As episode twelve concludes we are within sight of the finishing line. Season finales, cliff hangers and pivotal plot points loom like spectres in the night. Past and present coalesce in a Grimm fable of East European origin. A place where old wife’s tales are passed down through generations, whispered round camp fires warning of an ancient evil lurking out there in the dark. Best bolt your doors and windows; because something wicked this way comes. . . . .
When I was child like many of my generation there was no internet, barely anything computerised while mobile phones were a pipedream laughably inconceivable. We were raised on books, books and more books, with the occasional game of Monopoly or Risk thrown in. The point is simple; we had nothing more than our imaginations to depend on for entertainment. Now although those days are well behind me, the tools which that upbringing provided have proven invaluable here. For The Strain is based in part on bedtime stories told to the young and impressionable before lights out and sleep beckons.
What we get this week are intermittent flashbacks that draw on these influences achieving genre expectations, whilst fleshing out motivations and broadening audience perspective. In simple terms it makes things more interesting. Gus Elizalde (Miguel Gomez) continues to intrigue existing as a singular loose end, fast on his way to becoming a one man army against this city wide plague. Whereas present day action with the small band of close knit characters continues to ebb and flow in an unengaging manner, while its historical twin enthrals chiefly due to Jim Watson as a young Abraham Setrakian. There is a reality and determination which he brings to the role that illustrates a naiveté and single mindedness, reflected with poignancy through David Bradley’s present day incarnation. Richard Sammel as Eichorst continues to cast a pervading shadow of menace in both timeframes, yet it is Robert Maillet as The Master who is creeping more into the limelight.
Looking like Frank Langella from Dolph Lundgren’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ and dubbed throughout, Maillet’s characterisation is neither scary nor comical. Peering out through a foot of prosthetics with huge great sausage fingers his threatening behaviour and husky voice, dubbed by Robin Atkin Downes, fail to convince. Reminiscent of poor David Prowse the former Green Cross Code man and Darth Vadar stand in, it is common knowledge that American screen actor James Earl Jones voiced Prowse throughout. That they have chosen a British screen actor in Downes to voice The Master seems somehow appropriate therefore, adding credence to a characterisation which would fall short if not suitably menacing. After all if Maillet had a Bristol accent similar to Prowse ‘The Strain’ would be laughed off the network. In conclusion ‘The Strain’ has pulled another iron from the fire and proved once and for all that home is where the heart is, unless you keep yours in a glass jar that is.