Episode Title: "Episode 10"
Writer: Tony Saint
Director: Daniel Percival
Previously on "Strike Back"
After the disastrous mission in Kosovo, Col. Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing) almost told Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) about the file she had that proved that he was intentionally framed to help hide a conspiracy aimed at hiding WMDs within Iraq before the 2003 war. However, when she found Scott once again sharing a sexual encounter with Grant's spy, Marianna (Natalia Avelon), Grant quickly left without giving him the intel. Meanwhile, Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) was pressured by his wife to leave Section 20 behind to focus on their family, but he seemed unable to do so until Latif (Jimi Mistry) had finally been captured.
During a dangerous assignment in Chechnya, Scott and Stonebridge learned that Latif had procured VX gas and planned to attack a World conference in Budapest. Marianna also accidentally revealed her connection to Grant, causing Scott to become livid and almost leave the team. Once inside the country, Scott and Stonebridge tracked down Latif to a warehouse lab where he was trying to cover his tracks. And to the surprise of Grant, Major Oliver Sinclair (Rhashan Stone) and the rest of Section 20, Scott and Stonebridge dragged Latif back to their makeshift headquarters.
Upon seeing Latif, Grant immediately pulls a weapon and prepares to execute him. Only Sinclair steps in front of Latif to point out that his death could mean the loss of thousands of lives if they don't stop his plan. Reluctantly, Grant agrees. As Sergeant Julia Richmond (Michelle Lukes) treats Latif's bullet wound, he taunts her for doing "women's work," so she squeezes his wound to make him feel the pain. Shortly thereafter,. Section 20's patch into the Budapest camera systems gets a hit on the first of Latif's suicide bombers boarding a commuter train, so Grant sends Stonebridge and Scott to intercept him at all costs.
Elsewhere, Latif's men arm themselves as they start to follow the tracking signal from his lapel pin. In the field, Stonebridge and Scott arrive at the train station just after the bomber and they follow him onto a bus. Scott and Stonebridge attempt to sneak up on him from opposite sides, but a woman freaks out at the sight of Scott's gun and begins screaming. Scott and Stonebridge struggle with the bomber and they discover that the bomb with the VX gas isn't in his briefcase… it's within him. Since the bomb was activated by his cellphone, all Stonebridge and Scott can do is evacuate the bus and the surrounding area as it goes off.
However, outside of the international conference, Latif's other suicide bomber blends in with the crowd of protesters. Inside the building, one of the Hungarian security officials is briefed on the crisis and he brings his team with him to confront Grant and Section 20. With the distraction, Latif's men kidnap the leading candidate to be Pakistan's next President. Back at Section 20, Grant interrogates Latif about his motives and he admits that he isn't a religious fanatic, but rather a nationalist attempting to break Pakistan away from the west and keep its nuclear weapons.
Latif also reveals that he knows that Grant had a role in framing Scott for "Trojan horse" and her part in hiding WMDs in Iraq to justify the 2003 war. In turn, Grant asks Latif about the explosive device Scott and Stonebridge recovered and shows it to him. Outside, Latif's men move in on Section 20 and open fire. In the melee, Grant pockets the device and she is captured by the men freeing Latif. Richmond is injured, but she and Sinclair put up a fierce fight until Stonebridge and Scott arrive. The Hungarian security official arrives as well and he berates the team for their activities within his country.
Sinclair points out that Section 20 has already prevented one terror attack, leading the official to concede and ask for Stonebridge's help identifying the second bomber in the crowd. Meanwhile, Richmond gives Scott the tracking frequency for a device she slipped into Latif while he was a captive. At Latif's estate, Grant and the Pakistani presidential candidate are brought together as Latif boasts about their part in the Trojan horse conspiracy that ultimately gave him the VX gas. He wants them to confess their roles in the conspiracy, but the candidate refuses and is shot dead. Grant agrees to give the confession out of guilt more than fear.
Outside the conference, Stonebridge finds the second bomber, who responds by taking a pregnant girl hostage. Stonebridge convinces him to release the girl moments before the security team shoots him dead. Elsewhere, Scott fights his way into Latif's compound after Grant's confession and Latif activates the second bomb remotely. But as Latif tries to get away with Grant as his hostage, she forces him to shoot the hidden device in her jacket, killing them both in an explosion. Meanwhile, Sinclair talks Stonebridge through a tense bomb disposal that narrowly saves the day.
Later, Grant's confession is played as she apologizes to Scott and her team for what she had done. The surviving Section 20 members share a drink in her memory and Scott burns the file that proved his innocence seemingly because it would have posthumously ruined Grant's reputation. He meets up with Stonebridge one last time, who tells Scott that he's made the decision to leave Section 20 to raise his family.
I don't think that fans of "Strike Back" could have hoped for a better ending than this. In the final hour of the season, writer Tony Saint and director Daniel Percival delivered some intense action and they also managed to give all of the major characters something meaningful to do while allowing the supporting characters to shine as well.
Starting off with Michael Stonebridge, Philip Winchester has proven that he can handle the leading role he was given in this series. It's fitting that Stonebridge's last major actions are to save the life of a pregnant girl when his thoughts are clearly with his wife and soon-to-be-born child back home. It's not the most subtle comparison, but it does externalize Stonebridge's dilemma and give him more of a personal stake as he tries to disarm the bomb. Of course Stonebridge was always going to choose his family over Section 20, but the fun will be seeing what will change his mind next year. I spoke to Winchester on Friday and it sounds like he'll be back for the next season.
However, it seems pretty unlikely that Amanda Mealing will be back as Col. Eleanor Grant; which explains why she was somewhat evasive about that question during the interview. It's unfortunate, because this episode went a long way towards giving Grant a real character arc and thrusting her to the forefront of the story. I think I'll have to rewatch the season to see if there were any hints dropped along the way about her role in the conspiracy. It definitely casts her relationship with Scott in a different light. She must have been unsure about his intentions when she sent a spy to investigate him, but it's telling that she begs Scott for his forgiveness with some of her last words. Her death with Latif was also the perfect way to end her story.
Jimi Mistry hasn't had a lot to do as Latif, but I loved that the show resisted making him into another Islamist stereotype. Using Latif as a secular terrorist actually makes his motivations even more chilling. He's still a monster, but his nationalist goals made him less of a cartoon character. But I still enjoyed watching Latif finally get what was coming to him. Michelle Lukes' Richmond got her best moment of the season when she made Latif suffer a little while treating his leg. The episode also made the siege of Section 20 feel effective by letting its defense be led by Richmond and Sinclair, who were the two most underserved supporting characters this season.
Which brings us to Sullivan Stapleton's Damien Scott, who manages to keep his pants on in this episode. In his own way, Scott has kind of been a cartoon character as well with his near omni-present sex scenes throughout the season. There were so many of those scenes that Stapleton's ass should get second billing next season. Scott may not be the deepest creation on the show, but he is a pretty good action hero. His action scenes on the bus and in Latif's compound were two of the highlights of the hour. I think that Stapleton is going to have a long career in the action genre after this. He's just very entertaining to watch.
Let's be clear, "Strike Back" is no "24" and it may never be. But it could eventually be a much better show, if the writing gets a little sharper and more ambitious next season. The foreign locations have given the series an impressive sense of international scale and the action is top notch. If nothing else, "Strike Back" earned the title of TV's best action series. And I can't wait to see the new season next summer.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.