The Strain episode 5 review: Runaways

Review Billy Grifter
12 Aug 2014 - 07:31

Billy continues to be underwhelmed by The Strain. Here's his review of Runaways...

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 Runaways

The improvement that The Strain saw last week was very short lived, because this week it went back to the same rather tedious progression as before. At the end of the previous story we left Abraham and Ephraim ready to burn the decapitated bodies of the charming Emma and Papa. Did they do this? Nah, instead they raided their fridge and discussed tactics over eggs.

I liked Abraham’s modified nail gun, and I’m hoping he has some other more impressive weapons to deploy when things get really sticky. Eggs were served before the show returned to its tedious round-robin format of visiting each of the characters for a snapshot of their altering circumstances. And, stuffed between these, Abraham was given some back story about his scary experiences in a concentration camp at the end of World War II. The place is run by Thomas Eichorst who uses the inmates as a captive food source, assuming it was him and not ‘The Master’ that we see feeding on them.

Looking at the work Abraham and his friend were doing, it looks like the Nazis had a fiendish plan to halt the progress of allied armies across Europe by obstructing them with cheap reproduction furniture. The only question any of this contributed was why this wasn’t the best opportunity for a mass infection ever, and why modern America is somehow better timing? Maybe that’s got something to do with the coming eclipse that is mentioned on the radio, but the show needs more unanswered questions to drive the viewer’s curiosity.

Missing from the second episode onwards until now, we return to see how Joan Luss (Leslie Hope) is coping with life, after death, after life. What’s not explained is why her change is going so much slower than the others, like her body is fighting the infection.

The scenes at the Luss household were also confusing for B-movie horror content, as they introduced Neeva, who exhibited some common sense in getting Joan’s children away from her. Myself I prefer smart characters, but in this show we have terminally stupid ones like run-away-in-high-heels Ruby Wain to balance things out. After her moral outrage and subsequent exit last week, I was a little surprised that the narrative returned to Nora so soon. It did so mainly to give her character some depth by introducing her dementia-suffering mother, Mariela Martinez. A vampire apocalypse and a mentally impaired relative appears to be more than most people could reasonably cope with at the same time. We’re left to guess that Nora is reassessing her judgement of Abraham and his methods at this point.

It’s interesting that Ephraim rings her to check if she’s OK, but entirely forgets about his ex-wife and son, and how they might be. It may be that he’s channelling the audience, because I’ve been trying to forget them too.

But the big problem I had with most of what went on in Runaways was that it has yet to join many dots, despite having lots to connect. We saw more of Vasily Fet, but he’s unaware of any other major characters, and Gus didn’t make an appearance at all.

Last week I was sort of warming to Ann-Marie Barbour, but her only other contribution was to hang herself (surely a mortal sin for a Catholic?). The lack of cohesion between the characters is irritating, because only interesting things can happen when they do get together, and we’re nearly half way through the season already.

If there is hope it’s that the infection is about to become very public, at which point the peculiar rules that people have so far been operating inside go entirely out of the window. The show desperately needs that, because take away the odd bit of gore and extending tongue action, and we’re left with people bickering, mostly.

In the rest of this season The Strain has the unenviable task of making these characters engaging so we care what happens to them. And also of delivering a narrative that could sustain a second helping, should FX want that. With only eight more episodes to go, it needs to get on with this task rather promptly.
At this point, I’m finding The Strain underwhelming, at best.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, It's Not For Everyone, here.

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