If you still didn’t believe Strike Back is sending, then Episode 9 definitely hammered that point home. The Cinemax series did what was seemingly unimaginable, and in so doing assured that there’s no other way but out for the latest iteration of Section 20.
SPOILER ALERT: This recap contains massive spoilers for the events of Strike Back season 7, episode 9.
Sunday’s episode killed off Lance Corporal Manisha Chetri (Varada Sethu). After reporting Section 20 to Spencer, and then going on the run with the one piece of evidence that proved everything had been a setup all along, Chetri was captured by the Russians. Yes, for the second season in a row, all roads led to Russia – but this time, in the person of Arianna Demachi (Ivana Milicevic), who was not actually Ariana.
During a bloody interrogation, Arianna tried to convince Chetri that she wasn’t really a soldier. But in what would be her last moments, Chetri proved that she was Section 20 at heart, refusing to give up information. When the rest of the team arrived to save her, they discovered that the interrogation room was impenetrable, and Arianna wasted little time in shooting Chetri in the head.
There were other things going on in Episode 9, of course, but Chetri’s death is the one worth talking about and the one that this episode will be remembered for. It’s not just that Strike Back has killed off two main cast members in four episodes. It’s everything that Chetri represents, as well as the timing and context of her demise.
Any longtime Strike Back viewer knew that at least one of the main characters was going to die this season. The show doesn’t kill its regulars at the same pace as, say, Spooks (that’d be MI-5 to American viewers), but the death card gets played often especially when there’s nothing left to lose, both for the characters and the writers.
Remember that in the final Scott and Stonebridge season, the timing was very similar: Julia Richmond (Michelle Lukes) died in Episode 4 as opposed to Warren Brown exiting in Episode 6, while Varada Sethu’s departure in Episode 9 matches up perfectly with how Phillip Locke (Robson Green) was also killed in the next-to-last episode. The show likes that one last gut-punch before the end.
Jack Lothian may not have wanted to kill Chetri (as he says in the behind-the-scenes video above), but it’s almost instinctual that he went there, as it feels like Strike Back is traveling a similar road to the way it originally ended almost five years ago.
Chetri was the most innocent of the five core characters. She was the one who brought a little naivete into the show, whose wide-eyed way of looking at the world offset everyone else’s cynicism and decades of soldiering. In a sense, you could say that she provided hope for the show because she was just that much lighter in personality and outlook than the others.
The decision to kill her off is somewhat akin to Richmond’s death, though it should be noted that the two choices originated from totally different circumstances (Michelle Lukes had decided to leave the show and Varada Sethu had not). When Richmond died, it felt like Strike Back lost its heart, because of the compassion and the brightness that she provided. Likewise, Chetri’s death takes that hope off the table.
The remainder of Strike Back season 7, now, can’t be about anything more than getting out. It’s like season 5; after losing Richmond, the writing was on the wall for Scott and Stonebridge that this was the end of their line. Lothian has now pushed Alexander Coltrane (Jamie Bamber), Gracie Novin (Alin Sumarwata) and Samuel Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson) into a place where they also are emotionally and mentally done, clearing the way for the show to come to an end. After all, you can’t have a TV show about soldiers if none of them want to be soldiers anymore.
But will Coltrane, Novin, and Wyatt get to ride off into the sunset like Scott and Stonebridge did? That we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
Strike Back airs Fridays at 10:00 p.m. on Cinemax.