Episode Title: "Episode 5"
Writer: Richard Zajdlic
Director: Alex Holmes
Previously on "Strike Back"
Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) survived the bomb pined to him by former IRA terrorist, Daniel Connolly (Liam Cunningham) who admitted that the blast had been rigged not to harm him as a test. With his cover as a hacker intact, Scott learned that Connolly and his team intended to steal a long hidden WMD to deliver it to their primary target, Latif (Jimi Mistry). Back at the base, Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) argued with his on-again, off-again lover, Captain Kate Marshall (Eva Birthistle) about who should bring in Connolly's contact at ATAT, the weapons company holding the WMD. Kate kept the assignment, but Stonebridge slipped a tracking device on her.
But when Kate went to meet her contact, Connolly grabbed both of them off the street. Scott and Stonebridge managed to stop Connolly from getting away with the stolen WMD, but he left Kate strapped to a bomb beyond their ability to defuse. Connolly offered to deactivate the bomb if Stonebridge let him go, but Connolly quickly reneged and Kate was killed in a violent explosion. Later, Stonebridge, Scott and Section 20 leader, Col. Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing) hunted down Connolly and took their revenge. But it couldn't bring back their fallen comrade and Latif was still free and planning an attack on western countries.
In Darfur, Dr. Clare Somersby (Laura Haddock) and her fiancee, Dr. Bakri Hassan (Obi Abili) are working at a U.N. primary care clinic and against his wishes, Clare insists upon staying to save a young boy's mother who was found stabbed and raped. They stabilize the woman but they miss their military escort back to the U.N. compound. That night, a gang of marauders invade the clinic and slaughter most of the people there including the young boy's mother. When Bakri is shot in the leg, Clare stays with him as the marauder leader, Tahir ( Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje) approaches her. In Kenya, Stonebridge tries to blow off steam in the gym while Kate's death weighs heavily on his mind. Section 20 is then given their new target: Latif's weapons supplier, Gerald Crawford (Iain Glen).
At Crawford's planned delivery of weapons, he realizes that it's a trap and he gets the drop on Stonebridge. Crawford nearly gets away, but Stonebridge and Scott prevent him from escaping with his bodyguard. Back at the base, Grant offers Crawford a reduced sentence if he helps give them Latif. Instead he tells them that his daughter Clare has been taken and he is bring forced to deliver weapons for her safe return. Back in Darfur, Clare objects when some of Tahir's men attempt to make the children beat an injured man. When she resists, the guard rips open her shirt, but Tahir intercedes before it can go further.
Tahir explains why Clare is being used as leverage against her father. He then tells her that he only needs one doctor as a hostage and he kills Bakri in front of her. Arriving in Sudan at an upscale hotel in Khartoum, Scott, Stonebridge and Major Oliver Sinclair (Rhashan Stone) pose as Crawford's employees while he meets with, Matak Achmed (Fraser James) an intermediary between himself and Tahir. Scott is immediately pulled away by Maggie (Rachel Shelley), a war zone reporter and former lover who spots him in the lobby and realizes that there's a story brewing nearby.
Privately, Maggie tells Scott that she photographed other private military contractors in the area. Although Maggie tries to use her info for leverage, Scott simply takes her sim card and uploads it to Section 20. But because Maggie has her own cab driver, Jacoub (Abdul Salis); Scott allows her to tag along as he drives off. Using their facial recognition technology, Section 20 identifies the men as South African mercenaries working for Crawford. When he spots the men at a local market, Scott takes over Jacoub's cab and totals it to crash into the other car and disable Crawford's men.
Back at the hotel, Oliver and Stonebridge realize that they are also being targeted by two of Crawford's men and they dispatch them. At Jacoub's home, he leaves briefly to deliver a chicken and Maggie and Scott take the opportunity to get reacquainted… in bed. Meanwhile, Crawford explains to Stonebride and Oliver that he inadvertently gave Matak leverage against him by asking him to revoke his daughter's visa. Instead, Matak told Tahir where he could find her and they both used her as a bargaining chip. Because he couldn't trust them to free his daughter, he hired a team of mercs to help him save Clare… who attacked Section 20 without his knowledge. Oliver also suspects that Crawford is holding back on the number of men still active from his team.
Scott is late for the exchange for Clare as he is forced to ride with Maggie and Jacoub in a borrowed car. The remaining members of Crawford's team also take sniper positions as Oliver and Stonebridge await Tahir's arrival. Crawford offers Tahir a great deal of cash as collateral for the weapons, but Tahir cuts off Clare's ear and tells him that is all his money has purchased. Angered, Crawford tells his team to kill them all and a fierce firefight breaks out. Scott is able to take out some of Crawford's men, but he is shot and badly wounded. Tahir escapes with Clare and just before Stonebridge and the team are about to be murdered, Jacoub runs down the last shooter.
With Scott in serious condition and bleeding badly, Oliver accompanies him and Maggie in the car for medical help while the unlikely team of Crawford, Stonebridge and Jacoub (!) get ready to pursue Tahir across the desert.
Last week's episode of "Strike Back" cemented its status as the best action series on TV and it continued to live up to that reputation this week.
Part of the appeal of this series is that the producers don't shy away from the consequences of violence. There are definitely some over-the-top moments, but usually when people are shot on this show… they die. It's a more honest approach to action and it's hard to picture any program other than "Breaking Bad" that would graphically feature a woman getting her ear cut off. It's not the gore that I find appealing, but it was a genuine shock moment that seems all too infrequent on television.
Scott's wound at the end of the episode was also impressive both in the way that it was depicted and that the producers resisted the urge to have him pull the "action hero no-sell" and instantly get back up and start shooting. I can buy Stonebridge and Crawford's team up at the end, but Jacoub's presence is kind of hilarious. Still, the moment when Jacoub ran down the last shooter was an undeniably crowd pleasing moment. "Strike Back" seems to have a knack for giving the fans what they want to see.
Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje made a formidable appearance as Tahir and his brutality towards his prisoners was chillingly believable. If anything, "Strike Back" probably held back some of the horror of Darfur. But it was Iain Glen who gave the most layered performance of the week as Crawford. Like Tahir, Crawford seems to have an amoral attitude towards his dealings with Latif and his betrayal of Section 20. However, when his daughter is threatened, it's clear that Clare is the only thing that matters to him. And it's his love for her that gives Crawford some needed dimension.
Kate's death in last week's episode does seem to have made Stonebridge much angrier and more willing to risk himself to save a woman he doesn't know. Even with the carrot of catching Latif dangled in front of him, it's obvious that Stonebridge sees this mission as his chance to redeem himself in his own eyes for what happened to Kate. As for Scott, he's as charmingly shallow as always. At this point, it's not a surprise if Scott is going to sleep with every woman he encounters on the show. Instead, the surprise comes if he doesn't sleep with them.
Even Rachel Shelley's Maggie falls into bed with Scott after sarcastically answering his threat not to have sex again with the amusing line "like I miss those three seconds!" Jacoub's "a thousand apologies, they are Americans!" as Scott hijacked a car was also a pretty funny line.
Half way through the season, "Strike Back" doesn't feel like it's made significant strides towards moving the overall story forward or telling us what "Project Dawn" is supposed to be. But thus far, the episodes have been so solid that I don't mind the lack of progression. They work as episodic adventures and the series has had some great hooks for the next episode. Tahir's getaway with Clare was a little cheesy, but I'd be lying if I said that I'm not looking forward to seeing Stonebridge and Crawford catch up with him. And I guess Jacoub too, I just hope he doesn't end up the butt of a joke out in the desert.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.