‘The Strain’: Anti-vampire forces unite in ‘For Services Rendered’
Day turns to night, via an eerie eclipse, and vampires all over New York City are having a field day right out in the open. Now would be a good time for the titular heroes of “The Strain” to push past their doubts, resolve their control issues and marshal their forces.
Fortunately for fans of the FX thriller, the creature-killing version of the Scooby gang is starting to coalesce in Episode 7, dubbed “For Services Rendered.”
Whether the members, including wizened vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez, and turncoat Jim Kent, have a solid plan is another matter entirely. Give them points for effort, though.
Their strategy in this hour involves using Kent as bait for a meetup with an ancient, extremely powerful vampire. So if Jim, played by “Lord of the Rings’” Sean Astin, didn’t know how upset his colleagues were before about his whole traitor thing, he sure does now.
It’s a flimsy idea, especially when the vamp-in-human-form they’re trying to snare is as wily as they come. Thomas Eichhorst, the ruthless German who sits at the right hand of the Master, will surely sniff out a thinly veiled plot to trap him. He’s a narcissist and a bully, so he’ll show up for a face-to-face with rivals he considers weaker and lesser than himself. But he’ll be prepared.
Jim, meantime, doesn’t even have one of those silver-spitting nail guns that have come in handy in vamp stunning so far. Eph’s obviously still mad at him for secretly working with Herr Eichhorst and setting this whole contagion in motion. Jim gets a small knife, presumably dull, for protection.
Setrakian, played by British actor David Bradley, makes it clear that they must kill the Master. When they accomplish that feat, all the newly hatched offspring now running rampant through the five boroughs will die. If they fail, the wormy virus that is vampirism will continue to spread until it overtakes the world. So, no pressure.
Eichhorst is the key, the only one who can lead them to the hidden nest of the king of all vamps, Setrakian says.
As in a previous episode, this hour flashes back to Poland, 1944, when Setrakian was concentration camp prisoner No. A230385. Eichhorst, looking exactly the same as he does in present day, was one of Hitler’s sadistic SS officers, forcing Setrakian to work on a special carpentry project.
It’s a slow, somewhat painful reveal, and one that diverges from the bestselling novel by aGuillermo del Toro nd Chuck Hogan on which the series is based: Setrakian keeps himself alive, and in the good graces of Eichhorst, by building the ornately carved wooden coffin that will later house the Master.
He’d already seen the Master preying on other prisoners, including his brother, and he’d been trying to steal and stockpile silver as a weapon against the monster that his grandmother had called “strigoi.” He couldn’t have known that he was creating a daybed that would one day carry the Master from Berlin to the U.S.
Now that the vamp king is in New York, he’s making the most of his time. He’s already attacked and turned the 210 passengers of Regis Flight 753, unleashing them on their unsuspecting families and communities. The undead population is growing quickly.
The trilogy from Del Toro and Hogan was written several years ago, before the current Ebola outbreak, but it sure does seem prescient against the current backdrop. And its central conceit, that vampirism is epidemiological, spread like an infection, makes it even creepier.
In Grand Central Station, Eichhorst does indeed make an appearance long enough to invite Jim again to be part of the “glorious new world order” of the coming vampocalypse. He won’t cough up $100,000 for Capt. Redfern’s body because he doesn’t believe Jim still has it. (He’s right -- Jim dutifully and ridiculously dumped the Regis pilot’s body into the river. For a CDC official, he shows tragically little concern for public health).
Eichhorst also dodges and parries with Setrakian, getting a silver bullet flesh wound in the process. Eph really needs to have better aim if this war is to be won. Seriously, a knee capper?
The most significant other developments in “For Services Rendered” take place at attorney Joan’s sterile suburban manse. Joan Luss, who “survived” the jumbo jet disaster, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the airline on behalf of all those dead(ish) folks. In front of the TV cameras to announce the case, she’s a barracuda. At home, she’s a different type of predator.
Her transformation to full-fledged vampire is complete just in time to welcome her husband home from a business trip. And she’s on the verge of committing a mass murder -- her two young kids, the nanny and the nanny’s adult daughter. That’s when an armed-to-the-teeth crew, looking suspiciously like vigilante vampires, enters the picture. Who are these guys?
They prove they mean business when they promptly execute the nanny’s daughter, who’d been bitten by Joan in the scuffle to protect the children. The gal, after all, was “corrupted,” according to the freakish cavalry.
Those characters, in another left turn, didn’t appear in the first novel, keeping Del Toro’s promise of tweaking the source material for the TV series. He and showrunner Carlton Cuse have said they envision the drama airing for three to five seasons, hitting the high points of the novels but living as its own entity.
Fans will have a chance to see how the drama plays out for at least one more season. Just days ago, FX renewed “The Strain” for Season 2, with 13 episodes planned for next summer.
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