[This is a review of Strike Back: Origins episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Because Strike Back: Origins delivers its story through the same two-part chapter presentation as Strike Back (that format is one of the primary elements to carry over once the series began being co-produced by Cinemax), the expectation that ‘Part Two’ will deliver some kind of climax to any given storyline is generally set up pretty well by the end of the first chapter. This notion, then, becomes doubly important when heading into the final two episodes of the season – which begin next week.
To that end, episode 4 (or ‘Zimbabwe: Part Two’) not only has to wrap up the Masuku storyline, it must also, to some degree, begin to set up the end of the Porter-Collinson conflict that’s been the main throughline of this six-part series. That’s a quick turnaround for a show that has essentially spanned seven years in four episodes.
Admittedly, the time jump was little more than a prologue, but it was also essential in building-out the two main characters of the series. And for Origins to make a hop, skip, and a jump from Iraq seven years before the main story takes place, there has to be a certain amount of intrigue floating around in the background to keep the plot moving in between demonstrations of Porter’s abilities as a killing machine – a fact that was matter-of-factly pointed out by Sister Bernadette (Sibulele Gcilitshana) when he and Masuku wound up protecting her orphanage from the rebels slaughtering innocent people in the area.
As is typically the case, there’s a lot to take in during a single episode, as most of the character development is done in the brief moments between shoot-outs and explosions. That can sometimes make it difficult for shows to demonstrate why anything matters, but the brevity of the series/season is actually one of its greatest assets (though that’s not to say that the 10-part Strike Back is too long, because it’s not; it’s just enough to leave you wanting more). The succinctness of Origins actually helps to make the many questions of the moral gray area surrounding Section 20, its work, and, most importantly, Hugh Collinson feel more pressing and immediate rather than drag them out over an additional four chapters.
The trick to episode 4, however, is that it actually throws a bit of a wrench into how we feel about Collinson as a character. Thanks to As’ad and some handy flashbacks, it’s fairly clear that Collinson not only killed fellow soldiers in an act of tragic friendly fire, but he also ruined Porter’s life in the process. Sure, he only showed up at the last minute because he needed to get his hands on Masuku, to prove that the assassination attempt on Mugabe wasn’t sanctioned by the UK military, but his arrival winds up being such a welcome one that his duplicity almost gets pushed to the background.
This is the kind of trick that can only be pulled off once to any great effect, so sliding the series into its final two chapters at this point will not only help to keep things fresh. And in typical Strike Back fashion, the plot won’t have to double-back on itself, but will instead continue to steam roll toward what we expect will be an explosive resolution to the Porter-Collinson storyline.
Strike Back: Origins continues next Friday @10pm on Cinemax.