[This is a review of the The Strain season 1, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
The Strain started strong with “Night Zero,” slowed a bit during “The Box,” but began building characters and storylines in the process, and now “Gone Smoother” continues that progression. It still doesn’t have the momentum of the first episode, but the pace is picking up and we’re getting some solid plot and character development along with it.
First off, hooray for Mia Maestro finally getting something to do! “Gone Smoother” merely introduces a connection between Nora and Abraham Setrakian, but at least it finally pulls her out of Ephraim’s shadow and proves she’s got some ideas of her own as well as the gall to act on them. It could be great to see her, of all people, step up and take Abraham’s advice – “Being good means nothing, unless you’re willing to do what needs to be done.” Eph’s been leading the charge thus far, but if she takes the reins on this one, it could be one heck of a turnaround for the character.
Kelly and Zach Goodweather also continue to move in the right direction. Ben Hyland does a solid job balancing his father’s influence with his own feelings – something we don’t get from many kid characters – and that’s the main reason the family court scene is so dynamic and unpredictable.
The moment between Ephraim and Kelly is also a refreshingly unique interaction. Initially, you just think Eph is bummed and Kelly is doing her best to console him, but then Eph calls her out on gloating about her big win, only for her to snap back and put the blame back on Eph himself. Corey Stoll and Natalie Brown play off each other particularly well, resulting in an incredibly dynamic interaction that says a lot about the past, present and future of their relationship.
Another standout this week is Kevin Durand’s Vasiliy Fet. He did manage to make an impression with a minimal amount of screen time in “The Box,” but here we get a very clear sense of how he operates, and it’s remarkably captivating. Vasiliy’s got a great blend of the familiar no-nonsense, tough guy attitude, but with just the right amount of compassion and heart, making him both fun to watch and someone you can genuinely like and get behind.
A number of main characters are on the right track, but there’s still a novelty to the whole situation, so when thinking back to “Gone Smoother,” it’s the opening scene with Eichorst, the closing battle between Eph, Nora, Jim and Captain Redfern, and, of course, Bolivar’s predicament that you’ll probably be most likely to remember.
Watching Eichorst get ready for the day is just downright fascinating – and quite beautiful, too. Everything he’s said and done on the show thus far has been especially methodical and precise, and this moment carries that through to his personal life.
Yes, I’m curious to know more about what he is and how he reached this physical state, but the more striking element of his whole routine is the pride he takes in it. He’s so proud of each and every step of this transformation and that satisfaction builds throughout the entire process until he declares, “To victory,” and walks out of that room having convinced you he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants.
As for the episode’s big battle, it’s about time! For two episodes, The Strain has let its leads walk around completely oblivious to what’s really happening, but now that’s no longer the case and its perfect timing. Had it gone on much longer, it would’ve run the risk of becoming tiresome and possibly even stunting the progression of the show.
Instead, Eph, Nora and Jim were left in the dark just long enough so that when they finally see what Redfern’s become, you get the thrill of seeing them realize what this really is in addition to the thrill of all that action. It’s an immensely satisfying moment and also serves as an effective cliffhanger of sorts for the episode.
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘It’s Not For Everyone’ at @10pm on FX.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.