Television shows that focus on action tends to, on the whole, run their course fairly quickly for any number of reasons. The biggest is that action tropes tend to wear themselves out fairly quickly. It’s why a good action film runs its course at about the two hour mark and why a television show that is essentially a 10 hour action film can’t sustain its momentum for fairly long. Action is a genre that works in just enough of a dose to satiate but too much is sensory overload. Its why Strike Back managed to find a proper exit; even the very best of the genre only has so long before it becomes burdensome to watch.
Strike Back was running on fumes going into season 4, generously, and found a nice exit.
The show has a simple premise. A super secret British intelligence service handles the worst of the worst and in each season, focusing on one big baddie throughout. Sergeant Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and ex-Delta Force operative Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) are dealt with ever worsening situations in the name of counter terrorism operations.
Shot in a long form, with each season being essentially a 10 hour action film cut up into one hour segments, Strike Back is a thinking man’s action thriller in that the length allows it to avoid a lot of action film shortcuts; this is about really pushing the envelope and occasionally killing enough characters that the expectation that Stonebridge and Scott walking out of the situation alive doesn’t feel tenable.
The problem with the show is that there’s a point where either we needed new heroes …. Or the show had to end. And the show opted to end, as years of killing off supporting characters can only do so much before it left Strike Back to the point where Stonebridge and Scott’s mortality was ensured and it was everyone around them that were red shirts. Thus ending it now, instead of killing off either, was the only real way for Strike Back to not wander into self-parody territory.
The show itself ends maintaining the sort pulpy popcorn thriller that has been its trademark, never hitting brilliant but finding a spot between good and very good throughout.
HBO studio presents Strike Back (Season 4). Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Philip Winchester. Run Time: 600 minutes Not rated . Released on DVD: 3.1.2016
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