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TV Review: The Strain, Season 1, Episode 3

07.28.2014by: Chris Bumbray

Episode 3: Gone Smooth

SUMMARY: The four survivors of the infected flight start to get sicker and sicker, showing strange symptoms that are medically inexplicable. Meanwhile, Setrakian is released from custody and does his best to prevent The Master's plan from taking hold.

REVIEW: Last week's episode of THE STRAIN was bitterly disappointing following the amazing pilot which seemed to promise another game-changing horror show. It felt like the makers spent so much effort making a compelling pilot that the rest of the series was an afterthought, and going into episode three I was somewhat pessimistic.

Luckily, this week's installment is much better than last week's. It's still far from perfect, but it's a solid hour and suggests that as the outbreak of vampirism gets worse and worse, the show will improve. The teaser is absolutely great, featuring Eichorst (Richard Sammel) as he camouflages himself. His true, hideous monster form is revealed, and the whole sequence, as he adds prosthetics to his face while listening to a Germanic opera is masterfully done.

From there, the episode is a bit of a mixed bag, but luckily the good outweighs the bad. While Kevin Durand still seems like he's trying a bit too hard to be THE STRAIN's “cool guy” (right down to wearing his pest control badge like a cop) his character is starting to come into focus a bit. Clearly, the city's sudden outbreak of vermin will be playing a major part in the outbreak of “the strain”. Meanwhile, the survivors of the infected flight are getting sicker, with much of the focus being on one of them – a young family man – whose body parts seem to be falling off as he develops a nasty taste for blood he satisfies by eating raw steak. Still, he seems to be in better shape than Bolivar the rock star, who was last seen nibbling on groupies, but now apparently is suffering through whatever happens to one of THE STRAIN's victim's crotches before they turn into a vampire. Hint – it's not good, although he seems to take it fairly well all things considered.

Like last week, Abraham Setrakian's scenes are the best part of the show. While David Bradley – who's truly exceptional so far – isn't a major figure this week, he has a few good scenes. Nora (Mia Maestro) of Eph's (Corey Stoll) team seems to be the only one who realizes he's on the level, although one figures his plan of (likely) killing all the afflicted passengers isn't going to go over too well.

Sean Astin's part also seems to finally paying off, with him falling even more under Eichorst's sway as he sells his services in exchange for his sick wife being given an experimental cancer treatment. One imagines that as the outbreak gets worse, his duplicity will become central.

But what about the bad? Strangely, Ephraim still isn't gelling as the show's hero. Stoll is such a good actor that it's frustrating how cliché he is, with most of his (relatively brief) screen-time this week devoted to his family problems. This part of the show really feels like padding, and whenever we cut to his family the momentum grinds to a halt.

The show ends on a high note, as Eph, Nora and Astin's Jim are forced to deal with a now transformed Captain Redfern, although I question whether a scientist like Eph would be so quick to cave in the creature's head rather than study it. Oh well, at least it's an exciting scene. Overall, this was a far better episode than last week's, and I'm thinking that as the season goes on, it will gradually get better and better. Here's hoping...

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