The Strain S02E08 “Intruders” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Watch, Wednesdays, 10pm
Writer: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Director: Kevin Dowling
Essential Plot Points:
- Well, you could argue there was nothing essential in this episode…
- Eph secures himself a rifle by saving the life of a shooting victim.
- Setrakian, Palmer and Eichhorst all try to get the Occido Lumen off the cardinal, by bidding for it, trying to steal it or killing him. Eventually Setrakian learns from the cardinal’s dying breath that Rudyard Fonescu, the sole survivor of the 1966 massacre in the Austrian nunnery, is currently in possession of the Big Book Of Magic.
- Gus and Angel drive and talk and try to get us to care about the family who own that Indian restaurant.
- Quinlan recruits Gus to help in his fight against the Master.
- Zach is very, very, very irritating and tops every irritating thing he’s ever done before by inviting his mum into the hideout.
- Unluckily Eph chases off his ex- (in both senses of ex) wife before she can kidnap the brat.
Did that really deserve 45 minutes of air time? Your answer might be yes if what you watch The Strain for Zach endlessly moaning about mum. Or for Gus and Angel driving round talking so much white noise. Or for really bad attempts at doing Casualty. There was enough filler in “Intruders” to plaster over the Grand Canyon.
Things start promisingly with a creepy teaser in which Eichhorst gives Kelly the make-over of the century while making it clear he prefers the monster beneath. In fact, Eichhorst is one of the few characters to come out of this episode with any credit (Fet and Setrakian being the other two, though you could include Dutch for having the dignity not to show up at all).
But from the moment Zach turns up – and his very first line is a whinge about missing his mother – the episode takes a nose-dive. Quite why Eph takes Zach along with him on his mission to secure a rifle is unclear; the only reason can be that the writers are making a vain attempt to force us to care about him using a bit of father/son bonding. Then again, a couple of weeks back Eph spectacularly failed to bond with his son when they indulged in the more traditional pursuit of baseball. Maybe Eph thought taking him to an arms deal would be more therapeutic?
It fails. Even though Eph does his best Hawkeye Pierce impression with a bit of miracle field surgery, Zach just wails, “Why can’t you fix mum too?” At which point you really want Eph to use that rifle he’s just procured. Eph later moans about Zach to Nora, “We keep having the same circular argument,” and you want to scream at the screen, “LIKE WE HADN’T NOTICED!”
And so Zach lets Kelly into the hideout, there’s a really poorly directed scuffle, and the kid finally sees his mum do her Strigoi shtick with the tongue. Then Nora clocks her one with a handy hook-on-a-chain that takes half her false face off. Whether or not this has finally convinced the kid that mum’s not at home anymore is difficult to judge; Zach just gives us his usual vaguely puzzled expression, so who knows?
Gus and Angel, meanwhile, agonise over getting the Guptas to leave their restaurant with the kind of dialogue that could put anaesthetists out of business. Thank God Quinlan shows up to remind Gus what show he’s in but it’s too little too late.
Setrakian and Fet are more fun as they try to steal the Lumen from the odious cardinal only to find that Eichhorst has already given him a bad case of the worms. Setrakian gets the information he needs about the Lumen’s whereabouts in a wonderfully black moment, by promising the pontiff he’ll kill him quickly before the worms take hold so that his soul can go to heaven. You can tell that the grizzled old Jewish vampire hunter doesn’t believe a word coming out of his mouth; it’s a great piece of acting by David Bradley.
But there are too few such moments in “Intruders”. They probably add up to about five or six minutes of screen time. For the rest of the episode you may as be watching the Master cut his toenails.
- Two moments of silence are particularly effective. Eichhorst’s withering final stare at Palmer after Palmer tries to needle him is just chilling. Later, all Quinlan need say to Gus is, “She’s very beautiful,” to get his point across, after which a perfectly framed and perfectly lit shot highlights Aanya’s vulnerability.
- The scene between Eichhorst and the Cardinal crackles with tension, danger and a touch of perversity. “It appears your almighty has better things to do,” must be the line of the episode.
- The opening scene with Eichhorst and Kelly is another gross highlight mainly because at the same time that he uses wigs, make-up and contact lenses to bring her back to (near) humanity, he’s delighting in telling her how her body will decay.
- Setrakian’s line: “I prefer to think of it as recovering a stolen artefact but yes, we’re going to rob the son of a bitch.”
- Pretty much any scene not involving Setrakian or Eichhorst. Most of it isn’t so much bad as monumentally dull.
- Zach is worse than ever. He’s stupid, he’s whiny, he utterly unbelievable. The thing is, it’s not all the actor’s fault. Zach is written as an embarrassingly one-note character. But the fact that the expression below is the best expression Max Charles can muster when asked, “You do understand that wasn’t your mother who showed up at the church, right?” really doesn’t help matters. He always looks like he’s trying to remember his next line.
And The Random:
- Handily someone shines a torchlight into Kelly’s right eye at this point to really highlight the difference a contact lens can make.
- What is Eichhorst doing to Jesus at this point? He looks like he’s trying to pleasure him.
- Palmer’s line, “So, when I see Bolivar again, what’s the protocol? Do I get down on my knees? Kiss his ring? What do you do?” is supposed to be dripping with innuendo, isn’t it?
- Is Fet turning into a critic of his own show when he says, “No stupider than helping the old man find the book with a magic spell to kill the master”?
- The irony of the Cardinal eating spaghetti shortly before he’s pumped full of worms might have been more effective if the show hadn’t pulled off a similar gag with Setrakian (when he revealed that he’s been elongating his life using worm juice) only a few episodes ago.
- We like a good vampire-impaling as the next gore-hound but what exactly was that Feeler impaled on? It wouldn’t get past health and safety, that’s for sure.