Out of ammo: “Strike Back” rides off into the sunset

For my thoughts on Strike Back‘s five-season run, check out this post.

Strike Back went out in a hail of gunfire this week, and was it an adventure.

Coming off a fourth season that I would describe as ultimately pointless, the fifth season instantly become promising with the fact that it would be the final season. After all, the show’s biggest non-source of tension – if anything bad would happen to Michael and Damien – would become instead its strength.

This fifth season, Legacy, started off in Bangkok, before moving to other parts of Thailand, and into North Korea, then into Austria, then to Geneva. The plot? North Korean terrorists, led by Li-Na (Michelle Yeoh) who wanted to detonate a nuclear bomb somewhere.

Legacy was pretty much Strike Back as usual, which means intense gunfighting, easy chemistry between Michael and Damien, explosions galore, and a frantic pace. From the first scene, the Section 20 soldiers are running, shooting, jumping, or plotting their next move.

Through it all, we saw the noose tighten around Section 20. Sergeant Richmond was killed mid-season, leaving only Michael, Damien and Colonel Locke to ward off Li-Na’s plan heading into the two-episode finale.

The ninth episode, where Section 20 foils the North Korean bomb plot, had perhaps one of the most exciting action scenarios in the series. The entire episode takes place in the United Nations headquarters where Li-Na has barricaded the international delegates inside the council room with her nuclear bomb and where Michael and Damien are trapped inside. Throughout this episode, Michael and Damien are on the run from Li-Na’s henchmen, and it’s thrilling stuff – the sequence in the lift shaft where they gently step on the ascending lift without the henchmen inside noticing was especially tense.

Of course, Michael and Damien manage to storm the occupied room and disarm the nuclear bomb, not without a bit of levity from Damien as he called a former colleague, with the countdown timer ticking, to help disarm the bomb. Li-Na was captured, and Colonel Locke stormed the headquarters in a jeep to rescue the two men and their captive. The usual insanity; business as usual.

The usual Strike Back season would end here, with the bad guy caught and Section 20 living to fight another day. But this being the final season, things went a little differently…

At the end of the ninth episode, Colonel Locke was killed too, along with Li-Na, leaving only the show’s biggest non-source of tension – would anything bad happen to Michael and Damien? – as its primary question into the last episode.

The last episode is grim – it starts with Michael opening his eyes, beside a smouldering helicopter wreckage with Damien and a dead Colonel Locke beside. Mercenaries are coming for them, and the only way to survive is to run.

It is also meditative. Michael and Damien stop at a farmer’s home in the vicinity to rest, and in the process digest their fate and give a now-customary posthumous toast to Colonel Locke. Michael, in particular, channeled Jack Bauer when he admitted he no longer had nothing to care for and was grateful for it. Damien, who had a son to live for still, looked on in silence.

Lastly, it is almost tongue-in-cheek – one scene where Damien asks Michael if he has a plan to overcome the incoming assailants segues into a fantasy where the two of them charge out guns blazing and are promptly killed. And the series’ stretching of realistic aids continues when the farmer who puts Michael and Damien up gives them his father’s WWII-era motorcycle and army gear to wear.

But it all comes down to one last shootout in a barn, with Michael and Damien bleeding and low on ammo. It’s beautifully shot and choreographed – slowly but surely, their gun clips empty and so do their hopes for survival. Would they die? Fade to black on an empty pistol…

No, they didn’t die. The series ends with Michael, Damien and his son Finn riding on the open road, just like the start of the fourth season. Only this time, they won’t ever have a mission to go back to. They’re going to Las Vegas, and they’re looking happier than ever.


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