I purchased the “first season” of Strike Back a couple of weeks ago as part of a deal with the fourth season of Game of Thrones. To my surprise, when I googled the show (about five minutes ago) to see if the episodes had long titles or anything (thank goodness they don’t), what is counted as the first series in the UK is a six episode series based on Chris Ryan’s novel of the same name. So it is now less surprising that Project Dawn started with such confidence and went straight into the story of a terrorist named Latif who is responsible for killing John Porter, a character in the first series, early on in the season premiere. Regardless, the confidence of the first two episodes of Strike Back have me absolutely hooked, and I took a break from writing this post to watch the third episode, and also meet a friend for coffee. As soon as I’m done with this one, I’ll probably go and watch Episode 4.
At the beginning of Episode 1, John Porter has been captured by Sharif’s men, and his military group, the secret Section 20, have failed to save him. Sergeant Michael Winchester has been assigned to find Porter’s old partner, US soldier Damien Scott to help try and find Latif. In his final message to camera, Porter sends Scott a secret message to let him in on Latif’s plans. There’s the premise for the show and the episode, and that’s all I’m going to tell you. I’m not a particular fan of military shows, but there’s a spy element to this, and I love what I’ve seen of Alias and the first season of Homeland, so I was willing to give it a try. The first two episodes are two halves of a whole, which is how I suspect most of the stories in this series are structured now that I’ve seen Episode 3. Section 20 only partially succeed in their mission, because they only have two pieces of intelligence from Porter’s final message that don’t tell them very much.
Having one story take place over two episodes also gives time to write more complex plots than would exist in an episode of 24, and the procedural storytelling complements the serialisation of the show; each mission may be a different ‘case of the week’, but each of these missions is designed to reach the goal of catching Latif and dismantling his network. These longer storylines also made it that I didn’t predict the twist at the end of the second episode – I knew something was off about the end of the hostage crisis, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As someone who watches a lot of television, I love to be surprised, and I love it even more when I’m completely wrong about where a particular story element is going. At this stage I don’t really know much about the characters, but I can imagine they’ll be fleshed out enough so that the show can remain fun. There’s a nice biting antagonism to Winchester and Scott’s partnership, even though they trust each other with their lives after what happened in Delhi. Right now this show is fun, and that’s all I want. Now I’m going to watch Episode 4 to see where that cliffhanger went.
It’s hard for me to talk about the second season of Alias without focusing on the last five minutes of the finale, so you know, spoilers ahoy. I’ll try not to get there too soon, other than to say that I’m in favour of a two year time jump, even if it (hopefully temporarily) ruins my shipping. Even though this happened ten years before Josh Charles decided to leave The Good Wife, Vaughn being married to someone other than Sydney is pretty much the worse thing that has happened to my shipping since “Dramatics, Your Honour”. I do however, think that the two year time jump was a good decision to make story wise. I finished watching the second season finale about fifteen minutes ago, so I have no idea if it will pay of the way it did in Fargo or Parks and Recreation. But I think it’s smart, and I’m a believer that if they had story to tell (pretty much the only significant thing we need to know is that Vaughn went ahead and got married) over those two years, there wouldn’t be the need for a time jump. Although I would like to know what Sydney and the CIA have been up to in that time.
Aside from my shipping being ruined once again (I’m having a bad week), I loved the second season of Alias. I had no idea when I saw the pilot that they were going to wrap up the SD-6 plot midway through the second season, and I’m glad they did. It would have been a lesser show if it was five years of Sydney and Jack trying to take down Sloane. Lena Olin was a fantastic addition to the cast, both in her acting ability and less importantly in her resemblance to Jennifer Garner. I think I might have said previously that when I saw that Sloane had kept Emily alive (however briefly), that I suspected he was working with Sark and Irina, and I’m glad I was right. Although it could just be confirmation that I’ve watched way too much television. As far as the mythology of Alias goes, I’m not sure how to feel about all this Rambaldi stuff, but I probably won’t mind as long as the show continues to be fun (I’ve heard that the fifth season is an effort to get through, and I’m hoping the show will be up on Netflix when it launches here in 10 days).
I’m also glad that the show decided to bring Will into the CIA, as well as Marshall and Dixon once The Alliance had been dismantled. Dixon’s anger at Sydney was understandable, and Will was doing well at his job as an analyst. One thing I wasn’t a particular fan of this season was the Francie storyline. Francie has always been down the bottom of my Alias power rankings (especially after Will found out the truth about Sydney), and I didn’t really like the whole Francie as a double agent storyline either. If they had cast a better actress it might have worked better, but it just seemed so clunky. However, the last five minutes of the season finale were so great that I can almost forgive it. Right now my main questions are: Who kidnapped Sydney from her house? What has she been doing for the past two years?, and most importantly, is she now employed by The Dentist? This show is so good, and the biggest tragedy of Jennifer Garner’s career is that none of her film roles have shown off just how good an actress she is, because she’s just so good in Alias.