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'Strike Back' moment of the week: We're not dying in Switzerland

Season 4 | Episode 10 | “Episode 40” | Aired Oct 9, 2015

How can we just talk about one moment, when the entire series of Strike Back is over? TV’s premier action series, not to mention one of its best ever, went out with a bittersweet conclusion on Friday. Michael Stonebridge and Damien Scott survived, but only after losing almost everyone they’d ever known (seriously, if the show had done an “in memoriam” montage, it would have been an entire act in and of itself), the careers they’d spent their whole lives in, and their faith in the British government. Yet somehow, after all that, it still turned out to be a happy ending.

Possibly owing to the fact that cast and crew knew this would be the end, the underlying theme of this season was about moving on. That meant different things to different characters. Stonebridge had to consider potentially becoming the new commanding officer of Section 20. Scott wanted to meet his son and build a future with Richmond (tear). Locke wanted to hunt down the man who wrecked his family. Martinez went back to the DEA. Even the season’s villains, Li-Na and Kwon, were breaking away from their own country. Everything was always about going forward, and what life would look life after.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the series finale. At one point, Stonebridge has a conversation with the Austrian farmer who has taken him and Scott in for the evening. He explains that he had a wife and an unborn child, and there’s some other reality where he’s happily married and the kids are running around, but he can’t even imagine it anymore. He considers his career to be not only all he has left, but all he is. This is not a new development; a major subplot in season 1 was Kerry Stonebridge pressuring her husband to choose between Section 20 and his family. But it’s how he says it now that’s heartbreaking. The Stonebridge of season 1 would have talked of his service with pride. The Stonebridge of season 4 is realizing that he really doesn’t have anything left.

It’s that emotional and ideological journey that’s the most compelling about “Episode 40.” Aside from Stonebridge and Scott’s physical battle to survive, they also are getting to a place where the thing that has always defined them most no longer defines them at all. Both characters are career soldiers who were rarely seen even considering something outside of that, and when they did, it ended the same way—both lost the women they loved to the threat of the season. Both of them then did the same thing: doubled down and went back to fighting the good fight. Soldiering isn’t just what they do; it’s who they are and who they’ve always wanted to be. And now they’re in a place where the British government is saying, “You don’t get to be that anymore.”

But it’s not entirely involuntary. Facing a kill order from their own country is the last straw that makes Stonebridge and Scott lose the conviction that’s always brought them back. They’ve been disillusioned at times, they’ve walked off, they’ve threatened to leave … but they’ve never done it, because there was always a team and a greater good. Now there is no team left, and this isn’t the good fight. As Li-Na specifically told them before she died, they’ve sacrificed a lot, and audiences know that they’ve hated many of those sacrifices. Without a reason to sacrifice, a reason to stay, they’re just two guys who’ve been put through the wringer for four seasons.

You see that all come to the surface in “Episode 40,” most notably in the performances from Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton. Stonebridge and Scott are as tough and entertaining as ever, but when the action stops, they’re not entirely here. They’re angry. They’re frustrated. They’re tired. All the things they’ve been through are finally catching up with them, and they just want to finish the fight—not for today, not until next week, but for the future.

It doesn’t mean that they’re giving up. It doesn’t mean that they’re not still the amazingly fantastic heroes that they’ve been this whole time. But Strike Back has always showed us what it means to be a soldier, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally—and Stonebridge and Scott have given nearly everything they have. Their lives are literally all they’ve got left, and by taking everything else away and making them look past Section 20 in a very real and absolute way, the show is able to give them their lives back. It gets the series to a plausible and satisfying place where it can end, because there’s nothing left for them to lose … but also nothing else we could ask of them.

Now, all Stonebridge and Scott have to worry about is getting to Las Vegas and having some well-deserved drinks. After four fantastic seasons, the first round’s on me.

Strike Back is available on Cinemax on Demand.

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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