I know some of you have already seen ep. 3-4, but I think I’ve been lucky enough at seeing the first two ones! I’m glad I have a fairy and also good friends living all over the world! Nothing can stop me from watching anything now … apart from my prejudices.

Let’s start from the end. Yeah, I mean just from the end… At the end I felt really exhausted . Quickened heartbeat and sweat as after a physical effort. Not joking, it’s true. And it was not the result of John Porter’s wild charm on my poor sensitive heart. I had been starting on my bed, biting my poor nails, covering my eyes from time to time, rambling and cursing out loud alone in the dark. When my husband came to see if everything was ok with me and asked me what the matter was, I just stammered: “Nothing …Watching a new series but… such terrible things!” And he ”Just do not see it if that is the effect it has on you!” Dear hubby, not that easy, unfortunately. I had to see it.

I know all this may sound exaggerated but I usually just avoid violent stuff because I know my chicken, I mean myself, so well that … For instance, I‘ve seen Apocalypse Now with my students couple of times, incredible, amazing movie but… what an effort to keep my self-control, to hide my anxiety.
So, stop chatting and straight to the point…this Strike Back. It is not definitely Apocalypse Now. In any sense. The first two episodes are loosely based on Chris Ryan best selling novel I read some time ago. I have to say loosely because they changed quite a lot from the book.

As this doesn’t want to be a proper review but just notes about my impressions and reactions to the first two episodes,  I’d like to start with ... the flaws. Yes! Get ready, I'll be honest and, maybe, a bit blunt.

1. The script
a. After 8 series of Spooks, it’s like being back to primary school after you got your degree.
b.I know they want to sound  realistic but too many f**k and gogogo!

2. Confusion rather than ambiguity : to write an ambiguous character (Collinson) you must be very careful at what you make him do or say all the time. This Hugh Collinson is rather confused and confusing respect to the Peregrine Collinson in the book. Maybe the other 4 episodes will help .

3.Family ties. I recognized  a certain weakness in describing Porter’s personal relationships . I know the hero must have a troubled personal life in order to sound more heroic in whatever he does but …

One of the things I most appreciated in the book was Porter and his teenage daughter, Alexandra, his relationship with her. It was extremely clear and I liked it much. When John Porter lost contact with honorable life, became a tramp and an alcoholist in the book, his daughter found him and helped him to get his dignity back. Here… it is not clear… she doesn’t want to see him or talk to him (but why?); then she hits Collinson when he reports her father’s probable death. (but if she hasn’t cared a fig so far!) .They do not see each other because she has no time … but ,when she sees him at the door in the end,  hugs, tears and what impetus … sudden improbable change!

His ex-wife! Even worse than the daughter:  she says it’ll be easier for him without her and Alexandra and she leaves him alone just when his life has been shattered down by a decision he made . I’m puzzled, I still wonder why. Moreover, after 7 years, when they think Porter is dead because he went missing in Iraq, she says their life will be better without him. But also she welcomes him with an unbelievable enthusiasm once she sees him at the door. Now, who of you wouldn’t welcome with huge enthusiasm such a gorgeous apparition at their door? I know, I know. Many. But still in a serious attempt to review this series I must be honest. This family stuff in John Porter’s portrait doesn’t work properly,  in my humble opinion.

4. Danni. In the book she is someone who has to take care of John Porter. He thinks she is a nurse but she works for Collinson , instead. Here she is a very hard working intelligent agent, usually working for MI6 section 20 at her desk, one of Collinson-the-boss’s main collaborators and she is the one who becomes operative to provide treatment for Porter’s sexual disorder? Ok. Maybe this sounds unbelievable just to me because of my little experience with spy stories (apart from Spooks) and especially because I wouldn’t accept to be used like that, for no aim and no wage in the world. (Again, I know many of you would volunteer and do that for free since JP = RA but … I’m not convinced by this part of the story either)

Now let’s stop here with the flaws otherwise you’ll start thinking I didn’t like it at all, which is not true.

 What did I like, then?
The cast. The actors, all of them, were very good. It was like a merry reunion of several talents from period drama pieces I’ve loved: Orla Brady (Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights 1998) , Jodhi May ( Minah in Daniel Deronda, Mrs Weston in Emma 2009), Andrew Lincoln ( Edgar Linton in Wuthering Heights 2009) and his awesomeness, Richard Armitage (TDHMO John Thornton in North and South 2004). They were all great, brilliant. They did their best and I particularly loved the scenes between Collinson and Porter, Leyla and Porter (especially the last one) and, above all, the ones between Katie and John during their imprisonment. Those scenes were so tense and tender at the same time!

I loved the effort Richard put in any gesture, facial expression, nuance of his voice, smile or look to convey the troubled man behind the soldier and killing machine. He kept his promises.

Now to check the effect such a series , so distant from my tastes,  could have on someone who likes the genre, I proposed my eighteen-year-old son to watch the two episodes without explaining him too much, apart from saying “I think you may like it, it’s not my cup of tea”. He sat silent (more silent and still than I had been) at his computer desk for two hours and I resisted the temptation to enter his bedroom and watch it with him.

