Airwolf was born out of the rising dustup of shows featuring “Futuristic” vehicles. The most famous of the Future Vehicles would be the Knight Industries Two-Thousand from Knight Rider. Lesser known, however, was the vehicle which was the inspiration for this show – the Blue Thunder. Blue Thunder was an armed Police attack helicopter with military capabilities. When Frank Murphy learns of the nefarious plans for the helicopter, he steals it and exposes the corruption. At the end, he has Blue Thunder destroyed.
Out of the ashes of that movie, however, came 2 shows. The first was the series that ABC commissioned before the movie was completed. The second, however, was this show: Airwolf.
Stringfellow Hawke is called in for a special assignment with an American Intelligence Agency (called “The Firm”) when Dr. Moffatt, creator of a Super-Copter named Airwolf, betrays said Agency and flies the copter to Libya to sell it to Colonel Qaddafi. Stringfellow Hawke, with the help of Dominic Santini, retrieve the helicopter, but the subsequent battle makes all parties believe that Airwolf was destroyed in the process. Stingfellow makes a deal with the head of the Firm: He’ll fly missions for them with Airwolf – on his terms. In exchange, the Firm will use all of its available resources to find Stringfellow’s brother, St. John Hawke, a fellow soldier who served in Vietnam and is officially listed as Missing in Action.
The Basic Crew:
One of the most favored kinds of lead characters in the 1980s was that of the Tortured Hero – A man whose past is tattered with dark secrets, usually a missing family member or anguish over an innocent person being killed during a police action or botched military operation. Batman’s origin story is famous for this, as is Superman.
The tortured hero will invariably have a happy-go-lucky sidekick who will take in life’s simpler pleasures. Again, one of the most well-known HGL sidekicks is Robin (again from Batman).
Here, Airwolf borrows again from Blue Thunder – Stringfellow Hawke is haunted by his missing brother St. John Hawke. Blue Thunder (movie) had main character Frank Murphy continually haunted by his memories as a US Army pilot in Vietnam. He participated in an operation when Colonel F.E. Cochrane killed a Vietnamese soldier by throwing him out of helicopter out of spite.
Stringfellow’s sidekick is Dominic Santini, owner of Santini Air and friend of the Hawke family. Unlike Stringfellow, Dominic is generally happy to point of jovial, and generally does not take life too seriously. In a twist, Dominic is actually older than Stringfellow, which makes his partnership work. His character shares similarities with Richard Lymangood from the Blue Thunder movie.
Their boss is Michael Coldstone Briggs 3rd. His codename is Archangel. He is the Assistant Director of The Firm, an American Intelligence Agency which operates on a level higher than the CIA – and whose capabilities are closer to that of the NSA.
Stacking the Review Deck:
Much like Blue Thunder, Airwolf also has their own idiosyncrasies to deal with. For starters, this show hates Qaddafi and Libya. It also uses the “Red Scare” as an attempt to ramp up the drama and conflict in this series. The show also leverages Stringfellow’s fanatical determination to find his brother – to the character’s (and series’) detriment.
The reviews for this show will try to look deeper into those patterns.