Martin Carr reviews the fourth episode of The Strain…
The body of Captain Redfern (Jonathan Potts) lays prostrate in the basement of Saint Sebastian’s Hospital. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) is breathing hard having dispatched him with a fire extinguisher, while Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin) deal with the fallout.
Second survivor Ansel Barbour (Nikolai Witschl) is getting progressively worse. Confined to his room and craving blood he is left alone with nothing but the dog for company. Meanwhile Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) set up a meeting with Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), communications expert with an agenda.
Back in Harlem Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) has some property returned to his shop by a less than repentant sibling, whilst gearing up for house calls brandishing his passenger manifest and long sword. Having left Captain Redfern (Jonathan Potts) in a freezer, ‘Eph’ (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) head over to visit the Arnot family. Little Emma had come home with a present for her father something which everyone should enjoy.
For anyone who has been waiting for this programme to grow a pair and get medieval on you then this is your week. Yes there are plot points which need hitting, places these people are duty bound to take you, but for the next forty two minutes and change things get messy. Body parts are severed, chest cavities forced open and huge oral appendages extracted. Consider this a wake up call for those with strong stomachs and an aversion to Monday mornings.
In the finest tradition of all drama, television or otherwise, things always get interesting when friction is introduced. This is most effective when it occurs between characters which you have formed a bond with. There are two instants this week which divide allegiances, could segregate audiences but will give this series the shot in the arm it needs. There are punches thrown, steely looks exchanged and a palpable urgency which The Strain had been lacking until last week, that lands like high calibre weaponry at an NRA meeting.
Essentially quarantined, Nikolai Witschl (Ansel Barbour) displays pathos in a performance where his humanity is slipping away, body parts are rotting off and his need is manifested as savagery. That he is aware and wards off his wife but keeps the dog close, allows empathy despite our knowledge of the end result. There is even a moment for some black comedy, which anyone with an annoying neighbour will appreciate.
I want to take a moment and address an elephant in the room which is actor Miguel Gomez. One character which has been reoccurring throughout is Gus Elizalde (Miguel Gomez), who acts as a touchstone for all the major players but remains on the periphery. He drove the van for Eichorst (Richard Semmel), returns a clock his brother stole to Setrakian (David Bradley), but as yet fails to impact on the overall narrative. How the mini domestic drama plays out between his mother, brother and himself remains to be seen, but as an actor Gomez is becoming more watchable as weeks go by.
Something which has already happened for Corey Stoll (Ephraim Goodweather), who seems fully engaged in all facets of his character. That he has developed into a bedrock of sorts, while David Bradley yet again does more with less in a fraction of the time, is down to the role itself not the performance of either man. Both bring something unique to the table and appear to be having fun irrespective of the drama itself. By baring its teeth and revelling in some high grade effects work, ‘The Strain’ has cast off the mantle of tedious exposition allowing in a little heart and soul; not to mention copious amounts of blood.