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‘The Strain’ – Gone Smooth

Still slow, but the hammer must fall


This week finds Dr. Ephrain Goodweather (Corey Stoll) trying to keep several balls in the air, as usual. He and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro) are trying to keep Capt. Redfern (Jonathan Potts) alive, but they come to realize that is a mistake. Goodweather is also fighting for custody of his son, Zach (Ben Hyland), and has a bone to pick with his estranged wife, Kelly (Natalie Brown), over the outcome.

In other news, Martinez goes to Setrakian’s (David Bradley) hearing over his trespassing and concealed weapons charge at the airport. Bradley is great in this scene as he plays up the forgetful old codger who just wants his sword/walking stick back and will never do it again. A somewhat convinced judge dismisses the charges, and Martinez confronts Setrakian outside the courthouse. He turns back into his sharp-as-a-tack self and tells Nora she isn’t ready to believe him after giving her advice on what to do when her team finds the bodies.

Jim Kent (Sean Astin) reappears this week, and we find out he has a reason for his betrayal. When he goes to collect the money he is owed, he meets Eichorst (Richard Sammel) for the first time, who tells him that he knows about Kent’s very sick wife, Sylvia (Melanie Merkosky). Of course he has a sick wife. Eichorst can get her into a clinical trial for a treatment drug as his company is running the trial. Kent takes the blood money and tacitly agrees to continue working for Eichorst, who makes good on his word. What that will be worth soon is anyone’s guess.

We get a quick scene with Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), who notices the rats aren’t acting right after responding to a bite call at a ritzy apartment.

The standout storylines this week belonged to the survivors. Ansel Barbour (Nikolai Witschl) has been home and is still under the weather. His overtaxed wife, Ann-Marie (Alex Paxton-Beesley), pleads with him to not go away again as she cannot handle things by herself, but she may rethink that after seeing him down the blood that has pooled in a pan around a raw steak. Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy) has a very bad day that ends with a jaw-dropper of a scene.

WHAT WORKED
The opening this week was excellent. We see Eichorst in his real form before using special effects appliances and makeup to make himself look like a regular, albeit creepy, man. This was such a great moment, and the music was perfect. Very effective stuff.

Again, the survivor storylines were the most interesting. Barbour’s painful transformation is a joy to watch. Witschl has a gaunt look and haunted eyes that work perfectly for Barbour. What I also liked here was that in a few quick lines of dialogue, we realize Ann-Marie is a troubled woman whose coping mechanisms are not suited for what is about to happen to her husband.

Capt. Redfern’s storyline comes to a sad end, but his final scene works to great effect in convincing Drs. Goodweather and Martinez that something truly awful is coming.

Bolivar consults with a doctor who tries to medicate him into shape for a performance; however, the doctor cannot fix a much more concerning problem. After Bolivar shows him his genitals, the doctor’s face pretty much tells us a horrible story. Later, Bolivar pees. It will be the last one he will have to take, hence the title of this episode. It was a great moment.

Fet has a nice scene here with a little girl and her jerky father, but it was short. We were given enough to see that Fet is a good guy who can charm kids and ladies, but has no time for rich fools. I’m a fan of Kevin Durand’s, and I’m hoping he gets more to do in the coming weeks.

The special effects didn’t disappoint (they haven’t yet). The gore factor was low (save for two scenes), but it feels like a storm of blood is coming. I can’t wait.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The storyline involving Goodweather’s personal life is not moving enough at this point. The actors here are fine, particularly Stoll, but the story feels like dead weight and needs to be trimmed or beefed up to bring his loved ones into direct danger. His character is fun to watch when he’s in the thick of things, but when he gets around the family, the scenes stagnate.

Jim Kent’s wife having cancer and needing treatment, the very treatment that Eichorn’s company can provide, was a very convenient plot device. I would have preferred it if Kent was just a bad man who did it for the money or for eternal life. I like Sean Astin, and I would like to have seen him play bad here as he is generally a good guy in whatever he does. You can really hate him properly if this nice guy with a nice face is really a self-centered pinhead.

I realize we’re only three hours in, but I would like a bit more Setrakian and Fet. Both are very interesting characters, and even the short scenes they get in this episode are a lot of fun. Martinez isn’t getting enough to do either. Also, there was not even a passing scene with The Master. There are a lot of characters here, but I feel like his presence is required at least a bit in every episode.

Horror is the main theme for this show, and it needs to stay on that course. I understand character development is necessary, but the shorter characterization scenes are the ones that work here. Longer dramatic sequences can slow “The Strain” to a stop. Longer scenes are fine, but they need to be action oriented. The scene between Ansel Barbour and Ann-Marie at the kitchen table was quick, but I understood her character very well, and that was all I needed. Eichorst applying makeup to himself in the opener was wordless, yet it told a huge story.

This week’s episode was a definite improvement, and I’m sticking with it. I can feel bad things looming on the horizon in the best possible way.

GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“The Strain” is based on the novel of the same name by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. “Gone Smooth” was written by Chuck Hogan and directed by David Semel. It stars Corey Stoll, Mía Maestro, Sean Astin, David Bradley, Richard Sammel, Jack Kesy, Kevin Durand, Natalie Brown and Ben Hyland.

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Could they be a gh...gh...gh...ghost? Rut-ro! Shaggy
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