Sunday, September 7, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - Eph Saves His Son, Dutch Reveals the Truth & Setrakian Confronts the Master in 'The Disappeared'

FX's The Strain - Episode 1.09 "The Disappeared"

Eph races to safeguard his family, only to learn that Kelly is missing. Dutch reveals her role in Palmer's plan, and Gus is forced to make a difficult decision about Felix.

Last week's episode of The Strain was a series highlight. It worked so well because it was intimate and extremely emotional. "The Disappeared" is a return to how the series typically tells its stories. And so much of it feels hollow. There's some potentially ripe ground to cover in Eph and Nora's emotional reactions to Jim's death. And yet, the big emotional arc of "The Disappeared" is Eph heroically reuniting with his son and his ex-wife is now missing. The rest of the hour is largely a reshuffling of the various pieces as well as Eph and Nora rekindling their "grand" love affair.

So, the hour is emotionally empty. It's a weaker episode than the norm because it doesn't even produce a handful of creepy, cool and scary special effects sequences. Sure, the concluding moment of the master turning Eichhorst into the creature that he is today is very effective. And yet, that entire sequence very much feels tacked on at the end. The flashback story is largely centered on young Setrakian as he finally gets the courage to stand up to the Master and then his escape from the prison camp. But just because Eichhorst appears occasionally in those scenes in 1944, the show believes it's earned showcasing his big transformative moment at the very end. That should be a really big moment for his character. It deserved more time building up to it showcasing what brought him to this point in his life where he would so willfully serve the Master. Instead, he's always just been nefarious and after the camps are attacked he just pleads out and the Master hears his cries. It basically just undercuts the humanity of that character. He's always been the face of evil on the show. This will largely keep him in the same mold forever.

Elsewhere, Dutch reveals to Setrakian her role in the big vampire attack on New York City. But that's largely all it is. Informing one character of information the audience already knows and then having nothing meaningful come from it. Setrakian only asks if she can undo what she did. But all of that action is simply delayed for another day just so the action can cut back to Eph and Nora in bed.

And on one hand, it is nice to see Eph's family life become better connected to the main narrative of the show. However, that story beat has routinely been the most awkward and weakest part of the show so far. This episode presents Kelly's disappearance as one big mystery. Has she been turned by the vampires or is she simply hiding somewhere? It's ambiguous but it's not exciting or interesting. The show has spent so little time with that character. I really don't care what happens to her. I don't even really care how that character will effect Eph and his son. And that is a huge problem.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Disappeared" was written by Regina Corrado and directed by Charlotte Sieling.
  • Also, Gus escapes custody because Felix turns into full-on vampire mid transit and takes out the two guards. It's also played as a big moment when Gus has to quickly decide whether or not to kill his best friend which he then does. But I don't care about that friendship. Also, that was just a regular gun. Felix is not dead.
  • The show at times wants to talk about religion when it comes to the Master's plans for humanity. How would the God these people believe in let such a horrible thing happen? Why wouldn't he save them? But the show fumbles every attempt at such discussion because it doesn't make it a big deal. It has the weight to give this story importance. The show just has to let it.
  • The show also wants to reward Fet for not having emotions just a few weeks after he goes to his parents' apartment for the first time in years to warn them of the impending doom.