The Strain: Dead End Review

The Stain was once again a loving tribute to the horror genre this week. Here's our review...

Good lord, that was intense.

I’ve said many times before that this is truly the Golden Age of horror television. Most of the horror buzz these days focuses on The Walking Dead franchise and on American Horror Story and I’m sure as we move ever closer to the debut of Preacher on AMC, the buzz will become even more intense. But listen gore hounds, there is something special going on in The Strain that just isn’t receiving the buzz that is warranted for a show that is a loving tribute to the horror genre week after week.

At times, The Stain is spinning its wheels. At times, it takes the plot a little too long to get from point A to point B and we end up covering the same ground week after week (see the Palmer/Coco lovefest). But episodes like this week’s, episodes that serve as 44-minute loving tributes to brutality, chaos, and heroism, are what makes this series so darn special.

Let’s start this discussion of this week’s putrid magnificence with the heart of The Strain‘s depravity, Thomas Eichorst. Last week, we were left with the Saturday morning cliffhanger of Dutch in Eichorst’s clutches. This week, things picked up with the always slug like Eichorst disgustingly sniffing and savoring Dutch, undressing her with his eyes, stroking her hair, and lavishing in her scent. Even though Eichorst is the most human looking vampire thanks to his carefully applied stage make up and prosthetics, he is the most inhuman creature on the show. This week we learned what this base creature was like before he became a vampire.

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We met a young Thomas Eichorst, an eager radio salesman who was really bad at his job. Boardwalk Empire fans will remember just how bad a salesman Nelson Van Alden was (what with the anger and the iron and the face burning). Yeah, Eichorst was worse. He was an impotent little shell of a man who had no heart or drive. He did have a crush on a beautiful blond violinist who worked in his office and he was very eager to date the object of his affections. Now, between tales of Eichorst’s pathetic youth, we would get flashes of the Nazi tormenting Dutch, another beautiful blond. Eichorst’s controlled fury was something to behold as it felt like Dutch was in intense danger every second. The season has done a yeoman’s job of establishing Dutch as a rich character so as a viewer, I really, really cared that nothing horrific happened to her. And every slow blink on Eichorst’s face, every lip lick, and every nostril flare promised something horrific.

So we learned just how socially impotent Eichorst was in the pre-Reich days of Germany. How he was a shy nebbish who channeled the Nazi version of George McFly. There were even moments were one felt sorry for Eichorst until his inner feelings were revealed- his hatred of the Jews and his adamant support for Nazi rhetoric, his thoughtless dismissal of a race of people and his need to buy into even the most flimsy Nazi propaganda. Eichorst had an abiding hatred of the Jews and he was not afraid to express it, mostly because many of his more capable coworkers were Jewish. Sadly for Eichorst, the object of his affections, his violinist, was a Jew and she saw the monster within the shy little man. 

All this rejection created rage within Eichorst and now Dutch was trapped with that coiled rage. Seriously, EAT THE PINEAPPLE! Was one of the most terrifying lines I’ve dialogue I’ve heard in a very long time. 

But lest we think The Strain subscribes to tired genre gender tropes, Dutch sprung into action. Yeah, Eph, Nora, and Fet were desperately seeking their comrade, but Dutch is Dutch and she was able to free herself. And just in time too, and brace yourself kids, because this is where things almost got taken to the next level, a Ramsey Bolton like level of sheer depravity. Eichorst, like all vampires, is sexless, but he still made Dutch bend over so he could use his eel like vampire stringer as a phallus. Holy H.R. Giger, Batman. But Dutch, our brave Dutch, channeled her inner badass and give the Nazi a snout full of laden pepper spray. Yeah, screw him and his Nazi rapist ass.

Sadly, Dutch could not escape because she was taken to a hotel that was condemned and bricked up, and in a sequence that would have made Jack Torrance proud, she was pursued through the hotel by a feral Eichorst. Dutch did not fail to escape because of her gender, she failed to escape because of circumstances. But Fet was there with a rebar, a stick of dynamite, and a savant’s knowledge of city infrastructure to fee her from Eichorst’s clutches. 

Now that was all pretty intense, but Dutch’s heart in throat escape from Eichorst was not the only coolness this week on The Strain. For some reason, since the show premiered, I have been absolutely gripped by anything do with Gus, even more so than the Setrakian/Eph/Nora and company versus the Master plot. There is just this unique swashbuckling swagger that actor Miguel Gomez pulls off as Gus.

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Gus is the purest hero with the purest motivations on the series and it such a pleasure to watch Gus grow as a man. Look at his bond with his new charges the Guptas. Is there ever a family that would be more unlikely to embrace Gus than the Guptas. Two Indian helicopter parents who desperately want to send their daughter to med school? They barely let their daughter leave the restaurant; they were probably not ready to embrace a Hispanic former gangbanger as the love of their daughter’s life. But they have, because Gus is brave and willing to sacrifice anything to keep the Guptas safe. He is even willing to sacrifice the love for the Guptas’ daughter in order to get them out of the vampire infested city. Because that is Gus, the true hero of The Strain. But he won’t be alone in his quest, not anymore, as Angel de Plata, the Silver Angel stayed behind to help his new friend in his struggle to free New York. Man, I can’t wait to see where this goes. A former gangbanger, a badass female bodyguard, an ex-luchador, and a former Roman gladiator turned altruistic vampire. I smell spinoff!

There was also Setrakian’s continuing quest for the Oxido Lumen. He finally found out who had the book, that monk boy he saved decades ago. These days, that boy is a simplistic fool who wants to sell the holy book for safe passage out of the city, but to be honest, that C plot was lost this week among the perfection of Eichorst’s depravity and defeat and Gus’s heroism.


4 out of 5