Strike Back: Project Dawn - First episode reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
THE most striking thing about the start of Season 2 of Sky 1’s Strike Back (subtitled Project Dawn) was just how quickly they got rid of season one’s main protagonist, John Porter (Richard Armitage), and – arguably – its main reason for watching!
Having apparently been captured by terrorists while attempting to locate a man named ‘Latif’, the head of the Pakistani terrorist organisation, episode one opened with a tense – but ultimately botched – rescue attempt.
So far, so gripping. But moments after then introducing the two new main characters – Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) – Porter was wheeled before cameras, told to read a message and then shot in the head. I guess that’s what landing a gig in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit will get you!
Thereafter, it was left to Stonebridge and Scott to pick up the trail and continue the search for Latif and the mysterious Project Dawn.
This they did by initially deciphering a coded message contained within Porter’s final act of defiance against his captors (which felt contrived and required a bit of a leap) and heading to a luxury hotel in Indian where Latif may be staying: covertly, of course.
No sooner had they checked in, though, than the hotel was stormed by terrorists who took everyone hostage and rigged the place with explosives, prompting Amanda Mealing’s sassy Section 20 head to react: “It’s Mumbai all over again.”
Not quite… more like Die Hard as Stapleton’s Scott found himself to be something of a lone gunman after evading initial capture.
Just when you thought you had a handle on the situation, and that Stonebridge and Scott were taking back control of the situation, a late twist plunged them into further jeopardy, whilst attempting to ensure that viewers would flock back to the second episode of 10.
But will they? On the evidence of Sunday’s opener, opinion could be divided.
By opting for gung-ho [and sometimes crass] style over substance, Project Dawn runs the risk of alienating viewers almost before it’s properly began.
Where the first series offered a keen mix of Spooks and 24 that expertly blended top-drawer action with some emotional complexity and intrigue, this already feels inferior to both by virtue of the fact that its brains appear to lie in its pants, or blown from Porter’s head.
There’s no character complexity – Stapleton’s Scott, in particular, dropped his pants more often than the bad guys to seduce ladies with a glance – while the narrative, thus far, is poor, especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as terrorism (particularly scandalous on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11).
Rather, Strike Back‘s main objective seems to shock and titillate: even Wincshester’s Stonebridge had to perform his manly duties for an ovulating wife prior to heading to India in a tacklily edited sequence involving the flashing of her breasts to get the Sunday night males excited.
In frequently stripping its leading men, however, Strike Back‘s creators have also stripped the show of any real intelligence or tension, making the prospect of another nine episodes a really big ask indeed.
Perhaps the most surprising thing, however, is the presence of HBO as a co-producer.
Rather than injecting the quality synonymous with offerings such as Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, this plays more like something that Starz might deliver if it were to update its Spartacus format to a more contemporary setting!
Strike Back: Project Dawn is on Sky 1 HD on Sunday nights from 9pm.