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TV Review: The Strain, Season 1, Episode 11

Episode 11: The Third Rail

SUMMARY: Setrakian (David Bradley) takes Eph (Corey Stoll), Vasily (Kevin Durand) and Nora (Mia Maestro) on a quest to find the master's lair.

REVIEW: After last week's rather slow episode, which spent an awful lot of time on Kelly Goodweather's transformation into one of the Strigoi, THE STRAIN gets back on track with a fast-moving episode that does a solid job advancing the story and promises a reasonably exciting conclusion to the first season, with only two episodes left after this.

Of the three parallel stories here, the most compelling one is obviously the trip underground to find the master's layer. However, just as much time is devoted to Nora's mom and young Zack, who's being forced to look after the increasingly infirm woman, whose confusion is made worse by the fact that she's stuck in an unfamiliar apartment with a man that frightens her (Setrakian). Meanwhile, Augustin (Miguel Gomez) finally returns home, only to discover his brother and mother have both been transformed. He quickly kills his infected brother (and takes a lot of pleasure killing his a-hole landlord, now a Strigoi) although he can't bring himself to kill his mother, with it being a nice twist that by transporting the Master's coffin, he's directly responsible for her death.

Augustin's story intersects nicely with Zack's when – on a smoke run for Nora's mom – he's runs afoul of some Strigoi, and is saved by the former gangbanger, who's gathering supplies. I imagine this won't be the last time they meet, with Gus' transition to hero having been in the works since day one.

The real meat of the episode revolves around the search for The Master, with Eph terrified that he's going to run into the now transformed Kelly, who will obviously have to be killed. Overall, this part of the episode is very effective, with The Master using trickery – like Kelly's voice – to lure in Eph. It's also nice to see Nora finally getting in on the action a bit, with her denying Eph's request to stay behind and watch after Zack, demanding to be let in on their dangerous plan. I still don't quite get her devotion to Eph though. Some of the action scenes here are really well done, with the most effective moment being when Vasily is trapped in a narrow tunnel with nowhere to go as a Strigoi inches its way towards him. I'm always a sucker for these claustrophobic moments. I also loved Eph's old-school sabre, giving him a nice retro-vampire hunter look.

We also finally get a decent look at The Master, although I can't deny he's a little cartoonish looking – not exactly the terrifying figure I anticipated. The bit where Vasily narrowly misses killing the master with his UV bomb is nifty, although clearly it's going to take more than that to kill him. Also – Nora's mom sure loves her cigarettes.

Overall, this was a solid episode, if unexceptional. I'm starting to realize THE STRAIN will never quite be the A-level show the pilot promised, but it's still good fun. Hopefully the last two episodes of the season will end it on a satisfying note.

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