[This is a review of The Strain season 1, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Perhaps this was inevitable after getting such a tight, standalone episode last week, but this week, The Strain is all over the place again. There isn’t as much going on in episode 9, ‘The Disappeared,’ as (for example) episode 5, but there are still too many situations in play to appreciate very many of them.
The worst of the bunch is whatever Eph and Nora have going on. In fact, Eph’s development is becoming a big problem overall. Does this guy not have a heart?
First Eph and Nora burn Matt’s body, and when she asks if he’d like to say anything, he flat-out says no and walks away. Then Eph sleeps with Nora only to turn around and tell Kelly’s best friend that he really loves his wife - right in front of her! (Not to mention that was a particularly awkward sex scene.)
It’s funny, because the show keeps trying to sell Vasiliy as the character with no attachments or compassion, yet Eph’s the one who’s having trouble proving that he's not a total jerk.
Speaking of Vasiliy, why can’t this be his show? Gus gets some credit a little later in this review, but no matter how disjointed an episode is and no matter how ridiculous a particular scenario is, Kevin Durand is there to make it work.
In fact, I can’t think of a single Vasiliy scene in this show I haven’t enjoyed to the fullest. When Nora tells him, “You’re too bologna,” that’s not funny at all, but when Vasiliy actually eats the bologna after, it’s good stuff. Durand is oozing with so much unique charisma that it’s only natural to get behind everything he wants, and he’s a big reason Ruta Gedmintas’ Dutch Velders is starting to work.
She was a bit of a disappointment last episode, so it's especially gratifying when Nora puts her in her place by essentially saying what I was thinking and blurting out, “Nobody asked you." But again, if Vasiliy cares enough to keep an eye on her, so do you.
However, she does manage to shine a bit on her own in the middle of the episode when she comes clean to Setrakian. The whole “shutting down the Internet” thing is still hard to buy, but even then, she’s proving her worth simply by being a believable person, and particularly while interacting with Setrakian and Vasiliy.
Gus gets the benefit of being at the center of one of the episode’s most riveting scenes, when Felix turns on the way to Rikers. We’ve known it was coming for a couple of episodes now and that the big moment would likely take place in a confined prison space, but the moving van proved to be especially dynamic and suspenseful. Plus, Gus is just a badass, for lack of a better term. At this point, there will always be an inherent thrill to any fight he’s in.
The last big chunk of the show worth addressing is the material that takes place in Poland in 1944. This is the most successful portion of ‘The Disappeared’ as far as storytelling goes. Bits and pieces are spread all throughout the episode, but they do come together to deliver a very satisfying mini-narrative with a beginning, middle and end that adds quite a bit to Setrakian and Eichorst’s relationship.
The show clearly establishes the good guy/bad guy dynamic, but Richard Sammeland Jim Watson make it so much more than that by offering access to their thought processes, which are actually much more sensible than the decisions some characters are making during the present day portion.
And then there’s the search for Kelly, but who really cares about that right now? Better yet, where’s Bolivar? He pops up in newspapers and posters all over the episode, but will he ever return in the flesh? Could he be one of The Master’s special high-ranking vampires?
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘Loved Ones’ at @ 10pm on FX.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.