The Strain: By Any Means review

The Strain was pretty good this week...with one bratty exception. Here's Marc's review...

This review contains spoilers.

One of the most effective story tricks The Strain pulls off week after week that makes it different than any other vampire drama is the combining of the anachronistic with the modern. The vampires of The Strain are old school; Nosferatu looking creeps devoid of sexuality but this week, Eph and Nora, the intrepid doctors tasked with ending the Master’s plague, discovered a way to defeat this ancient classical evil. Sadly, it seemed we have entered the really annoying kid phase of the narrative.  

But first, let us cover the always effective Setrakian flashback of the week. Last episode’s flashback took us really far back in history to Setrakian’s youth. This week, we got to see the vampire hunter in 1965 as he was working as a professor at a university in Vienna. Things looked happier for Setrakian in the ’60s, he had a good job, he was respected and he still had his lovely wife (you know, the woman who was destined to become a brain in a jar).

Setrakian’s past wasn’t the only one we were treated to as we also got to see a rather youthful but wheelchair bound Eldritch Palmer. Palmer sought out Setrakian so the vampire hunter could find the Master’s cane which was somewhere in Vienna. This brought Setrakian to a Dr. Mengele like doctor who ran a second hand shop and was in possession of said cane. Needless to say, Setrakian wasn’t too kind to the Nazi doctor and the cane ended up in Setrakian’s hands. From Palmer, Setrakian also learned about an ancient book that could hold the key to defeating the Master.

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In the present, Setrakian is still looking for the book which seems to be the McGuffin for this season. The search for the book brought Setrakian face to face with the modern day (and still horny for his new assistant) Eldritch Palmer who Setrakian played like an accordion to find out if Palmer had the book. He didn’t, but he does have the city in the palm of his hand because he opened a bunch of supply centers for the vampire besieged citizenry of Manhattan. Hopefully the book will actually lead to some plot revelations and not just be something to occupy our cast all season.

As for the Master himself, he is still searching for a new body to occupy and was kind of out of the picture this week but there was plenty of vampire action. Fet and Dutch decided to clean a building in their neighborhood which led to a kickass bathroom fight sequence that only this show could pull off. Afterwards, Dutch and the most badass exterminator on TV engaged in some swimming pool coitus. I guess they just became the Glenn and Maggie of The Strain.

The show’s other power couple, Nora and Eph, spent the episode trying to find a disease that they can use to wipe out the vamp population. Sadly, their test subjects were that sweet old couple that were caught up in a vampire hunt and infected last week as the show brought some questions of morality into play. All of a sudden, this simple old couple were now weapons in a war for the city’s salvation. This lead to untold suffering from the two as Eph and Nora reduced two human beings, lovers, parents, sentient beings, into experimental data.

So what is the difference between Eph and Nora and the doctor Setrakian took the cane from? Circumstances? The show really brought up the moral nature of medicine as Eph and Nora reduced two kindly beings to bags of flesh and meat in order to get a job done.

Not as effective was the use of little Zach. Zach isn’t so little anymore and he has entered a rebellious phase that isn’t particularly sympathetic. It seemed like Zach’s transformation to a sullen bag of douche isn’t being done to show that he is mourning his lost mother or to show that he is being overcome by fear, I feel it is just being done for the sake of plot and it doesn’t ring true. Clearly, Zach is going to F things up for Eph (that sentence ruled) and cause Nora and Eph’s experiment to fail somehow. It isn’t interesting or tragic; it’s just annoying as Zach’s anger adds nothing to a plot already overflowing with conflict.

Happily, the heart-stopping insanity going on with Zach’s mom is way more effective. Kelly Goodweather has some new babies, a new breed of vampire called Feelers. Yeah, remember those poor blind kids form last week, they were transformed into these vampire hound dogs and they may be the most insanely perverse creatures on TV. I mean, little blind kids transformed into hunter killers to track down another child. YEESSSHH!!

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Kelly seemed very determined to find Zach and the whole thing would be way more dramatic if Zach had any sort of purpose or character beyond being a scowling, bratty foil to his dad. But that little bit of bad did not stop this from being a good episode. The medical morality stuff was particularly fascinating and I truly hope the old couple’s sacrifice will not be in vain. The Fet and Dutch romance struck a nice cord as does the blossoming trust between Fet and Setrakian while Kelly has become a particularly horrifying soldier villain.

Corey Stoll’s performance is getting better every week as Eph tried to balance being a father, a soldier, a doctor, and a savior. He was still hitting the bottle hard and Stoll really sold the pressure Eph was under. Between Ant-Man and a choice performance on this week’s episode of The Strain, this truly was Corey Stoll’s week as he continued to become a true genre darling.

Now if only someone would put Zach over their knee, we would really be cooking.


3 out of 5