Everything moves quickly in the world of Strike Back. So quickly, in fact, that characters rarely have time to focus on what's happening to them aside from the moment in which it happens. The pace is furious enough that, as long as it didn’t kill them, a bullet wound is generally nothing more to worry about than a nasty scrape or bump on the head from the butt of an angry terrorist's handgun.
But while season 3 moves along at just as deliberate and swift a pace as the show's previous efforts (sometimes its hard to believe 47 minutes or more have actually transpired), a fog hangs over the proceedings in the form of doubt, uncertainty and the lingering pain of loss. The writers have gone to great lengths to make sure the audience is aware Scott and Stonebridge have their reservations about continuing to work for Section 20 – simply because they're exhausted and have been witness to the lasting effects of the job. In essence, everyone knows the pain of great loss due to their association with either the outfit they currently work for or because of their military pursuits in general (i.e., hunting down bad guys who like to blow things up to make a point).
In a quiet conversation near the end of the episode, Locke refers to Stonebridge and his partner as the "tip of the spear," recognizing the difficulty of such a position, as it was one he once held. In that same instant, the roles are briefly reversed, as Stonebridge counsels Locke on the emotional value of having been afforded the opportunity to exact revenge on the man who killed his wife. The quiet moments (and by quiet, I mean moments not filled with gunfire or explosions) of the season have regularly been about soldiers thinking about their future by examining their past.
The discussion of the past, as it pertains to the road on which each character currently finds himself, is interwoven into the larger framework of McKenna and her crew cloning a NATO harddrive after conducting a rather effective assault on the British Embassy intended only as a distraction. But it's also a theme that runs through the episode in the form of a flashback featuring Locke (with some pretty awesome sideburns) that demonstrates his somewhat convenient connection with McKenna that leads to a fairly typical showdown and more questions regarding Kamali's true allegiance.
Less directly, but perhaps more effectively, the episode manages to play up the lingering effects of Dalton's death by placing Locke in an eerily similar situation that finds him at McKenna's mercy, and at one point standing in what would be his grave. The writers not only use the idea that anyone could be killed to efficiently raise the stakes during Locke's interrogation, torture and what would have been his execution, but also manage to fill in the blanks in regard to the character.
Some of the exposition was a bit clunky, but addressing the outcome of time spent in an outfit like Section 20 gave more thrust to the subplot hanging around Scott and Stonebridge this season.
Strike Back continues next Friday @10pm on Cinemax. Check out a preview below:
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