Review: The Strain – ‘By Any Means’

After spending last week with our heroes stuck in a holding pattern, this week…sort of gets things moving again.

A lot of last week’s episode seemed to run on the idea of the rest of the world moving while our core group was stuck deciding what to do with themselves. In some regards, this week is still pushing that question, but it’s at least getting things moving.

TheStrainLogoFor as much crap as I gave Ephraim last season, I will give him this much – faintly damning praise that it may be – so far, this season’s actually been making him more interesting. Of course, that’s because he’s been sinking into alcoholism and performing experiments on infected humans which are seriously pushing the ethical boundaries, but compared to the walking cliché he was last season, it’s at least something new.

From there, the rest of the team seems to either be stuck in various chit-chats with an increasingly cantankerous Abe – and much as I’m enjoying David Bradley’s cranky old man stylings, it does need to break soon – or on the token monster-killing job with Fet and Dutch.

"The good news is, by the time we get into the REALLY unethical stuff, the audiences will have a hard time considering you human anymore. ...that is good news, right?"

“The good news is, by the time we get into the REALLY unethical stuff, the audiences will have a hard time considering you human anymore.
…that is good news, right?”

The former…well, the former speaks for itself. It’s some decent interactions, but otherwise it just keeps hammering home Abe’s frustration with his old age. The latter, meanwhile, just gets strange. The vampire hunting is well shot and provides some of the better action direction the show has had so far, but then it takes a segue into probably one of the most unnecessary sex scenes I think I’ve seen in a show in a while – and this is from someone who was recently reviewing Game of Thrones.

I mean, Kevin Durand and Ruta Gedmintas have a decent level of chemistry, and the first half of the sequence plays that well. But jumping right in to a sex scene in a pool fresh off of a mass monster-killing scene just feels clumsy at best and outright misfired at first.

Because the director for this week felt like making a tribute to that cinematic classic, Showgirls.

Because the director for this week felt like making a tribute to that cinematic classic, Showgirls.

The show is continuing to deliver on the flashbacks front at least. This week we get to some new material filling in questions like how Palmer started on the path of vampires and how Abe first learned of the Occido Lumen, care of some familiar faces from his past. It’s nice to see Jim Watson back as young Abe again, given his parts were some of the stronger of the first season, and this week it continues to be a high point. That the flashbacks ended showing we’ll be seeing more of the story next week has me hopeful for what’s coming.

Compared to their ‘hit the ground running’ debut last week, the antagonists this time are a bit more subdued. Eichorst is establishing the idea that the Master will need to change bodies again soon, and Kelly is dispatching her Feelers to find Zach, but these are one-and-done moments for the most part. They satisfy a plot beat, admittedly fairly well in the latter case, and then they sit out the episode.

Instead, the lion’s share of villainy goes to Palmer, temporarily storing his ‘live action Monty Burns’ routine to try and make himself out to be a heroic figure. It’s one of those moments that always feels awkward in a show where we’ve seen how cartoonishly evil the character can get, so the heroic speech that is eaten up in series just seems ludicrous (not the least of which comes care of his dropping 9/11 as a shout-out). Jonathan Hyde at least manages to play it well enough – not enough to make the audience buy it, but at least he’s entertaining to watch pretend to be a humanitarian.

"Listen, Abe...you seemed kind of down, so I've been thinking. There's a humanitarian relief program opening downtown. Wanna go and wreck it?"

“Listen, Abe…you seemed kind of down, so I’ve been thinking. There’s a humanitarian relief program opening downtown. Wanna go and wreck it?”

His plan, of course, is also questionable from the get-go: offering his own aid to the refugees of the city in exchange for things like blood type information. Yeah, nothing suspicious there at all!

This arc does at least give Abraham something to do care of their reunion at the end of the episode, but the confrontation is more about setting up things to come than making any huge advances here and now

All in all, this wasn’t a bad episode. But I can’t really say it was a particularly great one, either. Some decent bits and a few promising developments for the future, but all in all, it’s still a lot of waiting for payoff. What the show does well, it’s continuing to do, but largely just in place.

With any luck, Fort Defiance will provide the kick to get things moving this week. We’ll see though.

Pros:

-The young Abe flashbacks continue to be both interesting and moving the story forward

-Jonathan Hyde may be playing a cartoonish villain, but at least he’s having fun playing him

Cons:

-Team Setrakian still spends most of this week in varying degrees of “Now what?”

-…no. Really. What was the point of that sex scene?

Rating: 2.5/5

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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Guyinthe3rdrow

This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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