Martin Carr reviews the fifth episode of The Strain season 2…
After Season One’s endless exposition, The Strain is finally playing out like a hybrid espionage thriller. Ephraim Goodweather is heading the charge into uncharted territory, with Corey Stoll going full on Agent 47. While his mad as a mongoose missus pursues their son across Red Hook aided by her arachnid progeny. Here’s hoping she catches up to him real soon and passes on some motherly love.
Elsewhere there is a real sense of independent factions splintering off from the group. Whether those collectives contain one or more people is academic. Now more than ever the real agendas are dictating the course of events, making things more engaging all round. While those final minutes open up a narrative door guaranteed to scorch some arses in the near future.
However, The Strain remains compelling because of its focus on the human interest elements of this story. Deadly pathogens without that all important threat to humanity lose their edge. Unfortunately so many of this group have lost people, that any further impact fails to illicit an emotional response. Therefore to maintain interest the contagion needed to affect a person of power. And so it is that Samantha Mathis’s Feraldo suffers the loss of dignity. Allowing a moment of fragility to pierce the Teflon coating ‘game’ face she hides behind. This moment of undermined empowerment singles her out alongside Nora Martinez, as being both strong yet feminine. Not an easy trick to pull off amid so many narrative diversions. A tenderness which has happily bypassed Abraham Setrakian.
Delving into the darker reaches of black market trading, Bradley continues stealing every scene. This time-lapse tag team he shares with Watson gives ‘The Strain’ its life blood, both in terms of depth and narrative immediacy. Granted what Hogan and del Toro have created is pure fantasy, but Setrakian and to a lesser degree Eichorst ground the whole venture. Hyde White and Gallant fail purely because Eldritch Palmer is too much the pantomime villain. Pulling strings and making his marionettes dance. While Jack Kesy’s Gabriel Bolivar hangs around like Brandon Lee’s poor relation in greasepaint taking up space.
At least with Fet and Dutch there is a clearly defined dynamic. She is sexually ambivalent and they both like to blow stuff up. Like ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ without the middle class morality or gun stash under a garage. This partnership works on a very visceral level which both actors revel in. To be honest they take the edge off any moody soul-searching, providing levity amongst the carnage. With this sort of momentum Season Two of The Strain is destined to fly by leaving their rivals wondering what happened.