The Strain S02E11 “Dead End” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Watch, Wednesdays, 10pm
Writer: Liz Phang
Director: Phil Abraham
Essential Plot Points:
- Eichhorst plans to rape the chained-up Dutch (using his stinger tongue) before feasting on her. He force feeds her pineapple for seasoning.
- He’s also fantasising that Ducth is the woman who spurned his approaches during the war. Not that it was a match made in heaven; he was a full-on Nazi and she was a Jew. He even ultimately helped to cause her execution by hanging in the street.
- Dutch escapes using some mace she’s procured from the body of another of Eichhorst’s victims whom he neglects to tidy away. When Eichhorst gives chase, Fet, Eph and Nora turn up just in the nick of time to rescue her.
- Setrakian is tied to chair for most of the episode by Rudyard Fonescu, the guy who’s been keeping the Lumen all these years.
- Fonescu delivers the Lumen to Alonso Creem.
- Gus helps the Guptas out of the city with aid (in the getting-through-checkpoints department) from Quinlan’s associate, Eve. Angel stays with Gus to help with the fight against the Strigoi. Eve looks unimpressed. She clearly doesn’t watch Mexican horror films with fat wrestlers.
“Come on, let’s move it,” says a security guard at one point in the episode. You know how he feels. In The Strain events rarely move any faster than a narcoleptic snail in a superglue minefield, and this week things are more claggy than ever.
Currently in the main arc plot, Quinlain and his pals are gearing up to kill the Master, Palmer is about to use his significant resources to put in motion some big strigoi plan, Coco has just been brought back from the dead, Setrakian has finally set eyes on the Lumen and Feraldo is making no friends among Manhattan’s elite. So what do we get here? A sexually frustrated vampire trying to live out his fantasies through torture porn while reminiscing about what a git he wad during the war.
Admittedly, the Eichhorst/Dutch scenes take the show to new areas of horror. This is admirably strong, uncompromising stuff for television and horror should make you feel uncomfortable. The darkest moment is also the highlight of the show, and not just because is takes nauseous depravity to new levels. When Eichhorst prepares to rape Dutch with his stinger your stomach leaps onto spin cycle. Thankfully, Dutch has procured some mace from the body of another victim that Eichhorst carelessly left lying about; for once glorious moment it looks like she may be the kick-ass hero as she sprays Eichhorst in the face and unshackles herself.
But no, she just runs, steps on a nail, limps a bit, sobs a lot and gets caught again. The show tries to make out she’s being plucky and defiant by having her curse Eichhorst as he drags her upstairs by the foot, but the very image recalls decades of low-grade serial killer movies. It’s all so wearyingly familiar.
Yes, it’s unrealistic to assume that somebody in that situation wouldn’t be terrified and their first instincts wouldn’t be to run. But you can’t help thinking it it had been Fet or Eph in the same situation (hey, Eichhorst could have been sexually experimental) the writers wouldn’t have made them look quite so much like hapless Victim Johnny.
Elsewhere, there’s not a lot to see. Gus shags Aanya then delivers her family to safety in a plot with about as much dramatic tension as the skin on custard. Setrakian is tied to a chair until it’s time not to be tied to a chair any more at which point his bonds magically fall away. Meanwhile, Fonescu takes the Lumen to dodgy geezer Alonso Creem without even waiting to ask what Setrakian might be prepared to pay for it. Dolt. Quite why the scene leading up to Creem receiving the Lumen goes on so long is a mystery. Did we really need to see Fonescu driving to the meeting, dealing with underlings, namedropping the Cardinal (hang on… isn’t he dead?), etc, etc. It wasn’t like it was leading up to anything particularly significant. We’ve already seen the Lumen. It was a bit of a duff cliffhanger all round.
A real misfire of an episode, then. The idea was daring, it just didn’t manage to pull it off with any great style or purpose other than to gross you out with the idea of strigoi cunnilingus.
- It’s admirably dark and not afraid to take the show into new uncomfortable areas. The attempted rape is very strong stuff and managed to make Eichhorst even more loathsome and vile than ever.
- There are some impressively effective shots that stay just on the right side of gimmicky. The blurry POV shots when Dutch maces Eichhorst have a real impact while the “through the brickwork” shot of Fet is the first time we can recall that masonry has been been used to frame a hero shot in such a way.
- The family snapshot of the Guptas is rather sweet. For the first time in the show you actually feel some affection for them.
- Great acting from Richard Sammel and especially Ruta Gedmintas who manages to keep a spark of defiance going even among the sobbiest, victimy of scenes.
- The human cocktail is a great idea; strigoi can enjoy alcohol by plying it to victims before they drain them.
- Good line: “Alright, how do we get inside?” “Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” “Not the answer I was expecting…”
- It’s torture porn, whatever way you look at it, and no matter how much spunk Dutch may display she’s still a damsel in distress, ultimately saved by a man. For all that you have to applaud the show for going so dark, at times it’s just downright distasteful.
- The “youthful” make-up on Richard Sammel is very poor. He looks like James Marsters in very poor old-age make-up. They really should have cast a younger actor. Okay, he if he was turned into a strigoi soon after this, then yes, he should look about the same age as he does now, but it still has the effect of making it look like Helga has fallen for her granddad. What with this and the Coco/Palmer relationship the show is beginning to look like some extreme male wish fulfilment fantasy by ageing writers.
- The two B-plots – Setrakian’s and Gus’s – are inexcusably dull.
- The main plot revealed nothing new or vital in terms of arc-plot or character. If this whole detour had been excised from the season, what would we have lost?
- The cliffhanger is a damp squib.
And The Random:
- We think Eichhorst may be a Hannibal fan, the way he prepares his meal while listening to opera.
- Fonescu, meanwhile, is a David Gemmell fan, so he can’t be all bad.
- Franklin D Roosevelt did indeed use a secret railway under Manhattan as a way of disguising his disability; there was a platform he used under the famous Waldorf Astoria hotel.
- Why is Eichhorst holed up in a hotel next to National Guard HQ? Does he just like living dangerously? Or did we miss something?