Strike Back is an action-adventure show on Cinemax, and the show upped the romantic stakes in the most recent season when it introduced a new female soldier to the team. Instant sparks flew between her and another team member.
Michael Stonebridge, a soldier in a black operations team called Section 20, has been in emotional conflict for a long time. The former Special Boat Service (SBS) sergeant is a loner by nature and took some hard knocks in the show’s last season. Aside from the everyday battles that have him put his own life on the line, both his wife and his ex-mistress were killed in front of him in a short amount of time in separate events. The effect of these devastating deaths on the psyche of this already reserved man caused him to become emotionally remote aside from his interactions with his partner in the field. This was especially true regarding women. The most recent season, subtitled “Shadow Warfare,” introduced a new character to the show, Kim Martinez, a DEA special agent working covertly in the jungles of Colombia.
Kim and Michael first cross paths when she’s recruited to help Section 20 kidnap a terrorist from a drug cartel’s compound. I wouldn’t call it a meet-cute, especially as his partner Damien makes a pass at her initially, but there’s a definite spark between Kim and Michael from the beginning. What made their first meeting so memorable was Michael’s reaction to her. Michael is rather stoic plus focused on the missions, and women showing interest usually have no effect on him. When the audience is first introduced to Michael, his wife and ex-mistress are already in the picture with their established roles in his life. Kim is a new entity and very unlike the other two women in looks and personality. He not only responds to Kim’s interest with visible cues in his body language, he also tells his partner flat out that he “likes her.” From Michael, this behavior is a monumental breakthrough. He might as well have broken out in to a song and dance a la The Sound of Music. The first episode of the season lays the groundwork for a slow-burn dance between them that is both joyous and frustrating to watch. Joyous because their scenes are bristling with UST and frustrating because the pacing is such that it’s not visible in every episode.
The next big moment that got the fandom, or at least the fandom I follow on Tumblr, buzzing was their first kiss. The entire team has relocated to track other terrorists. Michael and Kim are observing a meeting covertly while pretending to be a couple out on a stroll. To protect their cover, Kim kisses Michael, but it goes far beyond a perfunctory kiss to hide their true mission. Michael is visibly flustered and stuttering in response to her comments. As a fan, it was wonderful seeing the usually stoic Michael thrown off his game by Kim’s kiss. He drops strong hints that he is interested, but his history makes taking that next step hard. One step forward soon becomes two steps back. Not too long after the kiss, further developments spotlight Michael’s strong pull towards Kim. Michael’s body language tends to conflict with his words when he’s with Kim, despite the kiss and other signs from him responding positively to Kim. Michael, going through issues other than just dealing with his emotional scars, backs off from things with Kim yet again. After this development, any progress between them is shelved for a bit, but not without Kim giving Michael a look signaling she’s aware it’s not that he’s uninterested and she isn’t frightened off while they deal with other pressing issues.
What I really love about these two together is how Kim brings Michael out of his emotional exile and makes him smile. From the beginning of the series, Michael has always had a wall that he lets few climb over. His partner Damien is one. In my opinion, Kim is now another person whom Michael has let in. By the last episode of the season and without giving away spoilers, viewers could see through Michael’s words and actions that Kim is on his mind. It’s noticeable also because the directing of the last episode especially highlights his thoughts having some focus on her. As the audience was never shown the beginning of either of his other relationships, I can only speculate on what caused him to withdraw so much emotionally or seek comfort of sorts elsewhere. While I don’t doubt there was love in those relationships, it seemed there waslittle happiness or joy in either. With Kim, you see things from Michael that have not been shown before. I want to see more of that in the show’s final season next year.
Michael and Kim’s story has all the hallmarks of the slow-burn love story that I’ve not seen in a while, and especially on an action-adventure show. With the show’s nature being one of constant danger, often with consequences, I don’t know if they will get a happily ever after, but I hope so. I’m happy with the character evolution of Michael in this most recent season and the changes I see in him brought about by Kim. The audience deserves to see the build-up of the passionate romance that’s been lurking underneath a full season already. And as Michael’s already lost two loves, I’m hoping he can live and be happy with his third lady love, who is, in my humble opinion, his best match of all.
Miss_D has been reading romance books for over 25 years. A native Californian making her way in the Big Apple, she likes to spend her downtime relaxing in front of the TV, chatting with friends, sitting in Central Park and playing beach volleyball. Miss D can be reached via Twitter @bonobochick.