Martin Carr reviews the ninth episode of The Strain.…
There is a long way between the gas station and Abraham’s pawn shop. You best buckle up because anything can happen…….
It’s a fact that characters which adhere to stereotypes end up short changing you. In a word they become boring. As The Strain stretches into week nine however things are becoming more interesting rather than less so. Blood and guts, dismemberment and chaos are still present and correct but lodged firmly on the backburner. Shades of Apt Pupil and Schindler’s List abound permeating character exchanges with moments of moral ambiguity, hidden agendas and subtly unconscious back stabbing.
A world has now been established in which the rest of Manhattan are fast on their way to becoming a happy meal, which is surprising bearing in how inept these creatures really are. If you are a main character and less than a foot away, the infected will launch a tendril past your head sticking to the plate glass. On the other hand if you happen to be metaphorically wearing red, the favoured colour of those Star Trek casualties always beamed down with Kirk and co, then you best get your affairs in order. Similarly, should you find yourself in need of cell phone reception but vital to narrative coherence, then your mobile will suddenly work long enough to have an emotional exchange. However if you represent the only obstacle for an emotional reconciliation between father and son, then not only will the phone fail to work, but your character will be painted in such broad brush strokes of ‘bastard’ that slipping on a ‘red’ sweater should be written into the contract.
Once more The Strain is unable to decide what exactly needs to happen. Should there be scenes of mortal danger, generational bonding, confessional soul searching or the seeds of a burgeoning love interest to be planted? Well hell how about all of that. Should we have historical pathos, scenes revealing a hidden humanity beyond the monster within, or perhaps pitch black humour to undermine the threat being faced; only if you insist. But really these niggles aside it takes nothing away from the fact that it remains entertaining. Pivotal to this are the flashbacks to 1944, which continue to flesh out what is fast becoming the central relationship in this series.
Having created the box which ‘The Master’ calls home at the express command of Eichorst, Abraham is tied into a subconsciously submissive role for which he holds the German wholly responsible. How this plays out I believe is central to why The Strain got picked up for a second season. There is a sense of deep rooted animosity between Bradley and Sammel in the scenes they share, while Jim Watson portrays a measured intelligence beneath the subservient façade in the flashback moments. For me everything else is fast becoming mere smoke and mirrors, in what has evolved into an old fashioned drama with pointy teeth.