The Strain: For Services Rendered Review

This week's The Strain reinvents vampire horror again when it peers into its ugliest guise during the Holocaust.

Most genre fans, even those who watch The Strain, will have vampires on the brain tonight as they bid farewell to the former center of this subgenre’s universe, HBO’s True Blood. Even though it was sometimes inconsistent and often times painfully cheesy, I will admit that I’ll miss this daring cable TV staple, and I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my enjoyment of over half a decade’s worth of ballsy television. But with True Blood gone, it is time to say goodnight to the sexy vamp and truly celebrate the return of the monsters. Eric Northman and Bill Compton, thank you, but it’s time to root against the vampires again. As reiterated in this week’s episode of The Strain, these vampires are true monsters, not sex fantasies.

How monstrous are they? Well, take Eichhorst for example. This week, we witnessed the earliest meetings between Eichhorst and Setrakian. We got to see Eichhorst in all his vile glory, before he became a vampire, lording it over a concentration camp in the last days of World War II. We saw who Eichorst was: a man who believed in the glory of the Reich, a man who believed in Nazi doctrine almost more than Hitler himself. A man who rejected the tenants of democracy and dreamed of a leader to replace Hitler and lead the Reich to the destiny denied to the Nazis in WWII.

In the worlds of darkness, Eichhorst found this leader, and we got to see a peek into Eichhorst’s plan as he had a young Setrakian carve that intricate coffin. Yup, it’s the same one that would be on that fateful flight in the present day to serve as a vessel for his master. So basically, Eichhorst wants to bring about the coming of his Master so the world could be taken over by Hitler’s vampire lord replacement.

As we learned about Eichhorst and the man he was, we also learned about Setrakian. He wasn’t always the brave vampire killer we know and love from today. He was once a scared Jewish boy who did what he had to in order to survive; he was once just a number and because he feared death so much, he willingly did the Reich’s work by carving a coffin that would bring about the ultimate darkness. He sold his soul for a liverwurst sandwich hand fed to him by a Nazi overseer. It’s very clear that the present day Setrakian is ashamed of every moment he did the Nazis’ bidding.

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This episode made it clear that the relationship between Eichhorst and Setrakian goes way beyond the typical Van Helsing and Dracula archetype. “For Services Rendered” presented a particularly powerful moment where a drunken Eichhorst laments the fate of the Reich to his young captive. Even though there is a profound hatred between the two, there is also a sense of respect for each other’s willingness to fight for survival, a trait engrained in Setrakian during his time as Eichhorst’s prisoner. This respect came to a head this week, in the present day, as the two eternal enemies fought on a modern day train platform.

This was also really Jim’s episode as he finally decided to do the right thing and served himself up as bait so Eph, Nora, and Setrakian could ambush Eichhorst. Setrakian explained that only by killing the head vampire would the threat to New York end, and only Eichhorst knows where to find the head vampire. Thus, to lure Eichhorst to the fateful train platform, Jim had to step up. Even though his cancer-riddled wife threatened to leave him, even though it meant his own possible death, Jim knew that New York was about to be overrun by vampires because of his actions and he had to do something about it. One has to wonder how Eichhorst will make Jim pay for this betrayal as the former Nazi doesn’t seem like a man who forgets.

But because of this, we finally got to see Eichhorst and Setrakian go one-on-one. It was a tense sequence with Eichhorst playing a game of cat and Maus with the old man, but the ending was never in doubt. Setrakian had the weapons and he had the courage, something he did not have in that Polish prison camp, but he was just no match for Eichhorst. Eichhorst could have dropped Setrakian easily if Eph did not save the old man by shooting the vampire in the leg, forcing him to retreat. Eichhorst is now aware that Setrakian, Jim, Nora, and Eph have joined forces. The Nazi knows his enemy, which can only mean dark days ahead of our fabulous vampire hunters.

Some of our other players got some time as well. For instance, Gus found himself in prison caring for his infected tubby pal. This week left Gus in a crowded holding cell with his friend who is about to go full vamp. A newly born vampire in a cramped cell with dozens of potential meals? Looks like soon, orange will be the new dead.

But the most intriguing subplot this week was what happened to Joan Lusk, the former lawyer turned vampire. First, we learned that Joan was married to Chief from Battlestar Galactica. Poor Chief just never gets a happy ending, and he was vampire chow before the credits rolled. Chief wasn’t the only family members of Joan’s who returned home. Remember a few weeks ago when Neeva, Joan’s loyal house keeper, absconded with Joan’s kids in order to protect them from their obviously now monstrous mother? Yeah, Neeva’s daughter makes her mom return the kids.

Not only do they find the dead Chief (who’s going to fix that loose gimble?) they also find a fully transformed Joan who didn’t see her kids anymore; she just saw a snack. Neeva’s daughter gets slashed by Joan’s vamp tongue and a heart-stopping chase around the house follows. Neeva and company are saved by a much unexpected group of heroes. It’s so surprising that it’s almost difficult to describe. They were saved by a group of vampire vigilantes, or that’s what it looked like anyway, who dispatched Joan with ease. When the new group of vampires saw that Neeva’s daughter was hurt and probably infected, they kill her as well.

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Now that’s a fascinating new wrinkle, huh?

An amazing episode with some of the most powerful horror drama the show has presented yet in the form of the WWII flashbacks. Eichhorst is fast becoming the vilest character on television and we really can’t wait to see what happens next. Hopefully, it will involve Setrakian’s sword in Eichhorst’s black heart.

So farewell Eric, Sookie, Pam, Jessica, and Bill. If you need us we’ll be hiding under our beds so vampire Nazi worms can’t find us (shudder).

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4 out of 5