I know that because this is based on the novel, we have to accept certain things as unchangeable, regardless of how poorly they have been translated to the screen. By this, of course, I mean the central focus on Eph (Corey Stoll) and the entire Nora (Mía Maestro) and her mom (Anne Betancourt) storyline. And this isn’t a question of poor performances. Stoll, Maestro, and Betancourt are giving The Strain everything they’ve got. But the writers are determined to give us a flawed hero — which I would normally applaud — who isn’t just flawed, but is an insufferable ass. And they just have no idea what to do with the Martinez family beyond making sure that nearly every single interaction between them has Nora doing or saying exactly the opposite of what therapists recommend when dealing with dementia patients. I doubt that this is intentional. I’m pretty sure it’s just another element of the writers’ inability to find something to do with the characters. Although leaving your mentally impaired elderly mother in the care of a twelve year old stranger while all of the adults go on what is essentially a suicide mission into the sewers of New York is perhaps the most egregious offense so far. Almost as egregious as using it as an artificial opportunity to put Zach in danger when he ridiculously chooses to go out and steal cigarettes for Mama Martinez to keep her from having a tantrum. Having him briefly cross paths with Gus (Miguel Gómez) would almost be worth it, if anything had actually come from it plot-wise. Instead, their brief passing demonstrates, however backhandedly, where Gus has ended up after losing his friends and family to the Vampire plague. Oh yeah. That happened. You didn’t have to read the books to know that Gus was going to end up in a dark place, and in this episode he hits bottom after making it home to find his no-good brother fully changed, lurking around their apartment waiting for nightfall. But that’s not the gut-punch. Crispin (Francis Capra) was obviously going to change. It’s when Gus finds his mother (Adriana Barraza) sleeping in the closet, in the final stages of becoming a monster, that he is forced to truly disconnect from his old life. It’s a strong moment for Gomez as a performer and it informs the determination he shows later when he crosses paths with Zach. Meanwhile underground, Eph, Nora, Fet (Kevin Durand), and Abraham (David Bradley) get close to The Master (Robert Maillet & Robin Atkin Downes) — because, of course, it’s a trap to lure them in. The search for the Master’s lair is equal parts tense, exciting, and cliché-filled stupidity. Nora serves no purpose at all, but at least she doesn’t fall into the damsel-in-distress cliché. Instead, Eph fulfills that role, running off on his own like an idiot when he hears Kelly’s (Natalie Brown) voice luring him into the trap. If it wasn’t for the experimental UV strobe “bomb” that Vasiliy developed, Eph would be dead; Possibly from embarrassment after having to interact with the partially animatronic Master head with the cartoonishly glowing eyes and giant rubber monster hands. There’s just something wrong about a story where your Big Bad is silly-looking, while your lower-level grunt monsters are truly disturbing. I appreciate the use of practical effects for the monsters whenever possible, but sometimes less is more. And I really wish people would stop saying that the Master’s look is inspired by the iconic Max Schreck Nosferatu make-up. Sure there are elements there, but this is what real inspiration looks like: Nightmare-inducing. Not laugh-inducing. Abraham’s emotional breakdown when the Master escapes (surprise!) is a nice touch, and Bradley plays the moment with gusto, completely losing touch with reality in his obsession to track and kill the monster despite the literal army of vampires between him and his goal. So far, Bradley, Durand, and Gomez are the only actors in this show really given material that allows them to commit to the madness going on around them. We need to have the doubters, for sure, to ground the reality of the situation and allow for some tension and pushback as the people who know what they’re doing lay out crazy plans. But the doubters don’t have to be useless. And unfortunately, so far in The Strain (11 episodes in to a 13-episode season!!) we’re being teased with classic vampire action, but are being hampered by clichés and characters that just don’t add anything to the story. The Strain 1.11 “The Third Rail”2.8Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Dignan October 5, 2014 With the mild exception of Eph, Abraham and Fet, I find I don’t give a crap about any of these characters. The Walking Dead has shown us how really well-written characters/actors can elevate even otherwise fairly mundane story material. This shows weakness isn’t the special fx, it’s the writing; it makes the whole affair often come off as kinda lackluster. Even when the show is trying to be profound and dark I never feel myself drawn into it or really caring much about what’s going on (at least not since the first couple episodes). It’s got a second season, hopefully it will improve and mature into the show it wants to be. Log in to Reply Paul Brian McCoy October 6, 2014 I agree entirely. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.