[This is a review of Strike Back: Origins episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
With its first two episodes (one-third of its entire run), Strike Back: Origins managed to set up the specific dynamic between embattled soldier John Porter and his increasingly untrustworthy commanding officer Hugh Collinson pretty well. One thing is for sure: This isn't the burgeoning buddy-action show that develops its characters through the camaraderie they share and the bond that is developed while in the midst of some truly mind-bogglingly dangerous action sequences.
For its part, Origins is headed in almost the opposite direction, setting up Porter as the lone-wolf operator who is quickly coming to the conclusion that the organization he works for may not be run by people who necessarily consider his safety to be of any real import.
Early on in episode 3, Collinson and Porter run over the basics of his mission into Zimbabwe to secure (and then assassinate) British intelligence officer Felix Masuku (Shaun Parks), who had been arrested after what he believed was the successful assassination of President Robert Mugabe, only to find out later that it was a double. While the details of the mission are part and parcel of a typical Strike Back episode – get arrested and sent to the same prison as the objective in question, and then break back out – the specifics seem to suggest that Porter may have been sent on such a risky mission with the hope he wouldn't actually make it out alive.
In that sense, episode 3 (otherwise known as 'Zimbabwe Part: One') is actually significant for a number of reasons other than being the start of a new two-part chapter in the overall narrative of Origins. For one thing, it features David Harewood in a pre-Homeland role as Colonel Tshuma, but more than that, it is the continuation of the larger season-long storyline that actually pits the series' co-leads against one another – something fans of Cinemax's continuation of the series might find somewhat jarring.
Generally, by the third episode, Strike Back is still adjusting to its surroundings, and there is only an inkling of what might be headed down the pipeline in terms of the season's Big Bad or other adversaries/obstacles Section 20 must face. But those obstacles typically lead to something catastrophic that must be stopped – and usually is stopped, in just the nick of time – whereas here, Origins is suggesting something quite the opposite, namely that the very institution that is outwardly attempting to rid the world of terrorists and murderous organizations is itself in need of what it's been dishing out.
This factor heightens the danger of Porter's assignments in an exciting way, as the perils of the mission don't originate entirely from those he's after, but also from those who are supposed to be backing him up. Collinson pulls Layla (Jodhi May) from the mission just moments before she's supposed to act as getaway driver for Porter and Masuku. Of course, Collinson's hope is that both men perish, but his plan backfires when Masuku appeals to Porter's inner skeptic by telling him to take a look at the circumstances and asking, "Who do you trust?"
With just three episodes of the season left, it's pretty clear the answer to that question is not Hugh Collinson.
Strike Back: Origins continues next Friday @10pm on Cinemax.