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'Strike Back' moment of the week: Symphony of destruction

Season 4 | Episode 5 | “Episode 35” | Aired Aug 28, 2015

How do you follow up killing off a beloved character? If you’re Strike Back, you refocus the show on the core duo of Damien Scott and Michael Stonebridge—and unleash them to do what they do best. In “Episode 35,” Scott and Stonebridge destroy the North Korean plant where Li-Na’s prized vanadium is going toward building missiles, and they don’t care how many soldiers they have to kill to do it. Whether it’s opening fire, throwing a grenade, or tossing somebody from a catwalk several stories above the ground, Section 20’s finest spend the majority of this week leaving a trail of bodies and burning debris in their wake.

Aside from being ridiculously fun to watch, the sequence in which Scott and Stonebridge infiltrate and ultimately blow up the industrial plant is tops on so many levels. Technically speaking, the crew of Strike Back once again deliver feature film-quality action for a television audience. This isn’t just a constant stream of shooting people; there’s a lot of different exchanges happening here, whether it’s an awful lot of gunfire, or Scott struggling with a guard that he ultimately throws over a railing, or Stonebridge getting to utter those glorious words: “Fire in the hole.”

The scenes provide several different types of action, all of it gratifying to fans who are still upset about the murder of Julia Richmond. We want to see the bad guys get some, and get some they do indeed.

It’s also delivered really well. So many shows and movies turn action scenes into big, loud blurs with lots of camera movement and noise, making it hard to tell what’s happening and harder to remember when it’s over. Strike Back has always produced a lot of action, but it’s consistently well paced and cleanly directed. As the plant is coming down, the camera stays out of its own way; it’s easy for the audience to tell where Scott and Stonebridge are and what they’re dealing with. We can count as Stonebridge places each of the four charges needed to destroy the building, and when he pushes that button, the explosion itself is a thing of beauty. So many directors could take a note from what’s being done here.

Most important, this mission strips the show back down to what it’s always been about: Scott and Stonebridge, working as a team, saving the day and having some genuine interactions while doing it. No offense to Locke or Martinez, but Strike Back is centered on this duo for a reason. They are a joy to watch as a team. We spend this sequence locked in their POV, or over their shoulders as they’re doing the dirty work and hopefully getting vengeance for their fallen friend. We get to be with them and understand what they’re going through—not just in terms of staying on mission, but what both Scott and Stonebridge are facing in front of them emotionally. And we get to celebrate with them when everything blows up at the end. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Runner-Up Moment of the Week: Li-Na’s angsty reunion

Things aren’t all terrible for Li-Na in “Episode 35.” Sure, her life’s work has now been reduced to a smoking wreck, but at least she was reunited with the love of her life. When she returns to North Korea, she’s assigned a liaison to make sure that she reintegrates into the country—and that liaison is Kwon (Will Yun Lee), her former classmate. Despite years apart from one another and her insistence that they’re different people, they still share a passionate embrace moments after being brought back together.

Even though these are the bad guys, you can’t help but feel oddly happy for them. As we pointed out when her true identity was revealed, Li-Na has been embedded in the Western world for a long time. She wasn’t even 20 when she first surfaced as a Japanese national enrolling in school, as Locke mentions in a later episode. Though we don’t know how old she is now, she’s got to be at least in her mid- to late 40s. So she’s been away from him for two decades. And in those two decades, it’s not like she was free to date other people. For them to have been apart that long and still care about one another—that’s bittersweet.

It also touches on another strength of Strike Back: The show’s antagonists are treated as main characters in their own right, given their own histories and character arcs beyond being simply defined by their interactions with Scott and Stonebridge. Li-Na is the villain, and we definitely want to see her get knocked off her perch. But she has her own journey about identity, and country, and how there’s nothing that she won’t sacrifice. That’s an interesting story in its own right.

Plus, the casting of Will Yun Lee opposite Michelle Yeoh couldn’t be more perfect. Speaking of great duos, this is one we’re already loving—even if we’re still going to enjoy seeing them taken down.

Strike Back airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Cinemax.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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