[This is a review of The Strain season 1, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
Maybe it makes no sense that no one notices when Eph and Nora pull out guns on a crowded subway platform and it’s one heck of a coincidence that a train just happens to speed through the station without stopping just in time for Eichorst to escape, but who cares? At this point, the The Strain’s entertainment value has far surpassed its logical issues.
Some of The Strain’s strongest material comes in ‘Night Zero’ due to the inherent thrill of first learning about the impending doom, just like in any disaster/apocalypse movie. ‘Occultation’ just teased what will happen when more of the world comes face-to-face with the virus on a citywide level, but the opening of episode 7, ‘For Services Rendered,’ takes a more intimate approach.
By showing us what happens when Mr. Luss (Aaron Douglas) discovers the vampires, it conjures similar feelings to when we were first finding out about them ourselves, like in ‘Night Zero’ and other earlier episodes, while also adding more layers to the scenario thanks to the fresh perspective. When all hell does break loose, now we’ve got an idea of how it’ll play out for people on a more personal level, which could help the show avoid a familiar mass destruction pitfall - faceless and empty widespread killings.
Shifting over to our main players, it’s always exciting seeing heroes come together, so when Eph, Nora and Setrakian show up at Jim’s door, it gives the episode a nice energy boost before hurling them into their plan to find and follow Eichorst. However, that plan does seem a bit moronic considering Eichorst figures it out within minutes of the gang coming up with the idea.
On the other hand, the material with Eichorst and Setrakian back in Poland in 1944 is especially powerful this time around. We got a solid introduction to the scenario in episode 5, but that was merely an introduction. Here, we really dig into it, and not only does it add quite a bit to Eichorst and Setrakian as characters, but it also further proves that Richard Sammel is one heck of a performer.
Jim Watson makes for a solid young Setrakian and is able to convey a lot through reaction shots alone, but Sammel commands those scenes. His delivery and body language is so on point that it isn’t just about what he’s saying. You’re busy considering his threats and trying to figure out what his next move will be, but in order to do that, you’re also eying his facial expressions, his body movements and how he’s maneuvering his props, too.
Eichorst is bad. That was established right off the bat, but thanks to Sammel’s multilayered work, it isn’t as simple as branding him the villain and simply watching what he does next. He’s one of the show’s most engaging characters because he forces you to keep an eye on everything he’s doing, making you far more invested in the situation.
Now it’s back to the Luss family for the big reveal of the episode. We haven’t seen much of Neeva (Kim Roberts) and her daughter (Shailene Garnett) only lasts a single episode, but the two make a particularly appealing pair of heroes. I was hoping both of them would make it out of that house with the kids alive and that they would continue the Luss family storyline together, but losing Sebastiane was well worth the sky-high tension in that scene.
As some of you have pointed out, I haven’t read the books, so I’ve got no clue who or what those hooded creatures are and what they’re all about, but after that grand finale, I’m absolutely dying to find out.
‘For Services Rendered’ is yet another strong installment, but one thing that’s becoming a bigger and bigger concern is the overabundance of main players. Having lead characters missing from an episode every now and then is something that happens in almost every show, but in The Strain, it’s happening a lot. Episode 7 has no Zach and Kelly, there’s no resolution to Matt’s vampire encounter at the office and Vasiliy is nowhere to be found either.
On top of that, we haven’t seen Bolivar in quite a few episodes now. Part of the problem is that I started to like them all, so now I just miss them, but the bigger issue is that these gaps also could cause viewers to lose interest in them.
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘Creatures of the Night’ at @ 10pm on FX.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.