No new episode tonight of TV's new best action series. Instead, Cinemax is running a mini-marathon of the first three episodes of Strike Back, beginning at 10 p.m. Those already watching will have to continue gnawing their fingernails until Friday, September 9. Only then will they find out if Damien Scott has been blown to bits by the bomb strapped to his chest in a barn somewhere in South Africa by ex-IRA-turned-freelance terrorist Daniel Connolly.
No spoilers here -- but I do want to suggest that the down to earth approach of this show is such that anything is possible. No predictions, just an advisory not to get complacent.
The hook with the bomb at the end of episode three wasn't an isolated grand gesture. It was an intensification of an awareness or mortal danger that is always percolating just beneath the surface on this show.
An unusually high-strung sense of danger is built into the nature of the unit and the type of soldiers Strike Back is observing. These special-forces guys are last resort extreme warriors. They are only called in when the consequences of failure are unthinkable.
In the current story it's the end game pursuit of a seasoned terrorist on the verge of acquiring a WMD. A commanding officer faced with this prospect makes a rational decision to offer one of her men an assignment that could kill him as easily as not. And the soldier, aware of what's a stake, makes a rational decision to accept it.
A show that cares as much about honoring the reality of the situations and people it's depicting as it does about the conventions of television drama is always going to be a little less predictable and a little harder on the nerves than the normal run of action-adventure entertainment. And more addictive.