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'Strike Back' moment of the week: Let's talk about priorities

Season 4 | Episode 7 | “Episode 37” | Aired Sep 18, 2015

One of the conceits of Strike Back, as is the case with many shows, is that the characters sometimes have to make wrong decisions in order to keep the plot moving forward. After all, if they were right all the time, Stonebridge and Scott would have captured Li-Na last week and there wouldn’t be half as much to do for these final four episodes. That line between right and wrong—and common sense and dramatic license—is nowhere better illustrated than in this week’s “Episode 37,” when Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) finds himself face-to-face with a bomber who goes by the alias Oppenheimer (Michael McElhatton, whom you’ll recognize from Game of Thrones, Ripper Street, and The Fall).

Oppenheimer is the new business associate of Li-Na and Kwon (Will Yun Lee), and Stonebridge is under orders to bring the man in. He’s seated across the table from him in a public square, holding him at gunpoint under the table. But then Oppenheimer teases that the pen he’s holding is actually the detonator for a remote-controlled bomb. If he clicks it, the bomb will detonate and kill all the innocent people just enjoying a day out in Vienna. Or he can just as easily disarm it. Or is he bluffing? That’s for him to know, and Stonebridge must make one very difficult decision.

It’s a choice further complicated by Stonebridge’s boss, Locke (Robson Green), who becomes convinced that Oppenheimer might be the man who planted the car bomb that killed his son and left his wife in a permanent vegetative state. Locke abandons his post in pursuit of Oppenheimer, not wanting to lose the man he’s been hunting for years, if not decades.

Stonebridge is unwilling to risk the lives of civilians just to accomplish his mission, and elects to announce the existence of the bomb and begin evacuating the square. Locke misses Oppenheimer, who calmly walks away just moments before a bomb does indeed explode—he wasn’t bluffing after all.

In this particular case, it’s hard to argue that Stonebridge didn’t make the right decision. But what makes this sequence of events Moment of the Week–worthy is how it’s all played out. For the first part of this sequence, the audience is locked into Stonebridge’s point of view, listening to his tense exchange with Oppenheimer, learning as he does about the bomb, and having to decide what he should do. We have to ask ourselves if we’d be willing to sacrifice a fair number of innocent victims for a chance to stop the North Koreans (because remember, as this is happening, Li-Na is still at large and Kwon is being pursued by Scott; getting Oppenheimer doesn’t necessarily mean the whole plot is foiled).

Strike Back is full of tough choices, but this particular one does a fantastic job of putting the audience into Section 20’s line of fire and making us think about all the factors they have to consider every step of the way. These characters are definitely heroes, but they get to be heroes because of a lot more than being able to shoot well—they also have to think smart.

That also applies to Locke’s portion of this whole situation. As Stonebridge and Scott discuss later in “Episode 37,” he makes the situation worse by leaving his post. While on a human level they (and everyone watching) can absolutely understand why he did it, that doesn’t make it okay. Stonebridge broke from the mission to save lives, but Locke wasn’t doing anything but going after revenge, and that’s if he does in fact have the right guy. That calls his judgment into question, which isn’t what you want for the guy calling the shots.

It’s definitely a wrong decision, and one that is a little bit more for drama’s sake than for sense. But we can concede it because it goes back once more to a storyline that’s been an undercurrent to the entire season: Stonebridge’s future as the potential head of Section 20. If Locke is making bad calls and if Stonebridge and Scott are doubting him, then will Stonebridge have to step up instead? Will he have to pull Locke off the job, which is how Locke got the job in the first place? What we’re seeing is that Stonebridge can make the right decision and Locke can’t, and that’s something we’ll have to chew on.

The nature of episodic television often means that characters are forced into crossroads, having to screw up because it’s too early in the show to save the day, or find out who the killer is, or whatever the objective may be. Yet in “Episode 37,” Strike Back gives us a scene where it makes perfect sense to let the bad guy get away, while also putting us on the hot seat and continuing to develop a vital subplot. As this show winds down, it really is firing on all cylinders.

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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