Here’s a comparison you aren’t likely to find anywhere else, fans of “The Strain.” This week’s episode is just like Mary Poppins -- it’s practically perfect in every way. But, you know, twisted and violent instead of sunny and light.
In short, “Intruders” brings the heat. It features some of the best head-to-head showdowns of the entire series so far, gives us the pairings we all want -- Fet and Setrakian, Gus and Quinlan, Eichhorst and Palmer -- and moves, moves, moves.
There’s no time to even catch a breath as this hour clips along from the soccer mom makeover of Kelly Goodweather to the bidding war for the Occido Lumen to the beheading of Cardinal MacNamara (!).
Kelly and the Feelers invade Scooby HQ, giving the episode its ominous name and inching closer to the eventual Zachnapping. Nora learns a secret, Aanya professes her love, Quinlan issues an ultimatum and Coco throws a fit.
And, oh yeah, Eph cements his father-of-the-year status by dragging young Zach along on a gun run and then having the kid assist in an impromptu surgery. If it’s truly not the end of the world, that boy is destined to rack up quite the therapy bill one day.
With so much happening, let’s jump right to the nitty gritty:
Thomas Eichhorst (scene stealer extraordinaire Richard Sammel) doesn’t seem like a Mary Kay consultant, but he knows the best way to blend and blend and blend that pancake makeup. He shows Kelly Goodweather (Natalie Brown) how to look human again so she can get close enough to her “dear one,” Zach, to snatch the boy and reveal the Scooby stronghold.
He’s good at this job too, having practiced on his own decrepit face for centuries. He’s perfected the fine art of contouring, that’s for sure, and he even picks out the brunet bobbed wig that Kelly will wear. Stylish deception, thy name is Heir Eichhorst.
For Zach’s sake, Kelly probably need not even bother with all this primping. The one-note tone-deaf kid has insisted that he still loves her and wants to be with her. Hello? Bloodsucker!
But Kelly won’t be able to make her way into Brooklyn -- given tough-as-nails city councilwoman Justine Feraldo’s plague assault in the borough -- if she can’t pass for a regular (alive) gal. She even practices her diction, which is really tough with a 6-foot-long strigoi stinger in her throat. It’s clear that she means business.
Another character on a mission, Eph Goodweather (Corey Stoll) tosses back a breakfast cocktail and grabs Zach to go see a guy about a rifle. He intends to use it, as he revealed during the previous week’s cliffhanger, to assassinate Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde). Is that a half-baked plan? Oh boy, it is ever. There are five more episodes this season to see where this goes.
Just as Eph and Zach arrive at the shady dockside operation, they hear shots and see a suspicious fellow running away. Looks like a robbery gone bad.
It’s up to Eph -- who makes sure to note that he’s “not a surgeon!” -- to fix that gaping bullet wound in the proprietor. Fortunately for the jack-of-all-illegal-trades Mr. Wu, there are some surgery kits handy. Who doesn’t have those lying around?
Eph busts open the supplies, saving Mr. Wu but permanently scarring Zach, who stands in as untrained nurse and anesthesiologist. And Eph gets his weapon. Successful outing!
Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) pick up their search for the ancient text that’s supposed to tell them how to kill the Master and end the vampire contagion.
It’s so satisfying to have these two characters spend time together, especially when Setrakian tells Fet to get his head “outta the skirt and back in the game.” That’s a reference to the elusive Dutch, who dumped Fet and broke his heart. She’s a dangerous distraction, Setrakian implies, and Fet needs to be focused.
How else will they be able to break into Cardinal MacNamara’s cathedral manse, badger him for the Occido Lumen and lop off his infected head before he gives away the book’s location to the Master? How indeed?
I’m getting slightly ahead of myself here but suffice to say there’s a pull and tug going on over the Lumen. Palmer wants it, to the tune of $500,000. The cardinal, acting as broker, tells Setrakian the bidding is up to $750,000 in gold.
Where would Setrakian come up with that kind of scratch? He’s not saying, but he’s not balking at the price either. (Hint: The Ancients apparently have unlimited financial resources).
He and Fet find out one key detail during their initial bargaining chat with the cardinal: He has the book or knows where it is, and our heroes scheme to steal it from him before Palmer can do the same. Fet secretly hopes this snatch-and-grab involves dynamite.
They aren’t the only ones with robbery on their minds, though. Eichhorst, with his own interests to protect, later pays the cardinal a visit and demands the book. He’s not bidding on it, of course, because he expects it for free. If the cardinal wants to continue living, that is.
In a showdown scene worth replaying multiple times, the man of faith (and greed, if we’re being candid here) digs in his heels against the centuries-old monster. Guess who wins? In truth, Eichhorst doesn’t even break a sweat, but he does get in a few nasty digs about God.
As Setrakian and Fet return to the opulent home, they find the aftermath of the attack. If they don’t learn the book’s location immediately, the cardinal will turn into a member of the strigoi army, losing all his secrets to the Master. With his dying breath, he tells Setrakian that the boy from the Austrian convent has the Lumen. (It had been presumed lost/burned there decades ago).
Down comes Setrakian’s sword-cane, and off goes the cardinal’s head. Crisis averted, but the quest for the Lumen continues.
Across town, Gus (Miguel Gomez) is trying to avoid the inevitable. He convinces the Gupta family that they need to flee vampire-ridden New York. They grudgingly agree, and lovely Aanya plants a kiss on Gus as incentive for him to join them. He’s seriously considering it when Quinlan shows up.
Not so fast, Gus, says Badassimus Maximus. Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) has other plans for the street thug with a heart of gold, who has crossed the Master and paid a high price for that so far. (His mother, brother and best friend all fell to the parasitic infection).
If he doesn’t stand and fight the Master now, he’ll lose everything he cares about, Quinlan says. Note: Beautiful, terrified Aanya watches this confrontation through a glass door. So that’s not so much a brother-in-arms invitation, but it’s an offer Gus can’t refuse.
Elsewhere in head-butting, Coco Marchand (Lizzie Brochere) keeps trying to learn Palmer’s deep darks, and he keeps shoving her away. She’s disgusted by Eichhorst -- “Have you ever noticed that he smells like rotten fish?” -- and she wants the 411 on this Lumen.
A romantic would say she’s looking out for Palmer, but a cynic like me thinks she’s power hungry. Because this character doesn’t exist is the bestselling trilogy on which the FX series is based, there’s no telling what her role will be going forward.
But she can throw a tantrum with the best of them. Palmer seems hurt. Sad, whipped old man.
The billionaire entrepreneur does get to feel superior, if only for a moment, by turning the tables on his frenemy, Eichhorst. The Master’s henchman berates Palmer for the sabotage at the warehouse and gives him a deadline for repairs. Palmer, learning about Bolivar’s pivotal new role, needles Eichhorst relentlessly about being passed over for a “washed-up pop singer.” Ouch!
Again, a meaty scene between two titans, both the actors and the characters they play. It’s deliciously, wickedly fun.
Not so upbeat at Scooby HQ because Eph confesses, sort of, to sleeping around on his trip to Washington. And, yeah, he did kill Barnes. Nora (Mia Maestro) is pretty unhappy with these developments.
But there’s no time to digest the (human) murder and (sexy) betrayal because Kelly shows up, idiot Zach lets her in, and soon there’s a full-scale invasion. Nora and Eph arm themselves and defend Zach and the Good Guy HQ with a hail of gunfire.
Two Feelers down -- one impaled, one taking a bullet for Kelly -- and Evil Mama Bear gets away. Told you this hour was jampacked.