[This is a review of The Strain season 2, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
While entertaining at times, season 2 of The Strain has mostly been an exasperating viewing experience. With plenty of interesting pieces to play with in its early episodes, the season showed promise, but quickly devolved into a mess of dangling, frayed story threads and a narrative priority list that has become increasingly out of whack.
However, even with all its meandering, the series still had an opportunity with its final three season 2 episodes to begin wrapping up story arcs, or, at the very least, display some sign that patient audiences would receive some sort of satisfactory payoff when the season concludes early next month. Unfortunately, that sign was nowhere to be found, or perhaps we missed it, as The Strain put forth another hour of television that seemed to go nowhere, in the aptly-titled episode ‘Dead End.’
After seeing the harrowing and horrifying situation Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) found herself in at the end of last week’s episode, we were certainly hoping for a rescue from Team Goodweather, but we were also hoping that rescue would be swiftly executed and not take up too much screen time. After all, there was still an on old man to kill, an even older book to acquire, and a straight-up ancient vampire race to exterminate. But the show and its central band of vampire hunters once again fails to get any closer to accomplishing any of these things, as Dutch’s rescue comes at the end of the episode, with some of the usual Strain filler coming in between the episode’s first and final sequences.
However, that’s not to say that filler was entirely uninteresting or without some merit. The backstory of Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) – before and during his time as young SS officer in Nazi Germany – certainly adds depth to his character. We get a sense of who he was as a man and how he, like so many other young men in that place and at that time, could have been easily corrupted by the evil Nazi regime. However, with season 2 coming to a close, it seemed entirely too late to be devoting so much time to a secondary character like Eichorst. Considering, there are other more pressing matters at hand, perhaps Eichorst’s love life, professional struggles and introduction to the Nazi party could have been explored earlier this season?
Of course, one of those pressing matters is – as it has been for 11 episodes now – the recovery of the Occido Lumen, an ancient text that supposedly has a great recipe for killing The Master. Neither we, nor Abraham (David Bradley) had gotten a chance to see that recipe, though he did get a glimpse at some crude drawings and some of the text after finally finding the book last week. And this week, we all get the ol’ Lumen run-around again, as the silver bane of our collective existence once again eludes Abraham, falling into the hands of Alonso Creem (Jamie Hector) by way of Rudyard Fonescu (David Schaal).
Not only is losing track of the Lumen a letdown, but Fonescu’s motivation for pawning it off is just as disappointing. Instead of having some noble, sinister, or mildly interesting reason for selling the book to Creem that would play into the larger story, Fonescu admits he just wants the money (which would pay for a trip to Tahiti). If that were the case, why did he wait so long to get rid of it? We’re pretty sure Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) would have paid top dollar for it a while ago. Of course, this development also means we, like our band of protagonists, have to deal with Creem, who is one of the more uninteresting characters on the show.
Luckily, a couple of the show’s more engaging characters also made an appearance this week, as Gus (Miguel Gomez) and Angel (Joaquin Cosio) finally united after ushering the Guptas off to safety and out of the city. It took far too long for these two to join forces in a real way, but now that they have, we’re excited to see the team in vampire-slaying action. The only notable missing member of that team was Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), who hopefully will make a substantial impact on the fight against the strigoi as the season concludes.
We have to note one other character who was noticeably missing for the second straight week, with Zack being absent from the episode. As much as we loathe his on-screen presence, the show still has an obligation to acknowledge his existence, and eventually do something with this annoyingly bratty character (even if that’s having him falling into Kelly’s clutches). We realize he may suck the fun out of any scene he’s in, but it’s time to make a decision with his character, one way or the other (live or die).
Remember when The Strain was fun? We do too, but just barely. After four or five episodes of losing track of its most important storylines (Eph’s bioweapon), those memories have nearly evaporated, replaced only by time-consuming rescues and the absolutely infuriating goose chase that is the Occido Lumen. Perhaps hoping for an engaging and logical storyline from a series like The Strain is futile, but if the series is going to be utterly pointless, couldn’t it at least be entertaining most of the time? Maybe next week’s episode will instill us with a little more confidence in its ability to let loose heading into the season finale in early October.
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘Fallen Light’ @10pm on FX.
Photos: Michael Gibson/FX