At dinner he said: “I liked it , Mum. Your series, I liked it , really. Have you got other episodes? “ And then we discussed some scenes which he thought not as shocking as I considered them . “I’m used to worse stuff. That’s nothing. But it is a good series” . He usually watches American series and he was surprised when I told him it was a British Sky production. He was even more surprised because these two episodes came from ME and not his father!

He also explained a scene I hadn’t actually understood to me. When I told him about what happens in the book, that is that John Porter as a tramp is miracolously “restored” in three days to go and rescue Katie, he said “In the TV movie too you can understand he needs to make efforts to be ready to fight, when he shoots at the mother/baby sign, he makes a mistake, he shouldn’t have shot them, his reflexes are not ready yet” . And I: “How do you know?” He answered : “I play war role-plays on my computer, that’s part of the training!” I hadn’t even noticed that detail! I’ve never shot anybody , neither as a game!

Now it’s time to stop. So, I’ll leave you with a short statement from one of the several quite positive reviews, a professional one, I’ve found on line: “In the first, Porter, ex-SAS, is haunted by an action in which two of his comrades are shot, perhaps through his misplaced act of mercy. He sets out to redeem a debt of honour, and rescue a captured journalist. Richard Armitage, who plays Porter, is back in secret service land – he plays Lucas North in Spooks. He’s one of the best action men on television, with actorly reserves enough to bring to life private griefs as well as public derring-do. Strike Back is fine for tension, good on sub-Bond dialogue; if some of the characters are cardboard, and the storyline makes Spooks look true to life, still it’s thrilling”.

(from Financial Times,  May 9  )

... some scraps from a magazine ....

(from Radio Times 8-15 May)

... and a new link I've found... did you know it existed? My RA Fridays on Fly High! are in the roll, too!!!



Mary Gray said...

Hey Maria! I just watched the Young Victoria and The Lady Jane, and thought of you with each. Both excellent movies. Glad you're still enjoying Richard! :)

mulubinba said...

Thanks Maria! :) xx. I gave in to temptation and watched Eps 1 & 2 also (thanks to a good cyberfriend... but we have both ordered the DVD!). Like your son, I enjoy action drama so Strike Back had a grip on me right from the start. I had to shut my eyes in a few parts but there was less gore than I expected. I absolutely loved RA in this!

You make some interesting points about the discrepancies - I did wonder about Porter's wife and daughter (that story didn't seem quite complete) ... and Collinson .. I wondered what was his story. Maybe Eps 3 & 4 will reveal more?

Can you help me out? What is "DTHMO"? :)

Unknown said...

Glad you liked it, after all, MG! :D

I must admit I'm relatively new to rom coms and period dramas, because my favourite stuff has always been action and adventure movies. So I really enjoyed this series (so far), and the only flaws I could see were the - probably unavoidable, to a certain extent - usual clichés of the 'genre'. I have no complaints about the way they pictured Porter's family dealings: in such stories there is no need to analyze them in depth.

As for 'our' TDHMO (Tall Dark Handsome Mill Owner ;-), I absolutely agree with you, MG: RA's very convincing in the part, not only a cardboard character (despite the poor dialogue!) but a 'soldier with a conscience', which is the kind of hero I absolutely can'r resist! <3

mulubinba said...

Lol - "Tall Dark Handsome Mill Owner" !! Of course! Thanks for clarifying:)

Judy said...

This is pretty much how I reacted to all the violence too, Maria - and my husband, who likes action stuff, liked it better than I did, as with you and your son! You've explained a couple of things that puzzled me here. Must totally agree with you about the sudden changes in attitude of Porter's wife and daughter, which I think you've summed up brilliantly - stuff I couldn't quite get my head round. Especially odd how his daughter doesn't seem to care one minute and is so distraught about her dad the next.

I haven't seen episodes three and four yet but have recorded them and will give them a look soon!

Anonymous said...

I also had to look away at some things and scream behind my pillow (this gets worse in Ep3&4)so ppl in the house won't believe I'm crazy...

The wife saying everyone would be better off without John also puzzled me but I understood the end as she was a glad/relieved? that a person she once cared for and thought dead appeared at her door alive.
I actually felt very believable her daughter's interaction with him, from when she was little you see she loves him very much. Still young, she and her mother moved into her grandma's and seems that in those 7 years she hasn't seen him much, so now as a teenager she's angry. That doesn't mean she doesn't still love him though, so IMHO is normal when she thought her father was dead and sees him, runs to him and hugs him.

OML :)

Luciana said...

It sounds so terrible! I'm sorry, but I got that impression. The things you pointed out do look strange. I'm not sure I'll watch it. And I hate when people screw the book! Oh, by the way, nice touch the picture with the black leather jacket!

Anonymous said...

We haven't got it in Australia and as I am as squeamish as they come and as Spooks has my fight or flight mechanism at the absolute ready sometimes, I don't think I shall watch it, even though I am a strong admirer of RA's acting abilities.
RA's Gisborne/Robin Hood has spoiled me for Hollywood's Robin Hood too. Won't go near it. Can't stand Russell Crowe anyway.

Succinct and detailed review MG, well done!