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Strike Back - Episode 6.03 - Review: "Stay In Character"

Budapest, Hungary. Jane Lowry (Katherin Kelly) meets with Rosa Varga (Kelly Gough), who runs a white nationalist group with her brother Josef (Mark Strepan). Lowry tasks Rosa in finding somebody important to her evil mission. But luckily, Section 20 is already on their trail. Colonel Donovan tasks Wyatt and McAllister to infiltrate the white power group by going undercover on their MMA-style fight ring, while Reynolds and Novin stay behind as lookouts.

Soon enough, McAllister is selected to fight in the ring. After he wins, Wyatt and him get closer to Josef, but the latter gets kidnapped by unknown assailants. Meanwhile, Reynolds and Novin follow Rosa to a cafe, who gets a call by an impatient Lowry. Lowry gives Rosa a day to find her target. Reynolds and Novin manage to pin-point Lowry's location, leading them into a church, but soon they lose track of her. Suspicious that Lowry might be more than meets the eye, Reynolds questions Colonel Donovan, by implying that Lowry is too well trained for a converted jihadist. It is obvious that Donovan knows something important that we don't.

Meanwhile, Josef is taken to a gypsy identity forger named Tobar (Balazs Czukor). It is revealed that Josef paid Tobar to give out the name of one of his clients, the man that Lowry has tasked Rosa to find. Due to Josef's lack of respect, Tobar is offended and intends to kill him, but McAllister and Wyatt interrupt the meeting, saving Josef and killing Tobar. The trio manage to retrieve Tobar's client list and are able to identify the man that Rosa is looking for, Ilya Zaryn (Daniel Cerqueira). Elsewhere, Lowry calls Rosa and lets her know that there might be moles inside her organization.

Back at the Section 20 safehouse, the team is able to locate Lowry's hideout. Growing obsessed to find her, Donovan decides to go herself with Reynolds to get Lowry. As they arrive to the hideout, they find it to be empty. But they discover several pictures of Section 20 and its past and present operatives, including John Porter, Damien Scott, Michael Stonebridge and Rachel Dalton. An explosive detonates soon after, destroying the found evidence, but Donovan and Reynolds manage to survive.

Meanwhile, back at the Varga compound, Rosa and Josef confront McAllister and Wyatt, making them turn against each other, unbeknownst that both of them are the moles. In order to prove himself to them, McAllister stabs Wyatt, who is then thrown out into the street. McAllister has sex with Rosa, who are then discovered by Josef, who grows more distrust towards McAllister. It is later revealed that Rosa and Josef grew in an abusive family, and it was thanks to Josef that both managed to escape and survive. A few incest references are thrown here and there too (Thank you Jaime and Cersei Lannister).

Wyatt returns safely to the Section 20 safehouse and is patched up. Donovan explains that his wound was a "perfect shot" because it avoided arteries. Meanwhile, the white nationalists find Dr. Zaryn's location and set out to get him, accompanied by McAllister. Donovan sends Wyatt and Reynolds in an attempt to retrieve Zaryn before the white nationalists, while Novin tails them. The separate groups arrive into a hospital and locate Zaryn, which ends up with him running away. McAllister, Josef and Rosa chase Dr. Zaryn, who crashes his car and attempts to flee on foot, but is soon intercepted by the trio. Suddenly, McAllister turns into the brothers, but discovers he has an empty clip. Novin attempts to rescue McAllister but its too late, as he has been already taken along with Dr. Zaryn by the Varga brothers, ending the episode on a cliffhanger.

I've got to say, I've always enjoyed Strike Back when it takes place on highly populated cities like Budapest. It makes the action look more natural and the scenes more intense. There's a higher dynamic with the urban environment than in the middle of the desert where the heroes always find themselves conveniently in a enemy ridden area.

There is a flaw that is turning into a pattern this season though, and that is giving the bad guys more development than the heroes. We still don't know anything about Reynolds nor Novin. It feels like these female leads were just added to the show in order to please a feminist audience. But they still fall short and stale. Meanwhile, McAllister and Wyatt are still dealing with trust issues between themselves, which makes no sense after bonding by the end of Episode 2. It feels like the writers are trying too hard to give these two characters chemistry, but instead it keeps resulting on two men bickering like seven-year old children. And don't get me started with Donovan, who is just bland and boring. Can we kill her off now?

I was still pleased by the constant action, but I would recommend the cinematographer to stop using that orange color filter he's been using since Episode 1. It makes the series look like CSI: MIAMI on steroids.

And last, I love that the previous protagonists of Section 20 made cameos through photographs. It goes to show the audience that the writers are being respectful of the legacy that the series has left, and how significant it still is in that universe. Also, when Donovan looks at a note left behind by Lowry, you can see that it says that Michael Stonbridge current status is unknown. Should we just accept the fact that he is now in New York working in the ADA's office as a prosecutor, or is it safe to assume that he and Damien Scott are lurking around somewhere, waiting to pop up at the perfect moment? Only time will tell.

3 stars out of 5


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