In the interest of full disclosure, Season 4 was my introduction to 'The Unit,' so I concede there may be plotlines involving characters or stories from previous seasons that I am unaware of, which may make this season a richer experience for fans who have been following the series.
Created by David Mamet, 'The Unit' is based on 'Inside Delta Force: The Story of America's Elite Counterterrorist Unit,' a book by Eric Haney, who served as a producer. Shawn Ryan, creator of 'The Shield,' was the show runner. The episodes usually have two storylines running through them. One is similar to 'Mission Impossible' minus a master of disguise, as the Unit travels the world, foiling bad guys and protecting America, usually by way of guns and explosions. The other storyline deals with the wives back home and the stresses they must deal with.
'Season 4' opens with the wives taken from their homes, with those with young children aseparated from them. At first, no one explains anything, but it is eventually revealed that the members of The Unit's families are all at risk and have been under surveillance. They are given new identities and moved to Los Angeles. Stories in which they attempt to grow accustomed to their new identities run through the season.
After killing a bunch of bad guys and saving the President-elect, the season premiere concludes with their commander Colonel Tom Ryan (Robert Patrick) telling the Unit they are going to Sarajevo to take the fight to enemy. However, in the next episode 'Sudden Flight,' they are headed toward South America on an Air Argentina flight that ends up getting highjacked. I thought maybe the broadcast aired out of order, which would explain the continuity error, until the wives' storyline continued from the previous episode as they adjusted to their new location. Considering the severity of what has taken place, I was surprised how long it took the creative staff to get back to this storyline.
'Into Hell' is a two-part episode that leads the team to the Middle East as Betsy, the daughter of field commander Jonas Blane (Dennis Haybert) and a servicewoman in Iraq, gets kidnapped along with other soldiers, and all are taken to Syria. We get the clichéd "you can't go after her" speech, which surely no viewer believes will be listened to. Col. Ryan takes part in the mission and a series plotline since the pilot episode gets resolved as he admits his affair with Tiffy (Abby Brammell), the wife of Mack Gerhardt (Max Martini). The penalty of betrayal in the Unit is death. Mack wants it, Ryan accepts it, but the question becomes "will the other Unit members stand by and let an execution happen?" The answer is not surprising, a regular fault of the writing staff.
The series concludes with "Unknown Soldier," in which a rogue team member who was kicked out of the Unit joins forces with terrorist Leon Drake (David Rees Snell). The Unit races all over the country when they learn of Drake's plan to have three nukes go off in major cities. The plot has some good twists, but as has been the case throughout the series, the Unit saves the day. During the ending montage, relationships are strengthened while others damaged, yet never to be revisited.
The writing is fairly predictable. There's little doubt as to the outcome of the missions, especially early in the season. During 'Sudden Flight,' Col. Ryan claims they may have to blow up the plane the team is on, yet I can't imagine a viewer believing that with 20 episodes to go in the season there was even a remote chance of that happening. That's not to say there are no surprises during episodes, but they are few and far between.
If this wasn't a TV show, it would be amazing how often the good guys escape unharmed with all the gunfire and explosions taking place. This diminishes the show's believability. Not that there aren't repercussions. While undercover on assignment, one team member is tortured with heroin and ends up becoming a junkie over the course of a few hours. It seems rather fast, and was obviously done for dramatic effect; however, instead of turning to his tight-knit team for help immediately, this plotline is allowed to play out over a few episodes. It comes off as feeling forced by the writers in order for the character to have something to do. The soldiers represented on 'The Unit' deserve to be portrayed as the real people they are. The writers missed a great opportunity.
'The Unit: Season 4' is presented in a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Although the source appears to be very clean, due to a stylistic choice, there are varying degrees of grain throughout the series, and the lower the amount of light the more of it is evident, like the plane scenes in 'Sudden Flight.' This contributes to a softness that at times causes the images to lose some of their usual sharpness.
The colors are well rendered with a palette comprised of a lot of earth tones. The only vibrant colors in exteriors are the red-orange flames stemming from explosions. Blacks look good, but blend into the darkness and lose definition. The contrast is quite good, but sunlight during exteriors causes occasional overexposure problems in the sky and other areas appears blown out. Skin tones are natural and consistent, an impressive feat with the multiple ethnicities in the series, and facial close-ups reveal a lot of detail, such as pores and beard stubble. In fact, many different textures are well captured and rendered, adding a gritty realism to the adventures. Aside from these minor quibbles, didn't notice any other flaws in the video presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio will make very good use of your sound system. The fronts and subwoofer deliver most of the firepower effects, while the rears assist in immersing the viewer within the firefights. The wide dynamic range reveals shells clanking on the ground and aircraft roaring into the scene and panning across the soundfield. The score augments the action. The only thing the effects are lacking is better directionality during the firefights.
The dialogue comes primarily from the front center and can be heard clearly and distinctly, whether out on the battlefield or during tender, dramatic moments on the homefront. There are subtitles in Spanish, French, and for the hard of hearing.
‘The Unit’ makes an effort to appeal to men and women as its final season goes out with many bangs. There’s action for the guys, and relationship melodrama for the ladies. It’s a series where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black, which is unfortunate for those who like their characters more realistic and nuanced and their stories with more unpredictability. But, if you like patriotic, escapist action, ‘The Unit’ serves that function well.