It’s a well know scientific fact that luchadores make everything cooler. If you want to make a show or a movie 85% more awesome, just add a Mexican dude in a cape and a mask and boom-instant classic! And that’s just what happened this week on The Strain as we were introduced to a character who is so unique and daring, I am absolutely shocked and delighted that the series had the balls to introduce him.
We all know The Strain relies on flashbacks to spin its narrative. From the story of Setrakian to the tale of Eldritch Palmer, the series effectively fills in the gaps through masterfully told back stories. Heck, the story of The Master that kicked off season two still gives me tingles. But this week-this week we were treated to the most wonderfully strange flashback yet as The Stain introduced Angel Guzman Hurtado, an unassuming dishwasher who works in an Indian restaurant.
Ah, but Angel had a secret. Angel was once the superstar wrestler Angel de Plata, or the Silver Angel. The episode opened with a snippet of one of Angel de Plata’s old movies, where the tecnico grappled with some cheesy ass Mexican vampires. First off, a luchador sequence needs to be in every Guillermo Del Toro project? Hellboy in a lucha mask! Pacific Rim –masked Jaegers! Make it happen! Anyway, Hurtado lived his glory days as the legendary Angel de Plata, but now, he was just a workaday schlub trying to survive in NYC.
Angel ran into Gus in this episode and the two butted heads for a bit when Gus realized that the dishwasher was a Mexican wrestling hero. After losing his vampire vigilante comrades last week in failed attack on Eldritch Palmer, it looks like Gus could have found a new ally in a much unexpected place.
Before we talk about Gus further let us talk about just how he Strain pulled off this unexpected flashback. It was a glorious sequence with aged and jumpy film stock, a Theremin soundtrack, a cheesy bat on a string and some vampire fighting inside and outside the wrestling ring. One of the greatest strengths of The Strain is its ability to pay tribute to old time horror but keep these loving tributes an integral part of a contemporary narrative. You would think that would be impossible when dealing with the batshit insane world of Mexican horror wrestling movies, but the installment did it in spades as the opening sequence of this week’s episode was probably my favorite thing The Strain has pulled off.
Angel himself is an intriguing character, a once famous star who is now a lonely dishwasher reliving his past by watching faded VHS copies of his glory days. Someone working on The Strain is clearly a huge lover of the Mexican wrestling genre and it shows as this wonderful weirdness fit in amazingly with the more straight ahead horror of the series.
But back to Gus. Now that he is on his own, Gus is trying to continue his fight against the vamps. But the Master still has his eyes on him and when Gus returned home, he once again had to face his turned mother. It was absolutely stunning how the show is somehow able to juxtapose the wackiness of Mexican wrestling with such a personal moment for Gus-but seeing Gus facing down his mother was heart wrenching. Happily, Gus may not be alone for very long as he not only has ran into his wrestling idol but he also met Aanya Gupta, the kindly daughter of the restaurant owner Angel works for. Aanya took an interest in Gus and the feeling was mutual so perhaps Gus will soon have some new motivation to keep him fighting.
On to the rest of our cast. Nora and Eph released their infected vampire into the wild and it looked like the virus worked. The Master forced the infected vamps to kill themselves rather than spread Eph’s virus so the Master still had a way to fight back. But the virus works which justifies all of Eph and Nora’s work and the sacrifice of that kindly old infected couple. And hey, Zach didn’t screw it all up like everyone predicted. In fact, Zach had a moment that didn’t want to make me throw boiling water at my flat screen. Zach and Eph went to a batting cage to have a little fun. Of course, there really is no fun left in the world (other than Mexican wrestling flashbacks), as Zach began to remember going to the same batting cages with his dearly departed mom. This moment justified some of Zach’s more sullen behavior as it drove him that this is just a kid who misses his mom. He’s still annoying though.
Setrakian continued his search for the book he believed may bring about the downfall of the vamps and took his search to Fitzwilliam who was still visiting with his firefighter brother. We also got to meet Fitzwilliam’s daddy via another effective flashback that saw another early meeting between Palmer and Setrakian. The same flashback also showed us the first meeting between Eichorst and Palmer as well.
As for Vasiliy Fet, our favorite exterminator made good on his promise to blow a nearby subway tunnel and cut off the vamps’ entry point into Manhattan. Fet was successful but his actions did not put him on the good side of a group of street vigilantes who busted him up and abducted him. Things looked dire for Fet and despite a few victories this week, things look dire for everyone as Zach’s mom and her creepy ass Feelers are sill tracking Zach and Eph-and they are getting close.
I have to say, after the daring of the luchador flashback and the deep looks into our cast’s psyche, that this was a damn near perfect episode. The Strain might still suffer from some strange plotting choices and might still possess a few minor pacing issues, but it still is the best show on TV when it comes to paying tribute to the history of horror- up to and including some of the stranger subgenres.
So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch so El Santo vs. The Vampire Women and await next week, where hopefully I can learn more about my new favorite character on TV- Angel de Plata.