Season 3 finale review: ‘Strike Back’

“Strike Back” just wrapped up its latest season, and I have thoughts on the finale and the season as a whole coming up just as soon as I say “please”…

I’m looking forward to sitting down and watching the Richard Armitage season, which Cinemax is going to debut next week under the title “Strike Back: Origins,” but boy howdy am I satisfied with the series’ current incarnation. These last two episodes featured some of the show’s best stunt work (the train sequence last week, and the escape from the van here), and the finale nicely paid off a whole lot of character and story beats from the season, not least of which was Leo Kamali. I was both surprised and impressed when he returned to life at the end of last week’s episode, and looking back(*), I appreciate how much mileage the show got out of the question of Kamali’s loyalties, and how the finale was still calling back to Dalton’s murder, the death of the Russian mob boss’ son, the stolen diamonds, etc. For a show that’s built its reputation on kick-ass action and abundant sex(**), “Strike Back” pays attention to basic storytelling craft, and feels more rewarding as a result of that.

(*) Wondering if any obsessives spent the past week rewatching episodes 1-8 to be sure that all of Kamali’s behavior – and the reaction of other terror cell members to him – tracks with the idea that he’s been the big bad all along. Nothing egregious comes to mind thinking back on it.

(**) The sex was actually toned down this season – when I ran into Philip Winchester right before the premiere, he noted with some surprise that neither he nor Sullivan Stapleton were nude all that much, and when they were (like the first prison episode) it wasn’t always for sex – and it felt like the Scott and Richmond scene near the end of the finale was trying to make up for it in one go.

It’s always going to be ridiculous on some level – this season, even more than the previous two, had me raising my eyebrows at the severity of the deathtraps Stonebridge and/or Scott kept escaping, and the finale spent a large chunk of time on an American military base where our heroes were the only two getting anything done – and the mid-laughter freeze frame at the end of the finale all but begged for Frank Drebin and the rest of Police Squad to join in, but the execution of the individual elements and the chemistry between Winchester and Stapleton are so strong that I spend most episodes with a big smile on my face. (And when it goes away, it’s because the show is aiming for and hitting a genuine character moment, like Scott ruefully noting that if the two of them aren’t up for torturing a terrorist for information, “Where does that leave everyone else?”)

What did everybody else think? Did you buy Kamali as a villain? Are you surprised that other than Dalton, all the supporting players survived? And did you have a favorite two-parter this time out?