UK TV review: The Strain Season 1, Episode 7
Brave new strain7
Ivan Radford | On 29, Oct 2014Reading time: 3 mins
“We kill The Master and all the other creatures die? That makes no biological sense!”
The Strain continues it’s oddly down-to-Earth mix of modern science and old-school critters in Episode 8. Finally addressing the idea of its big bad head-on, it introduces the season’s surely inevitable end point – a showdown with The Master – and dismisses it as silly.
You can’t help but enjoy a TV show that frequently gets close to being very good and almost immediately shoots itself in the foot, intentionally or otherwise.
Seven episodes in and The Strain has gotten no better at walking that line, but it jettisons enough subplots for one hour to make its stumble smooth enough.
The simplified focus is on two strands. First up is Joan Fluss and her family, who are swiftly terrorised by the newly turned mother. For the husband, that means a shock return home from a business trip (although not as shocking as his terrible choice of tie), but for loyal nanny Neeva, who whisked the kids to safety a couple of episodes ago, it’s a whole other kettle of fish. Fish with tentacles that come out of their mouths.
The chaos – all frantic breathing and suction noises – is as well done as any monster scene in the show so far. In fact, it’s a shame to think that the series is moving away from all these initial encounters between family members. But even here, there’s a gun pointed at its limbs; the niggling suspicion that Joan looks less like a vampire and more like a drunk clown.
It’s a nice contrast to the other, quieter half of the episode: Eichorst and Setrakian. On the down side, that means more Holocaust flashbacks, but on the plus side, they actually work this time. Is it because we spend more time with young Abraham and the seemingly ageless German? Perhaps, although it’s mostly because all their scenes are inside, with no budgetary limitations to undermine their attempts to depict one of history’s greatest horrors.
Any time with Richard Sammel is well spent, as he relishes the chance to smile his creepy smile in confined quarters. But their conversations (which inevitably bring out themes of power and control) soon descend into unsubtle moral grandstanding. Another bullet in the shoe.
If young Setrakian isn’t quite as engaging as David Bradley (and his hat), he is at least given a task to perform that informs the actions of his older self: the carving of a wooden box. By the time we’re back up to speed with Bradley’s Van Helsing-alike in the modern day, his waving around of that sword carries a lot more weight. Eichorst and Setrakian’s encounter is presented with a strong sense of pace, running around a station with a nice lick of tension – only for a moment involving a train to descend into laughable hokum. Foot. Shoot. Etc.
So far, so typical. But Episode 7 reveals The Strain’s secret weapon: a different type of infection, which suggests our virus may have more than one, well, strain. Is it safe? Deadly? At war with the strain spread by The Master? Whatever it is, it thickens the show’s tissue considerably, tapping back into that overtly freaky vein running through Guillermo del Toro’s imagination. Once again, the monsters prove more interesting than the humans, introducing the kind of depth that even the Holocaust flashbacks don’t offer. If we have to move away from the fun encounters of the season’s first half to find out more, so be it. Even dodgy make-up and a silly voice don’t ruin the moment. The show’s idea makes no biological sense. This time, though, it doesn’t matter.
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.