Martin Carr reviews the second episode of The Strain season 2…
For the longest time I had issues with the emotional content of The Strain. Numerous reviews spanning several months did nothing but bitch about how remote this series felt. Others of course disagreed, pouring love and adulation upon it oblivious to my concerns. Whilst apart from the occasional epiphany amongst the numerous protestations I felt nothing. All these people seemed to do was run from place to place, watching others become human bargain buckets. So it is with no small amount of pomp or ceremony that I reluctantly admit defeat. Corey Stoll has finally made me believe.
This has been achieved very simply by allowing Goodweather to exhibit human flaws. Letting a reformed alcoholic fall off the wagon, has in my opinion brought something fresh to the table. Hiding vodka in medicine bottles or doing lab work under the influence, whilst waxing lyrical upon the fate of humanity. Goodweather is now more Congressman Russo with a lab coat, than concerned father figure with commitment issues. Alongside the emergence of this new pitch black persona, comes a realisation that The Strain may have something to offer.
Intelligently used flashbacks offer up historical context and bring back Jim Watson’s Abraham Setrakian from Season one. Who proved one of the few highlights for me in prison camp scenes opposite Sammel’s Eichorst. Illustrating once more in Season two the seeds of an all-consuming passion, so eloquently portrayed by David Bradley elsewhere. Whilst new comer Charlie Gallant brings Jonathan Hyde’s Eldritch Palmer to life with skill and subtlety. Neither relying on direct imitation or bombast to establish a dynamic with Watson. Revealing much in his limited screen time, adding context and fleshing out a relationship with far-reaching historical ramifications. This consistently clever use of flashback to flesh out character relationships, helps to ground the more fantastical elements. Leaving plenty of room for exploding vampires and human carnage. However, in amongst all these new and improved narrative strands there is one which fails to work for me.
Limited to a single sequence situated inside some unnamed government facility. It only exists in my opinion to introduce a new character and future proof forthcoming seasons. Both blatant, unwelcome and frankly manipulative, this is clearly a case of bad timing. It fails to upset the applecart completely, but sticks out long enough to niggle. With more interesting things happening elsewhere, this smacks of a needless narrative indulgence borne of structural necessity. When The Strain has finally managed to supply us with a three-dimensional protagonist. Capable of kicking ass, performing medicine and pulling off a quality hairpiece. All hail the new and improved Ephraim Goodweather. Roll on episode three.