The Strain episode 7 review: For Services Rendered

Review Billy Grifter 26 Aug 2014 - 10:03

The Strain focuses on only the critical plots this week and is much improved for it. Here's Billy's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.7 For Services Rendered

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I still think that The Strain is a long way short of being a good TV show. But, For Services Rendered was markedly more entertaining than what passed for TV last week.

Forgetting plenty of subplots (Vasily, Boliva, Ephraim’s wife and son) the episode concentrates on just a few critical threads. The opening sequence introduces Joan's husband, played by Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica), a recognisable face that you might reasonably assume might stick around for an episode or two. Nah.

There’s a special stupidity field that encompasses Joan Luss’s neighbourhood that stops people following the simplest of instructions, or having any common sense whatsoever. It could be argued that NY taxi drivers won't follow any instructions, but why Roger Luss wouldn’t try to drive the taxi, choosing instead to run into a vampire-infested home, is beyond me. So Roger is dead before we ever got to find out what deeply unsympathetic character he was. 

When it comes to it, that’s what The Strain has in spades, characters you can get behind and hope they get eaten next. One of these is Jim, and by association his exceptionally demanding wife. There have been hints of redemption for Jim, and by helping lure Thomas to the train station he took his first step down that road. But let’s not fool ourselves here, Thomas wasn’t hoodwinked for a moment and Abraham might as well have called him with a personal invitation.

If the scene at the station represented Abraham’s new plan, it was a stinker. What was it he thought was going to happen if they managed to corner Thomas anyway? And who looked after Nora’s mum while they messed up this opportunity anyway?

What was much more interesting was the flashback stuff, where we discover that Thomas was once human (technically…), and how he and Abraham became connected. What that also did was clarify that the vampire seen killing inmates was The Master, and the coffin was crafted by Abraham. We saw some great acting here from Richard Sammel, and really edgy scenes for both him and the young Abraham (Jim Watson) to spark off.

These take up the majority of the running time. Though as compelling as they are, I’m actually unsure what they really contribute to the main plot, other than to make Thomas a more interesting character.

The final act takes us back to the Luss household and its stupidity enhancement field that sees kids leave a vehicle when being specifically told not to, and Neeva’s daughter Sebastiane exhibit all the common sense of someone testing artillery shells with a hammer.

It’s all so dumb I was quite happy to see them all die once in the house, as they can’t even run away in the direction of an exit they just entered through.
And, then something totally bizarre happens. For once something occurs on this show that hasn't been telegraphed a month in advance. The arrival of the BlackulOps, as I’ve been told they’re called, wasn’t one I’d have predicted. That they can introduce vampire-hunting vampires on the prowl is quite a diversion. As are their Ninja outfits, nifty ability to look like Nosferatu, and their cool silver stake-spitting weaponry.

That Sebastiane ended up dead was only reasonable, because she insisted they take the kids back and stick around once they found Roger. Being the architect of your own downfall is a solid platform of this genre, and she’s at least a major contributor. Joan Luss also gets the point, so to my reckoning that only leaves Bolivar of the original four survivors alive, though I’m unsure if they are technically any different from the infected.

It is good that it ended with something unexpected, and not like the surprise last week, that the eclipse was given a massive build-up and then not of any real significance whatsoever.

Since last week FX has announced that the show will get another season, and that for the story as outlined by the two books to be complete will take between three and five seasons. I think that’s milking this more than it will reasonably stand, even if it does get much more coordinated at some point.

I’m just hoping that they can actually connect to the Vasily and Gus dots before this season ends, as it stands.

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

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