Martin Carr reviews the third episode of The Strain…
The camera pans around an ornately decorated apartment somewhere in Manhattan. Wood panelling, light opera and the warmth and isolation which come with wealth permeates the scene. Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) sits before a theatrical make-up mirror calmly preparing for the day ahead.
Despite the best efforts of Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his team, they remain no closer to discovering the source of this virus. Ansel Barbour (Nikolai Witschl) is convalescing at home, Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy) hides away in his a converted theatre, while Captain Redfern (Jonathan Potts) remains under observation.
When the remaining quarantined cadavers get confiscated Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) starts grasping at straws. She remains in the background at the municipal courthouse as Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), stands before the judge to plead his case. Meanwhile Jim Kent (Sean Astin) waits in the offices of Eldritch Palmer at Stoneheart to tie up some loose ends.
Down by the Hudson Vasilly Fet (Kevin Durand) is smoking a cigar. Beneath his feet hundreds of rats pour into the river like passengers abandoning a sinking ship. As Ephaim’s home life takes another body blow a force is gathering momentum, but ‘until (Eph is) ready to do what must be done, when it must be done it is pointless’ to attempt half measures.
Having slammed this programme with scant regard for anyone else last week, I am here to reconsider my positon. Although the apparent horror elements of this drama continue to skulk in the shadows, this episode shone a brief light on them and gave me pause for thought. Metamorphosis, which remains an interesting central theme in many del Toro films is explored with no small amount of subtly here. Homages to Men in Black and The Fly circa 1986 are prevalent, while more obvious make-up references to Shadow of the Vampire and Nosferatu are less so.
For all the drama which carries on in this world, it remains a select few who rise above the noise and leave a mark. Richard Sammel (Thomas Eichorst), who I labelled last week as a pantomime villain, displays a quiet confidence and depth in his performance which I had misconstrued. His scenes are the right side of sinister while never threatening to overwhelm those around him. Kevin Durand (Vasilly Fet) gets a similar amount of screen time to last week, but on this occasion as an audience member I felt we got value for money. There is an assurance which Durand brings to the part that requires very few words. That this man has a history and not all of it pleasant is of little doubt. Whether Durand gets more time on the playing field is academic, he has proven that ten minutes is more than enough to make an impact.
David Bradley (Abraham Setrakian) is another who has a demeanour carved out of granite. A world weariness and cast iron belief system which will not waver. It is my belief that actors raised in the theatre such as Bradley, Sammel and Jonathan Hyde, instil gravitas to these roles purely on instinct. Whereas actors like Corey Stoll and Mia Maestro for example inhabit their medium in a somewhat different way. In their hands dramatic scenes somehow lose their edge, while the theatrically trained thespian does not necessarily need a tangible threat to convey drama merely space. Whatever my feelings, the question is does it affect your enjoyment and if so to what extent. As I said last week there is a long way to go and plenty of ground to cover. Whatever my issues with pacing last week they have disappeared. Whether that has anything to do with co-creator Chuck Hogan being on script duties is up for debate. Irrespective of any misgivings on my part, it is clear improvements have occurred, progression has been made and quibbles have unknowingly been addressed; long may it continue.