SHOOTER Review: “Killing Zone”

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Bob Lee gets closer to identifying the actual SHOOTER in the exciting, “Killing Zone.” Shooter isn’t for everyone but fans are gonna love this episode. Every show has a bible and every story has its sins, dilemma ladders, and escalation matrices. On top of those, USA has it’s universe and knows exactly what belongs in it. Shooter isn’t a knock-off of some network hit, but it does play by tried and true rules.

“Killing Zone” begins with a scene of Bob Lee evading and fighting baddies hand to hand; dirty, gritty, and personal. Then, he races to the top of a hill and targets a distant figure running on another hill. Then, we get the title card and a new scene, “20 hours earlier.” The new scene is Bob Lee meeting with Julie and Mary for a picnic. I’m not a huge fan of these forward/backward jumps but they’re effective when used this way. The first action scene, Bob Lee cutting some dudes throat, marries the stakes scene, Bob Lee with his family. It’s all about motive; stakes and goals. Bob Lee doesn’t kill for his country or because of some quiet hate. Bob Lee kills because he loves his family and people are going out of their way to threaten that life.

SHOOTER -- "Killing Zone" Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) Shantel Vansanten as Julie Swagger, Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger, Lexy Kolker as Mary Swagger -- (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)

— “Killing Zone” Episode 106 — Pictured: (l-r) Shantel Vansanten as Julie Swagger, Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger, Lexy Kolker as Mary Swagger — (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)

Just as important, why does Payne kill? Memphis questions Payne this week and implies he’s a sociopath, but also implies he cares about something deep down, maybe even her. Payne is a trickster character and it’s difficult to tell if he’s ever telling the truth. He counters her diagnosis by saying they have a few things in common, like getting screwed over by their bosses. He does tell her something useful. Payne tells her to look into “Annex B” but doesn’t tell her why.

Special in Charge, Utay, asks Johnson if he knew Payne was dirty or if he’s ever heard anything about “Annex B.” Johnson claims he didn’t really know Payne, he was assigned to Johnson’s task force by another . We know this is mostly a lie. He also claims to know nothing about Annex B which turns out to be the truth. Which brings us to the truth of a sociopath, if Payne doesn’t care about his mission or superiors, why wouldn’t he talk when his freedom and survival are on the line? the villain team is under tremendous strain at this point.

This little “Annex B” McGuffin sends ripples through the Shooter villain world. Johnson investigates it on his own. He turns to an old Army buddy who gives him access to a classified database. “Annex B” turns out to be a program which uses private military contractors to conduct illegal black ops. This is the classic shadow case of a mystery story. There is always a surface case which we see in act one, usually a “how” crime. For Shooter, it’s the assassination. However, in the second act, we get the shadow case; a “why” crime connected to the “how” crime. USA is great at developing series story pockets. It allows us to spend time with the baddies while the hero, Bob Lee, makes very little story progress in the most fantastic cinematic way.

SHOOTER -- "Killing Zone" Episode 106 -- Pictured: Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger -- (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)

— “Killing Zone” Episode 106 — Pictured: Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger — (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)

In this case, Bob Lee seeks his very own Obi-Wan, a man named O’Brien. William Fichtner takes a break from Mom, and his many other projects, to send Bob Lee in the right direction of the man who actually killed the Ukrainian President. O’Brien also serves as a mirror character for Bob Lee. He’s a cautionary tale of what Bob Lee would become if he ever lost Julie and Mary. Other than that, the man is pure entertainment value. He is grumpy, testy with Bob Lee. The hills around O’Brien’s shack are filled with nasty booby traps. The whole place is on big kill box and Meachum sends a whole team of paycheck d-bags in for the slaughter. The mercs manage to wound O’Brien in the leg, but the final tally is Bob Lee/O’Brien – 10, Mercs – 0.

SHOOTER -- "Killing Zone" Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) William Fichtner as Rathford O'Brien, Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger -- (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)

— “Killing Zone” Episode 106 — Pictured: (l-r) William Fichtner as Rathford O’Brien, Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger — (Photo by: Jeff Daly/USA Network)

O’Brien gives Bob Lee a fancy rifle called a Black King. He says there are only three others like it in the world and one of them fired the bullet that made Bob Lee an outlaw. The other important piece of the Bob Lee story this week is that Julie tells him Donnie Fenn’s mother is missing. Bob Lee suspects Johnson is behind this and I’m interested to see how he handles it.

Johnson is shocked to learn about Annex B and his trust in Meachum drops. Meachum tries to discredit or silence Payne, but an Army detail takes him into custody. Meachum is surprised by this turn and it makes me wonder if he has some secret master he serves too. On the bright side, Utay finally believes Memphis is on the right track about the Swagger set up, but neither she nor Payne admits he’s still alive. This is about the midpoint for season one and the conspiracy has a few more surprises to offer. Meachum, Johnson, and Payne are all on the hot seat for now. One of them is going to get desperate, crack, or betray the others. I suspect at least one of them will team with Bob Lee for a little while and another one will go after Memphis and his family.

Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
Shooter airs Fridays at 10PM on USA

Read all of our reviews of Shooter here.
Read our reviews of more of your favorite shows here.


Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
Follow Eric on Twitter: @Etom2012
Keep up with all of Eric’s reviews here.

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