Martin Carr reviews the second episode of The Strain…
As dawn breaks Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) is having breakfast, while his precious cargo pulls out of traffic and disappears into an underground parking structure. Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) middle man and facilitator for Palmer’s Stoneheart group, awaits confirmation that the box has made it over the river before dropping in on an old friend.
In a Brooklyn basement health inspector Vasilly Fet (Kevin Durand) tools up for another day of pest control, while Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) languishes behind bars in police custody.
At JFK international Eph (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) lose the fight to keep the survivors quarantined. Within hours of release their symptoms escalate bringing about change. As Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) arrives for his meeting, Mr Fitzwilliams (Roger R. Cross) urges him to exercise prudence and caution. A notion both himself and Ephriam (Corey Stoll) would be wise to heed, especially when gets a call from an overjoyed father.
As we roll into episode two I have a few issues to address. For something written by CSI script veterans David Weddle and Bradley Thompson I expected better. Whether this is down to the source material is up for debate, but one thing is certain things must improve. Emmy award winning director David Semel has produced an episode devoid of tension. Only in the dialogue scenes featuring David Bradley, did I feel events were elevated beyond the mundane.
My chief concern is Corey Stoll who instils pathos, sympathy, urgency and passion into his performance but fails to engage. Since my only point of contact with Stoll up to this point has been through House of Cards, I feel it is either the novels which seems unlikely or the pacing. On this occasion knowing the quality which Hogan and del Toro bring with them, I am going for the pedestrian sense of progression.
That Kevin Durand (Vasilly Fet) gets no more than ten minutes of screen time, while David Bradley (Abraham Setrakian) less still is a travesty. Whether this is a reflection of their importance within the books is academic. Of the survivors it is Jack Kesy (Gabriel Bolivar) who manages to create a character of substance from the stereotype. Leslie Hope (Joan Luss) does nothing but chew scenery and make threats, while Jonathan Potts (Captain Redfern) goes from bar to hospital bed without appearing to draw breath. My sympathy goes out to Nikolai Witschl (Ansel Barbour) who appears to serve no purpose right now, like the last one in a line up no one wants on their team. Let me just say this is no reflection on the actor or his abilities just my opinion.
That I have failed to mention Sean Astin (Jim Kent) or Mia Maestro (Nora Martinez) is no oversight. For the second time in as many weeks these characters have taken a back seat. We know nothing about either beyond the burgeoning relationship between Eph and Nora, while the Stoneheart connection to Jim lays equally dormant. Richard Sammel (Thomas Eichorst) gets a slightly expanded role in proceedings this week, allowing the pantomime villainy and acting ability to shine through. However his performance is undermined by the lack of a pervading threat, which feeds in a similar fashion to a Red Dwarf creature known as the ‘Polymorph’. As interesting as the viral infection is it fails to really translate into fear or even mild trepidation. When a larger amount of time is taken over by Eph attending ‘AA’ and fretting over child custody with his son, there is clearly something wrong.
There are three books to this series and eleven more episodes in the run. I appreciate the amount of characters which need to be squeezed in and their relevance, but somewhere the balance has been lost. Since when did ‘kitchen sink’ drama take precedence over a balls to the wall vampire fest. I am familiar with the phrase ‘slow burn’ by the way but this is ridiculous.