 4” has an oddly contemplative feel to it. There’s still some great action, wrecking an entire apartment building followed by a police station shootout. The former includes another one of those incredible long takes that the show became deservedly famous for last season, and yet again Alin Sumarwata gets run through the wringer. (There is no argument at this point; she’s the toughest actress on television, hands down.)
But Strike Back‘s real strength is what happens when the show isn’t causing mass amounts of property damage, and this episode introduces a few good points of character development, too.
The first is with Gracie Novin (Sumarwata), who is forced to go on the run with the device that everyone wants to get their hands on. Unfortunately, Novin is captured pretty quickly and spends a large portion of this episode either being tortured, or having to fight her way to freedom. Once she’s safe and sound, Novin berates herself for giving up key information to the guys who tortured her. “I just didn’t want to die,” she admits, to which Samuel Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson) responds, “Not wanting to die is not a weakness.”
But Novin isn’t convinced, telling him, “It is for a soldier.”
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Strike Back fans can discuss amongst themselves. Yet to watch Novin, who’s probably taken the most physical punishment out of the core characters, begin to crack and to doubt herself is disturbing. If she can’t hold it together, who can? And if that’s not scary enough for you, this also feels like the beginning of a very familiar arc: the one about the career soldier who either burns out or dies. On a show that’s known for people dying with alarming regularity.
The other major development involves Wyatt. When Alexander Coltrane (Jamie Bamber) gets orders from above to kill the newly returned Katrina Zarkova (Yasemin Kay Allen), he doesn’t put up much of a fight. Coltrane is that guy, the one for whom orders are orders even though they make no sense and involve a woman he was personally involved with. How weirdly disappointing that is, is a discussion for another episode.
But Coltrane knows immediately that he wants Wyatt to pull the trigger, and Wyatt takes that for the backhanded compliment that it is. As Daniel MacPherson says in the clip above, Wyatt knows he’s the guy; that was well illustrated in Strike Back season 6, where his dark military past came back to haunt him, not unlike Damien Scott. He’s the one with the most, shall we say, moral flexibility – which is interesting because, as seen in the exchange with Novin, he’s also the character who’s the most willing to be vulnerable.
Yet being tabbed for this “assignment” (air quotes absolutely necessary) is a sign of how he’s seen in Coltrane’s eyes. Wyatt has worked incredibly hard not to be that bad guy anymore, and the fact that Coltrane asks him and not Novin or Thomas “Mac” McAllister (Warren Brown) to do the dirty work is saying that he’s still seen as that guy, despite everything he’s done to the contrary.
Wyatt’s already on a slippery slope having felt the need to steal a bunch of money, and this certainly isn’t going to help his worldview. Of course, by the end of “Episode 4,” we learn that he doesn’t actually have to kill Katrina and why, but just the fact that he’s asked and the assumptions that go with it are dangerous to him.
One would hope that in future episodes, Coltrane will finally start pushing back a little harder (he’s otherwise tough as nails), and perhaps being a bit more perceptive about the fact that Section 20 is fracturing. They’re all able to rally together for the mission, but they’re all struggling in different ways too, and that’s usually when a leader is at their best. (Of course, that’s presuming that Jack Lothian doesn’t go to the oldest line in the Strike Back playbook and kill Coltrane off at some point in the next six episodes. We can only hope not.)
But as the Wyatt and Novin scene shows here, Section 20 aren’t just a team in the field; they’re a family off of it, too, and they ought to be leaning on each other now more than ever. “Episode 4” demonstrates that they clearly need it.
Strike Back airs Fridays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Cinemax.