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Monday, 3 August 2015

Strike Back: Legacy

Strike Back: Legacy.

I haven't seen most of Strike Back - being a concept that never really interested me, I only actually watched it when I rather inexplicably ended up in a job that basically involved seven hours of doing nothing a day with no internet access, thus requiring that I download enough TV shows and films to burn through while at work. I watched all of Strike Back: Shadow Warfare, and while I liked it - it being essentially Spooks with more guns - it didn't exactly make an overwhelming impression of me.

Fast forward a little under two years, and Strike Back: Legacy, a ten episode series meant to end the show, is airing, so, naturally, I was keen to watch it: I'd enjoyed its predecessor, after all, so there was no reason to think that I wouldn't enjoy this.

Taking place some undisclosed time after the last series, Strike Back: Legacy sees the team tangling with Li-Na, a cunning and brutal North Korean agent with her own potentially catastrophic agenda, in a mission that takes them from Thailand to North Korea to Austria. Meanwhile, there are hints of a conspiracy brewing within the British government.

In many respects, this series is more of the same: It's about seventy percent fight scenes, fifteen percent people talking in serious voices while standing around, five percent humour, and fifteen percent all the other itinerant components of a television series, and that's just fine. The fight scenes are always very good, in a frenetic kind of way, and they never really get old. The serious conversations are appropriately solemn, with Robson Green returning as Serious Speaker Du Jour and getting some excellent scenes with Michael McElhatton, probably best known as Roose Bolton from Game of Thrones, here seen using his own accent rather than the kind of softened version of it that Roose has. The comedy is there - I wouldn't go so far as to call it funny, but it never managed to make me cringe.

Ah, Robson Green. One of those British actors that everyone recognises but
nobody can name.

Refreshingly, for a series focused on the military, Strike Back: Legacy is surprisingly unjingoistic - which is something that shocked me about Shadow Warfare, as well, that the show more or less never bothers with ridiculous displays of nationalism, jingoism, or overwrought patriotism. If it had been an American series, that doubtless wouldn't have been the case, and I would be getting very angry right about now. 

Our main villain, Li-Na, is the standout character of this series: Erudite, cunning, and a deeply layered and often tragic character, she comes across as being genuinely more than a match for the entire team. The show puts more focus on her than they did on Shadow Warfare's main villain, to the point where she often seems like one of the viewpoint characters, as we spend more than a little time exploring her plans, motivations, and personal life, with several episodes spending more time focused on her than they do on Section 20. 

Michelle Yeoh makes her TV debut as Li-Na, being probably best known for her roles
in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Tomorrow Never Dies; and Memoirs of a Geisha.

In a slightly baffling move, she's killed off in the penultimate episode, leaving a sneering Home Secretary and two American mercenaries as the villains for the final episode. I vaguely understand why that was done - the plot of that final episode called for the villains to be sadistic and dishonourable, two traits which are antithetical to Li-Na's character, but it still feels like a downgrade, and contributes to a very lacklustre final episode.

It's not the only odd decision the writers made. As the final installment in the series, the writers were clearly taking a 'cut and burn' approach, ruthlessly disposing of the majority of the cast so that only series leads Stonebridge and Scott would be left by the end. While I understand that, I do have to ask why they were so lazy about it. As early as the first episode, we're having massive, neon death flags thrown up for team member Richmond, who then proceeds to perish in the fourth episode in what is a truly stunning feat of lazy writing; Locke, arguably a fan favourite, dies just as lazily in the ninth episode, in what feels like quite a workaday set-up for a fairly bland finale; team member Martinez vanishes halfway through the series in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene about returning to the DEA; and the show goes so far as to bring back a character from the third series only to have her nigh on immediately die.


It's lazy, lackadaisical writing - if you can't think of any way to isolate your two doughy white dude protagonists other than to have everyone around them perish horribly (oh, except Martinez, something which I am grateful for), then television writing might not be for you. This goes doubly when there's no danger of either of them dying (seriously, you fooled nobody with that fake-out in the last episode, guys), meaning that once you're down to those two, there's now no longer any sense of danger left.

All in all, a good but not amazing series. It's an enjoyable little show to sink seven hours or so into, especially if you like mindless action. The two protagonists are pretty dull, but the show's supporting cast brings some excellent characters to the table, with a lot of very good actors playing them. Check it out if you have time, but maybe don't go seeking it out unless you're some kind of military action show connoisseur or something like that.

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