Get a good look at the hard-charging soldiers of "Strike Back" (9 p.m. Aug. 9, Cinemax; 3.5 stars out of 4) enjoying some much-earned R&R early in the new season. It doesn't last long.
Counterterrorism operatives Sgt. Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Sgt. Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) are plucked from an American highway when an operation in Lebanon led by their Section 20 boss, Major Rachel Dalton (Rhona Mitra), goes horribly wrong. They're flown directly to Colombia, where they're tasked with following up on a lead from Lebanon by kidnapping the shady moneyman for an international terrorist who is visiting his drug lord "business" associate.
That's when director Michael J. Bassett starts blowing up everything in sight. And it's awesome.
Every season "Strike Back" raises the stakes and stuffs more thrills into its 10 episodes than the last. This season Bassett directed four episodes, but also served as a writer and co-executive producer who oversaw production from start to finish. If the early episodes are any indication, he's added some continuity and more daring action that simply dazzles. The first episode contains a riveting river boat chase that would be welcome in any big-screen actioner.
Bassett also understands that he has a stable of fine actors who can deliver not only believable physicality, but comic relief and a gut-wrenching sense of loss. The show is way more than a thriller—although it could stand tall if it were just that. It continues to subtly examine the effects their high-risk and dangerous jobs have on the brave special ops soldiers fighting evil in the world.
Winchester and Sullivan have chemistry to spare; their comic and dramatic exchanges make them one of the best duos on TV. Mitra remains an intense presence, while Michelle Lukes has grown more forceful as Sgt. Julia Richmond and Chicago native Milauna Jemai Jackson adds to the show's kick-ass women quotient as DEA Agent Kim Martinez. Newcomers Robson Green, as Col. Philip Locke, and Dougray Scott, as rogue operative James Leatherby, show gravitas and menace, respectively.
As in the past, the season is split into two-episode segments that cover aspects of the overall plot. Section 20 will battle drug cartels, Leatherby and a number of other baddies as they try to catch the illusive terrorist Al-Zuhari.
"The world's not saving itself" is the tag line for the new season. A better one might have been, "Don't [bleep] with Section 20."
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