[This is a review of The Strain season 1, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
The sole winner this time around is Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet primarily because he’s one of the only people to do something in this episode that significantly pushes the narrative forward, but also because he’s such a captivating character. No matter what Vasiliy says or does, he’s an interesting guy to watch.
That’s not the case for Mia Maestro’s Nora though. That last moment with her and her mother at Leisure Horizons does say quite a bit about where the story (or the virus) is going, but that can’t justify the rather dull and out-of-left-field conversations between the two beforehand.
I hope Mariela Martinez (Anne Betancourt) ends up with a meatier role as we go along because when assessing the character in ‘Runaways’ alone, she feels like a means to an end and nothing more, and that shouldn’t be the case for two reasons: 1) it’s a lame storytelling tactic to introduce a one-dimensional character just for the sake of a little plot progression; and 2), at this point, we should care a lot more about what’s happening to Nora.
She almost got there in ‘Gone Smooth.’ She was the first one to believe Abraham Setrakian’s crazy stories and could have used that head-start to turn herself into something more than Eph’s whiny sidekick, but no. She got her chance to step it up in ‘It’s Not for Everyone’ and opted out, letting Eph take the lead yet again and getting stuck with schmaltzy one-on-ones with her mother in a retirement home.
As for Eph, there’s nothing wrong with his scenes with Abraham per se; there’s just a lot of them and they don’t amount to much. They talk about the same things over and over again, and continue to kill the infected like we’ve seen them do in scenes prior.
Bolivar’s got the same problem. How many people does he have to kill in that candlelit lair until we get some character development again? We spent all this time with the survivors and this is it? There’s no hope? They’re all just going to fall apart, make us fear for their families and then completely succumb to the worms no matter what? It’s not interesting anymore.
And that’s the one thing that makes the flashback scenes work. The disease in the present is too repetitive, so even though the material set in Poland in 1944 doesn’t say all that much about Abraham’s history and where The Master came from, it’s still a nice break from the other portion of the show.
Ever since ‘Night Zero,’ The Strain has always felt a little disjointed, and it’s probably because there’s so much going on. You can’t move forward until you earn it and with so many main characters in the middle of such a crazy scenario with lots of rules that require a significant amount of exposition, it’s going to take time to get to the good stuff. Based on where this episode ended, I have a feeling we’re very close, but that doesn’t make ‘Runaways’ any stronger on its own.
I’ve got no problem being patient as long as the slower moments are adding to the narrative and characters, but in a show like The Strain, you still need something striking to hold onto and remember from episode to episode. For example, there was that morgue scene from episode 1, the Redfern battle in episode 3 and that last moment between Ansel and Ann-Marie in episode 4, just to name a few.
Episode 5 doesn’t have anything like that. If I had to pick something, it’d probably be Vasiliy’s underground encounter or what Nora sees before taking her mother out of Leisure Horizons, but that’s not because they were particularly remarkable sequences; rather, it's because they hint at some fun stuff to come. Unfortunately, that doesn’t serve this episode.
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘Occultation’ at @ 10pm on FX.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.