The Strain episode 4 review: It's Not For Everyone

Review Billy Grifter 5 Aug 2014 - 08:52

The Strain appears to have turned a corner in this week's entertaining episode. Here's Billy's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.4 It's Not For Everyone

As predicted by others, the show took a decided upturn this week. From a totally objective viewpoint it shouldn’t have, because what was presented this week was a continuation of what came before. However, a couple of changes really made a huge difference in terms of moving the story along and keeping the viewers engaged. Of these, I’m certain that the critical choice for me was for Ephraim to momentarily forget that he has a horrible ex-wife and precocious child, and that he’s a CDC man, and actually do his job. That was a relief.

Probably the other major factor was that instead of following each of the survivors and all the other ancillary characters, they only followed one of the three remaining survivors, plus a handful of the main characters. This worked so much better, not only for allowing each of the characters some time, but also avoided the show to better focus on entertaining the viewers.

The highlight of It’s Not For Everyone was undoubtedly the autopsy scene, where Ephraim, Nora and Jim dismantle what’s left of Captain Redfern. There was some great physical effects work in this scene, and some excellent complaining by Sean Astin, who ably resists the temptation to say ‘Mr Frodo’ once he gets excited. That I enjoyed, as I did the really creepy scene where Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) manipulates the Secretary of Human and Health Services before passing out. It’s wonderful to see an actor of this quality inhabiting his character so completely, even if it isn’t a huge part. His name, if you didn’t get the very geeky joke, is a reference to 1965 novel The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch by none other than Philip K. Dick.

There are unsurprisingly a few rules to American TV in general, and two of those are not to hurt kids or pets, and in this episode The Strain broke both of those in short order. First there’s an interesting set of scenes where Ansel decides to move into the shed, and eat his dog instead of his wife and children. Good choice Ansel. This rapidly transformed into homage to Shaun Of The Dead, where Ansel’s wife invites their adorable neighbour to lunch, in the shed. Let’s hope they’ve got a few more like him handy to keep Ansel from losing any more weight.

And then, right at the back end Abraham turns up at the Arnot household to give darling young Emma a French bob she’ll never forget. Given that the passenger manifesto contained 206 people, what’s the statistical possibility of both Abraham and Ephraim turning up at the same house? And, why hasn’t Ephraim’s CDC knowledge told him that the infection rate is much higher than they’re dealing with the infected, and as such what they’re doing is entirely pointless? Not that the show wants to be that logical, ever.

My only real complaint, and it’s a minor one, was that we didn’t see any of rat catcher Vasily this week, who prior to this was my favourite character. In that standing he’s been replaced by Gus, who, as I predicted, meets Abraham briefly when he returns the clock to the pawn shop. I like Gus, his buddy Felix, and I can’t wait to see what terrible fate they’ve got planned for his useless brother Crispin down the road.

The story ends with Ephraim consigned to murdering lots of people and Nora deciding that she’d rather stay home and catch up on some embroidery or something. I’m confident that she’ll reappear and be kick-ass at some point, but for now it appears that Ephraim has a new partner, Abraham.

It might seem too early to call this, but perhaps The Strain has turned some sort of corner, where it’s not obsessing about visitation rights, and can focus on the end-of-the-world hypothesis. I really hope so, because this version of the show is much easier to review.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, Gone Smooth, here.

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