Martin Carr reviews the second episode of The Strain season 4…
Big Brother is definitely watching as this ashen grey, terracotta bleached depiction of an alternative world stretches its collective legs. With the onus on fertility clinics, concentration camp processing and blood donation, we continue straying into darker territory. Old friends are brought back and Goodweather plays doctor before getting on that resistance band wagon one more time.
Flashbacks give the audience context as to how and why people end up in their present predicament, but aside from a few scuffles this is forty minutes of character progression. Any major criminal threats are conspicuously absent meaning that we spend a great deal of ‘The Blood Tax’ reading between the lines. Whether scavenging for rations or debating the rationality behind procreation as a food source, The Strain is increasingly concerned with deeper moral issues.
Seeing Miguel Gomez back as Gus is good even if he only engages in an eyeballing competition, while Setrakian kicks up a fuss when Dutch gets dragged off. However for all its flaws ‘The Blood Tax’ still manages to hold our attention, as this world continues taking advantage of the rich history it has developed. A lack of narrative progression is forgiven as old characters bring familiarity, their dire situation only adding to a sense of unreality while ‘The Master’s shadow looms large.
Aryan racial overtones, battery farm comparisons and Orwellian influence continue shaping the environment our protagonists find themselves in. Freedom protein bars with a hidden ingredient sit stacked in warehouses, while blood bags hang side by side next to pressurised vats. Similar to an idea initially approached in Blade II, humans as a food source is alluded to rather than explicitly shown here. Much more industrial and considerably less stylised The Strain makes a point of illustrating how morality is more subjective than we care to admit.
Nazi Germany believed as ‘The Master’ does in a purity which horrifically went on to encapsulate religious beliefs. Here the methods are far less Dickensian but no less prevalent. It passes comment on the futility of such actions in an allegorical fashion, where people are ridiculed, segregated and singled out for minor differences. As we hit the final season of a show not without its detractors this seems an ideal time to reflect.
The Strain never set out to compete with other genre creations on the same level, yet was judged according to that criteria. As the full picture becomes clear it is apparent, at least to this reviewer, that The Strain was always meant as a social comment piece more than mere entertainment.