This review contains spoilers.
Having wandered a narrow path for a few episodes between the extremes being of mildly interesting and utterly mundane, The Strain jumped with both feet in Identity into a mire of awfulness that this season has only previously hinted towards.
There was so much wrong with what went on in these 42 minutes, it’s a real challenge to know where to begin, but let us start with Ephraim, and his mercy mission to Washington.
As I watched these parts, I was almost convinced that I’d accidentally flipped channels, and was watching a totally different show in which Corey Stoll was an even bigger twit than the one he plays in this show. I know that those in Washington are meant to be entirely vacuous and self-serving, but even by those standards, the people Ephraim meets there are incredibly shallow. That they don’t really care that he threw a man from a moving train is depressing, but what really messed with my head was how Eph seems more at home with them than anyone back in New York.
He also seemed more upset about the women he’d met just 24 hours earlier and had sex with once than his long-time friend or his own developing sociopathic tendencies.
He might have left New York, but Palmer makes sure that his troubles follow close behind in the form of a really cheap hitman. An assassin so abysmal that he carries with him a mobile phone with the Stoneheart Plc logo emblazoned on the screen, so you know he’s not affiliated elsewhere.
But he was no sillier I guess than a whole bunch of Washington bigwigs who seemed happy to go along with Eph’s biological weapon either without actually meeting him in person, or knowing who he really was. Does anyone do due diligence ever, in The Strain? The answer appears to be ‘no’. Prior to this I was wondering how Ephraim sort of forgot that he has a physical relationship with Nora, or that people in Washington can’t actually be trusted (like his ex-boss) or that commercial companies make choices based on profit not how many people they’ll save. He really is dumber than a bag of spanners, isn’t he?
Meanwhile, back in New York, Gus is getting on with Angel like people do when one of them hates the other, and can’t actually resist the urge to make it obvious. Gus has the motivation of the lovely Anya to keep him hanging around even I’m not feeling any chemistry between them whatsoever.The whole scene where they deliver take-away and get attacked demonstrated that Angel is not only opinionated, but also with that knee, he’s completely useless in a fight. Which makes me wonder what the point is of him in the wider narrative?
But, these weren’t the only low points of this week. I’m passing over the very dreary conversations between Nora and Zach. The show had two more nails to hammer into its reputation starting with more nonsense regarding Kelly and her Spider Pigs…err, I mean kids.
After Nora and Zach are intercepted by a police car, driven by a certifiable idiot, they decide to take sanctuary in a church, even if at no point have the vampires shown any issue with religious locations or consecrated grounds.
As they enter the church, Nora turns and fires three shots at Kelly walking calmly just feet away, and misses each shot completely. She’s useless, but not the only one who is rubbish with a gun it seems. Because when the rest of the gang enter, both Reggie and Vasiliy fire at her while she’s stationary, and both of them miss her. Yet, Roger is then a good enough shot to land a bullet in a moving Feeler’s head a few seconds later.
This is the last thing he does in the show, because he’s then attacked and Abraham cuts his head off so he can fly around the galaxy without worrying about prior commitments. This was a true WTF moment, because having brought him back, and made him chew through a small novel of exposition in this episode, he’s then dead. Surely, someone else could have done that?
We didn’t see Dutch this week, who would have been the obvious candidate. It was as if the show was punishing the actor for making a better job elsewhere on Dark Matter, and forcing him to fulfil whatever contractual obligations he’d made. Roger Cross, you got out while you still have a reputation to uphold, I salute you!
The final insult hurled–and it was that–being the much talked-about yet quite boring transition of the Master.
Yes, the giant rubber hands have been retired, to be replaced with those more slender ones previously owned by Bolivar. That choice I predicted this some episodes back shows how badly that narrative twist was cloaked, and also Thomas Eichorst’s reaction to being overlooked in this dubious honour. Was it me, or was this transformation worm-light compared with the other we saw earlier in the season?
All power to actor Jack Kesy (Bolivar), because he’s put up with plenty in the past season and a half to become The Master, and he deserves whatever fiscal benefits that gets him.
This was such a shockingly bad episode that I’m really calling into question my commitment to review the show to its conclusion. Because the thought of watching another seven episodes and then a third is the sort of sentence only a judge can hand down, usually. Never mind writing about them.
Let’s hope that the hitman Strigoi that turned up to dress down the Ancients can do something more interesting next week.
Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Quick And Painless, here.
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