As season 3 rolls along, it becomes clear that the writers wanted to take Strike Back into a place the series had only visited tangentially, or as the outcome to one of the many subplots swirling around while Scott and Stonebridge were off chasing the Big Bad or just making life miserable for people with nefarious plans regarding the world around them.
Case in point: This season’s Big Bad is, ostensibly the terrorist al-Zuhari, but he’s only been seen once, and that was in the form of a recorded video message intended to be broadcast as a warning to the people and cultures he saw himself as being at war with.
Instead of spending time understanding the antagonist’s motivations, or the various machinations of his or her plot against humanity, Strike Back has instead placed the underlying focus of the story on the physical, mental and spiritual toil the members of Section 20 (and all other sections like it, really) undergo in order to simply perform their job. Not only has this season witnessed the near collapse of perfect soldier Sgt. Michael Stonebridge, but it has also played with (overtly at times) the idea that even the best and most loyal soldier could find himself looking for the backdoor and his way out to a different kind of life.
In order to get to that line of thinking, however, the solider(s) in question have to be of a certain mindset, one that grants them the ability to move on and accept the things that are asked of or done to them in the name of freedom, or in the pursuit of keeping the world a safer place from maniacs with WMDs. Perhaps ironically, Strike Back seems to be suggesting that in order for guys like Stonebridge, Damien Scott and, in regard to episode 8, Leo Kamali, to be proficient at what it is that they do, they must also adopt a cynical way of thinking about the larger machine that they serve.
Scott sums this up fairly succinctly when he tells Kamali, “We’re all just pieces on a board. That’s all.” Translation: “You screwed me over to achieve a larger goal, but it’s okay; it’s part of the job.” It’s a good bet that response is just the kind of forgiveness Scott doles out simply as part of being Damien Scott, but it’s also indicative of the attitude that was instilled in him indirectly about what a life in Section 20 is worth. Scott and Stonebridge are great at their jobs and there’re always other soldiers around who want to back them up, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re pawns in a larger game, and sometimes pawns are sacrificed to ensure a victorious outcome to that game.
In the end, it’s no coincidence that Locke brings Stonebridge grapes while he’s recovering from the neurotoxin that nearly killed him. It’s a mixed message of blood, sacrifice and celebration. And as the death of Kamali proves, this season has been chock-full of the former, so Locke and Section 20 can take a small moment to observe the safe return of a key game piece.
Strike Back continues next Friday @10pm on Cinemax. Check out a preview below: