Sunday, August 30, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - Kelly Undergoes a New Transformation While Setrakian and Fet Break Into a Church in 'Intruders'

FX's The Strain - Episode 2.08 "Intruders"

Eph must protect Zach against a surprise intruder into Red Hook. Gus convinces the Guptas to make a difficult choice. Fet and Setrakian set out to acquire the Lumen but discover they are not the only potential buyer.

One of the best moments in the first season of The Strain was seeing Eichhorst putting on his face so he could walk around with the appearance of a regular human being. It was a very effective moment that showed that underneath the surface Eichhorst is just as gruesome and powerful as the rest of the vampires. But he is also special enough to be able to go through this routine in order to serve the greater purpose of his Master. He is a monster every bit as the Master is. But he is also a personification of the creatures. He is capable of his own thoughts and moves about the world with more control. He still serves the Master - but in different ways than everyone else who has been turned.

And now, Eichhorst is passing that knowledge on to Kelly. She has spent this entire season being propped up by the Master in order to find Zach. The Master wants to locate Eph and Setrakian because of the risk they pose to his grand plan. They have already damaged him once and are only getting more powerful in this war against him. Time is not on his side but he's still a very formidable opponent - especially now that he is in his new body. Kelly presents a way to draw them out because of young Zach's completely misplaced hope that she is still alive and can be cured of this disease. Again, it's a very circular argument that hasn't gone anywhere this entire season. But Kelly is still capable of bringing the tension and horror to the narrative whenever it desperately needs it.

It's interesting seeing the faces of evil embracing new tactics in order to defeat the people who stand in their way. It makes them seem much more crafty and original than the heroes do. This episode presents the idea of Kelly transforming her outer appearance back to her former self. The consequences of that actually play out in this episode. Every story involving the team of protagonists is drawn out in a way that is so completely bothersome. Setrakian is still on his quest for the ancient book. He is slowly making progress but hasn't gotten his hands on it yet. Eph developed a bioweapon only to start sulking around after he failed in D.C. He also has a grand plan to kill Eldritch Palmer for his hand in this apocalypse. And yet, he keeps getting distracted by these narrative obstacles that pop up for no reason whatsoever. Eph literally performs impromptu surgeon on a man who he is buying a rifle from for some reason. All it does is point out to Zach that he is still a nice person. But all it did was distract from the big picture story. It was a way to drag things out so they wouldn't reach a conflict anytime soon - a horrible way to tell a story that this show has always seemed to embrace.

The villains don't get distracted like that. Sure, it took Kelly and the feelers a long time to find Zach - which had no explanation whatsoever. But now, she is given a plan and executes it swiftly. The base of operations for the heroes has been discovered and attacked by the creatures. Red Hook is capable of being infiltrated with relative ease despite the precautions put into place by the police. As soon as Eichhorst learns that Eldritch is looking for the Lumen, he goes to the Cardinal and forces him to talk. The pleasantries of negotiations aren't the show's strong suit. Setrakian and Eichhorst battling each other for that information is - despite how short that scene actually was between the two.

The action sequences of the episode are both relatively short. Sure, the final battle with Kelly vs. Eph and Nora was fantastic with how it used that close space in order to derive tension. But it didn't justify the whole return of the custody battle over Zach nor did it led to any big character moment for anyone. Similarly, Setrakian and Fet sending Eichhorst running before he can fully infect the Cardinal only leads to Setrakian learning who has the book. That means that the search continues for something that will need to be a huge game changer given the amount of importance it has had on the narrative this season. That could be a welcome development too. It just needs to finally happen already.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Intruders" was written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson and directed by Kevin Dowling.
  • Gus' little side story with Angel and the Gupta family continues its awfulness. Is the audience really suppose to believe in the love story happening between him and the daughter? That moment wasn't genuine. It was so forced by the demands of the narrative. Quinlan recruiting him to the new cause was exciting. But framing it as him doing it in order to protect this new love was not earned at all.
  • Eldritch is fighting for some semblance of humanity at the moment. And yet, his actions of the past and the secrecy of the present are keeping him from having something real with Coco. It's a weird story. But one that is allowing some nuance for Eldritch - though it is hard to care about this relationship given that the show just can't write relationships at all.
  • Also, Fet is still moping around over the fact that Dutch is more into her former girlfriend than him at the moment. It's a horrible character beat. Just how good is she that she gets this kind of reaction after only knowing her for a few weeks?
  • As great as the battle with Kelly was, it was also awkwardly a moment about Eph coming clean with the truth to Nora about what happened on his trip to D.C.
  • Eldritch is also aware that the Master has transferred into Gabriel's body. Him taunting Eichhorst with that fact could lead to a divide in their dynamic in the future.
  • It's always weird whenever the show tries to bring up religion given the apocalypse happening around the characters. The Cardinal operates like it's business as usual. He only starts praying when his life is in danger. Meanwhile, Gus asks Angel what he believes only for that conversation to not really go anywhere.