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‘The Strain’ – For Services Rendered

A tamer episode, but a couple of nice surprises


Season 2 is coming. That’s right, “The Strain” got picked up for a second season, and I’m very happy about this turn of events. I need more vampire action next year because this year simply won’t be enough.

In the opener, we meet Joan Luss’ husband, Roger Luss (Aaron Douglas). Joan (Leslie Hope) gives him a lovely welcome home — she’s invited guests — and plans the same for the kids, who should be returning soon. The kids are currently safe at nanny Neva’s (Kim Roberts) house. More on this later.

Setrakian (David Bradley), Eph (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mía Maestro) are preparing for battle in the pawn shop basement. He challenges them to believe what he has to say, pointing out that he’s been right so far. This sets up a series of flashbacks in which we discover that Setrakian’s relationship to Eichorst (Richard Sammel) is complicated and horrible. There’s a nice little surprise in the flashbacks when we see that young Setrakian (Jim Watson) has an interesting connection to The Master beyond what we’ve already seen.

The trio set out to talk to Jim (Sean Astin) as he has connections to Eichorst. Jim finally comes clean with his wife, Sylvia (Melanie Merkosky), and attempts to convince her that the vampire virus is real. She is having none of it and has a particular hatred for Eph that hasn’t been explained to this point. Jim sets off with the three in a plan to snare Eichorst. This is a bad idea. He is smarter than the plan. There is a tense scene between Setrakian and Eichorst on a subway platform, but Eph and Nora step in and save our lead vampire hunter. We also get to see how quickly Eichorst can run when he paces a fast moving subway car.

Previous to this, Eichorst has a meeting with Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), who is still being subjected to drugs so he doesn’t reject his new liver. Their meeting sets up the showdown between our good guys and Eichorst.

Gus (Miguel Gómez) and Felix (Pedro Miguel Arce) are in jail for attacking the vampire medical examiner last week. Felix got a worm in his hand from the incident, so he’s not feeling well. That’s about all we get; although, Gus gets to show how hard he can punch.

The final scene was quite the capper. Neva and her adult daughter, Sebastiane (Shailene Garnett), return to the Luss household in the morning with the kids only to be greeted by Roger seizing on the floor. Joan is laying in wait in the shadows and makes her move to snack on the endangered group, hitting Sebastiane in the hand. Fortunately it’s daytime, and there’s plenty of natural light in the house, but this only slows down the attack -– and Joan’s friends are still present.

They all end up in the amazing wine storage area, and things look like they are going to end badly, but then a giant curve ball gets thrown. I won’t ruin anything here, but it was a WTH moment that made me smile.

WHAT WORKED
The opening and final scenes were the standouts. A very feral Joan greeting her already traumatized husband at the door was a very nice and creepy moment. The final scene added a new wrinkle that I want to see explored in depth in coming episodes. My understanding is this was not really a part of the first book, as Guillermo del Toro wanted to tweak the TV show, and I believe this will be a fun storyline to explore.

The flashback scene in which we discover Setrakian’s connection to The Master was a nice touch. Modern-day Setrakian and Eichorst facing off worked as well. Their chemistry is too good to waste. I want them both to come to my house and read to me whilst they exchange insults.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Some of the flashback scenes bogged down the episode and needed a bit of editing. The scenes with Gus and Felix were almost throwaway; although, it seems Gus is being set up to become a vampire killer. Gus is a good anti-hero, and hopefully he’ll be connected to the main players soon.

Eph and Nora didn’t have much to do this week and felt more like background, but at least they were background to Setrakian. Sylvia’s hatred for Eph needed a tad more explanation because it seems she has hated him for some time. More than likely Jim has been feeding her some lies, but a couple of short lines of dialogue would help clear this up. Also, her flat-out disbelief of the virus didn’t feel right. Her husband works for the CDC. If mine did, I’d have some incredulity, but at least I’d listen and consider the possibility.

It was another good episode, albeit a tad tamer, with some fun moments and one nice curveball. My popcorn is still out.

GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“The Strain” is based on the novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. “For Services Rendered” was written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson and was directed by Charlotte Sieling. It stars Corey Stoll, Mía Maestro, Sean Astin, David Bradley, Kevin Durand, Richard Sammel, Natalie Brown, Miguel Gómez and Ben Hyland.

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