[This is a review of The Strain season 2, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
When looking back at the start of The Strain‘s second season earlier this summer, viewers have to be somewhat frustrated and disappointed at where the show’s main storylines currently are. Eight episodes in, no one has even seen the infamous Occido Lumen yet; and besides a brief run-in with our band of survivors a couple of weeks back, Kelly (Natalie Brown) and her feelers have spent far too much time sniffing fences, doors, and street lamps for Zack’s (Max Charles) scent and not enough time actually confronting their prey and our heroes, setting up the showdown we’ve been waiting for all season.
The season’s languid pacing, surprising lack of vampire action and insistence on secondary character melodrama has been annoying to say the least, perhaps as annoying as the intolerable Zack Goodweather. Fortunately, this week’s episode, ‘Intruders,’ put the narrative focus back on the search for the Lumen and Kelly’s search for Zack. The unfortunate bit is that we don’t get a satisfying payoff to either thread and are forced to wait yet another week for something substantial or exciting to actually happen.
In the case of the Lumen, we can at least celebrate the series writers’ remembering its existence this week. After two consecutive episodes with almost no mention of the ancient and apparently very valuable text, the hunt for the Lumen received B-story treatment in ‘Intruders,’ pitting Abraham (David Bradley) and Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) in a race to acquire the book’s secret contents.
After both of the old men connected with Cardinal McNamara (Tom Kemp) about purchasing the Lumen, the episode appeared to be setting up a heist sequence involving Abraham and Fet (Kevin Durand) breaking into the cardinal’s office. That would have been a little different for The Strain, and it also could have been a lot of fun seeing the duo engage in such a stealthy mission. Fet – much like this reviewer – even looked giddy when Abraham brought up the idea of stealing the book, but as is often the case on The Strain, viewers are only left with a missed opportunity.
Instead, the episode opts for a bit of a misdirect as Eichorst (Richard Sammel) gets to the cardinal first after realizing he was the one Palmer had been in talks with. As Abraham and Fet arrive at the scene just a step too late, we’re offered another banal, uneventful sequence in which the bullet-dodging Eichorst gets away to fight another day. Then, much like with Fitzwilliam two episodes ago, Abraham is able to get some valuable information out of the infected cardinal before mercifully beheading him. Once again, Abe’s got a new lead, but no Lumen, and The Strain continues to drag this dull story thread (and its viewers) along.
Similarly, the episode’s main story thread stalls after teasing some sort of major confrontation between Kelly and Zack. The opening scene of the episode does a great job of building a sense of dread – as we see Eichorst teach Kelly how to assemble her vampire-effacing human mask – but all that anticipation leads to a finale devoid of any narrative or emotional resolution. Zack appears just as confused as he’s always been when it comes to what his mother is, neither fully siding with or against her. And the fact that she – like Eichorst – escapes a boring action sequence relatively unscathed means that this plotline will continue in virtually the same place that it started (minus a few of Kelly’s creepy feelers).
On the positive side, the episode does spend some time with Gus (Miguel Gomez), Angel (Joaqin Cosio) and vampire warrior Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), the latter of whom has quickly become one of the more interesting characters The Strain has to offer. While we’re certain to learn more about his backstory as the season and the series move along, we do know that his intentions are very clear. Quinlan is in Red Hook to slay The Master and as we predicted, it looks like a reluctant Gus and Angel will join his mission, giving us something fun to look forward to as season 2 winds down.
And as season 2 does move toward its conclusion, we can only hope the storylines involving the Occido Lumen and Kelly hunting Zack will finally come to a close as well, preferably sooner rather than later. After all, there’s an even bigger fish to fry on The Strain‘s narrative plate, that being Eph’s (Corey Stoll) crude vampire bioweapon. Eph was finally able to tell Nora (Mia Maestro) what happened back in D.C., so maybe the couple will get back on the same team and form a new plan to retrieve the powerful vampire toxin? Of course, Nora will have to get over Eph sleeping with Leigh (Nadia Bowers). Let’s just hope that drama doesn’t get in the way of what’s really important: the eradication of the vampire plague.
The Strain season 2 continues with ‘The Battle for Red Hook’ next Sunday @10pm on FX.