Sunday, August 10, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - Eph & Setrakian Battle More Vampires While Fet Explores the Subway Tunnels in 'Runaways'

FX's The Strain - Episode 1.05 "Runaways"

With Nora gone, Eph reluctantly joins Setrakian's quest in hopes of gathering enough evidence to warrant a citywide quarantine. Fet encounters the unexpected inside the subway tunnels, and a medical emergency threatens Palmer's master plan.

"Runaways" very much feels like the show just checking in on almost every single character and what they are up to right before it just lets loose its army of vampires on New York City. So, we see Eph and Setrakian head to Ansel's house. We learn more about Setrakian's backstory. Fet heads to the subway tunnels and finds all the missing bodies from the plane ready to attack. Nora visits her dementia-stricken mother. Jim is at the CDC team headquarters. Palmer is recovering from his last major surgery. And so on. It's all very tedious. We are five episodes into this season. I was hoping more stuff would be coming together by now. There's hints that that is what's coming in the next few episodes. But that doesn't make "Runaways" any better.

And I'm puzzled why The Strain felt the need to show flashbacks of Setrakian's time in a concentration camp during World War II. First of all, just how old is Setrakian? According to this, he must be in his 90s if he was at an impressionable young adult age during the 1940s! David Bradley is great in the role but he doesn't come across as that old. Furthermore, all of this backstory was already told to us. Why do flashbacks if you don't reveal anything new about the character? We knew he was at a camp and we knew he battled this disease during his time there. I think it's establishing a format for future reveals into his past. But the show could have done something more with those sequences here. Instead it just plays like the show is barely interested in them at all. Lastly, why is every person speaking English! They are in Germany! Don't have everyone speaking English! It's okay to use subtitles! The Strain is on FX after all - home to The Bridge and The Americans.

Furthermore, I'm confused by the structure of how the show has shown the survivors from the plane. They were built up as special. In reality, they were used to distract the people investigating the event. For the first four episodes, we've seen Captain Redforn, Ansel and Gabriel all go through the same changes as the disease has slowly taken over their bodies. Redforn completely turned and was killed in Episode 3. Ansel turned last week and locked himself up and got his head sliced off this week. Gabriel is definitely the creepiest of the three. But now, even he has two victims under his belt. And then, there's the fourth survivor - Joan. She's been absent the past two weeks which has led me to speculate that we would see her differently than we've seen the other three. You can only go to the same well so much. So that seemed like the natural progress of events. Instead we head over to her home life and see her just like the other three struggling in the illness. She's still herself and hasn't killed anyone. She's just creepily looking at her children. But what's the point? Why is it taking longer for her to become a vampire than the other three? Why do we have to see the progression of the disease yet again? The show needs to give us a point of difference that justifies watching these events unfold just like they did before. The show doesn't do that.

And yet, Eph is no longer working as a sanctioned part of the CDC. They are now looking for him with questions about what happened to Captain Redfern. This detail feels very minor at the end of the hour and yet will likely become very important. He's on the run from his own agency. That should be a bigger deal. All he's working towards is finding enough evidence to convince his bosses to issue a citywide quarantine. That doesn't happen because, as the show is frequent to point out, people in power just suck. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Runaways" was written by Gennifer Hutchison and directed by Peter Weller.
  • Ansel's wife committing suicide just seemed so off. Everything we've come to know about her would never have suggested such an end for her. And the actual reason was even worse. She doesn't want to live in a world without her husband? Come on! Think of the kids! Of anything, she should have taken her own life because of the guilt facing her after what she did to their neighbor.
  • Regina King finally gets something to do..... and it's only a minute long.
  • Someone first refers to the monsters as vampires. And then, it's revealed that silver bullets weaken them and mirrors help identify the effected. Way to be original!
  • Yeah, Nora's mom simply isn't long for this world.
  • Seriously, no one is making a big deal that the Internet really isn't working anymore! That's a minor detail at the end. But the rest of the hour? Not a mention.