It’s never a good sign when a villain randomly decides to unveil his plan. It’s equally worrying when a character created specifically for a TV adaptation of a book is cast aside.
The Strain has always thrived or failed on its boundary between knowing and not knowing. Knowledge that the dialogue is terrible versus not knowing what the hell its creatures are. Knowledge that the Holocaust flashback scenes are generally awkward versus not knowing where they’re heading. Not knowing is always better than knowing. And The Strain Episode 10 is a prime demonstration of that – not in a particularly good way.
We join the action as Eph is trying to track down Kelly’s phone. Of course, we don’t know what’s happened to her or where she is – although we do know that her new bloke Matt was a vamp, until Eph bashed his head in last week. Writer Gennifer Hutchison comes up with a smart way to move the story forwards: by taking it backwards with time jump that reveals Kelly’s struggle with the newly turned Matt. It’s no coincidence that this is the best scene in the whole episode; a host of unknown unknowns that would have Donald Rumsfeld quivering in his boots.
As with all the series’ creature scenes, John Dahl directs it with an eye for the freaky gore – and it pays off with a gruesome moment involving someone’s eyeballs. (What is it with this show and eyes?)
Once that question is answered, though, The Strain switches straight back into cheesy exposition mode. And so, in the good old pawn shop, Strong Female Hacker Dutch explains to Setrakian once again that she helped to block the Internet for Palmer and that she might be able to undo it. A character specifically created for the screen reduced to outlining her reason for existing? It’s a shame to see a much-needed female presence wasted on clunky dialogue. That repeated revelation drives the episode’s main story, as we enter a subplot that is designed solely to tackle the question “Why is no one warning everyone about the vampires on Twitter?”
The inevitable break-in to the Stoneheart HQ is enjoyable tosh, though, as Fet and Dutch prove a decent double act: her, rude and angry; him, oddly able to charm any woman he comes across. Kevin Durand is fun to watch, his huge physical presence and rattish grin offset by his bizarre accent and tendency to dispatch one-liners that are always on the cusp of badass-ness. Ruta Gedmintas, meanwhile, is great just for his relentless swearing in an oh-so-British accent.
Then, the silliness stops being entertaining, as Palmer decides to unveil his entire master plan – read: immortality – to her for no reason. It’s a clunky climax that undoes any suspense created earlier, but also seems to render our Strong Female Hacker as semi-redundant anyway. A promising later scene with Kelly reinforces her as an female character of some import, but is equally cancelled out by another moment in which see The Master in full laughable make-up. This late in the series, the narrative should be moving into a place where building awareness of the plague’s scale grips and draws us toward the looming finale. Instead, you long for the early days, when the appearance of tentacled gribblies was still an unexpected shock.
We can guess what Kelly’s future role will be – the episode’s title, Loved Ones, gives us a clue – but we don’t know for sure. One thing that is certain, though, is that whatever happens, we already know what our lead monster looks like. Not knowing has never been more disappointing.
The Strain Season 1 is available on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – with the first month only £1 if you sign up before 27th September. You can also buy it on blinkbox, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Wuaki.tv and Google Play.
Where can I watch The Strain on pay-per-view VOD?