I’ve been an a harsh critic of The Strain over the past season. I’m the first to admit it. I scour through what others are writing about the series. It seems there are two camps when it comes to The Strain or any genre series for that matter. There’s the camp that loves everything that fits into the geek genre. If it’s a superhero series, a supernatural series, or a sci-fi series this camp will love everything about it. The other camp are the stiffs. These are the folks who don’t think anything good can come out of the geek genre. Rarely do these camps meet. The one exception is Game of Thrones. Everyone can agree that show is awesome.
When it comes to The Strain, I think I have found myself somewhere in the middle of these two camps. The Strain isn’t all bad, but it’s not all good either. If you’re going to review something you should highlight both the bad and the good. These camps have failed to do either. I admit I have been hard on The Strain, but it’s only because I expect much more from a creative director like Guillermo del Toro.
In “Intruders,” The Strain has cleared some of what has been holding back the series. There was hardly any mention of the virus spreading through the city. Unlike other episodes that repeatedly tell us how the virus is“tearing down the city “Intruders” cut it to a minimum. Did the showrunners realize all the talk of the city falling apart with no payoff was hurting the series? Maybe, but there are still episodes left in the season.
When there was mention of the city going to hell it was backed up by proof. Angel and Gus saw some of the looting (which has never been mentioned before this episode) that had occurred in the city. When they tell the Guptas they should leave the city it wasn’t done in a ham-fisted, cheesy way. You could actually see the concern for the family especially from Angel. It can be assumed Angel owes the Guptas a lot more than he’s willing to let Gus know.
We also saw a checkpoint set up to check for possibly infected people trying to enter Red Hook. It was a good idea to show some security in Red Hook that we hadn’t seen before. However, alarms should go off when a police officer charged with security gives away security measures. Of course right after he gives away this tidbit away a vampire is discovered in the van behind her. The police officer yells at Kelly to leave. It was a cheap tactic to get Kelly into Red Hook undetected.
Of course, we have to ask, “Why was she in a car trying to get into Red Hook?” Justine Feraldo told the media she was going to set up road blocks. Do vampires not watch the local news?
I can forgive this slight hiccup in an otherwise great episode. The payoff of the confrontation between Kelly and Eph was worth it. Kelly may have escaped, but Zach has finally realized Kelly is no longer his mother. The realization that his mother is no longer his mother and the bonding time over surgery may have help create the father/son dynamic the show had been trying for from the first episode. Have we seen the end of douchebag Zach? We’ll wait and see.
At times Corey Stoll was still his cardboard acting self, but in “Intruders” it worked to his advantage. Any other actor may have tried to act the surgery scene in the episode in another manner, but Stoll’s acting actually relayed a sense of urgency to Zach. And the payoff- the rifle he wants to use to kill Palmer. We won’t even discuss how a CDC doctor has the skill to snipe someone. At least not in this article.
The tension between Eichorst and Palmer finally came to a head. Palmer definitely got the better of Eichorst during their exchange. but Eichorst may have the final word. Whether it was acting against Jonathan Hyde or sucking information out of the bishop, Richard Sammel was at his series best.
As usual, Setrakian and Fet stole the episode. The back-and-forth between the two has been the best character interaction in the series. You can almost see Fet (Really Kevin Durand) trying to hold back after Setrakian tells him to get his head out of Dutch’s skirt. The two actors play off each other very well and with each interaction we learn a little more about both characters.
“Intruders” worked because the episode focuses on the characters and not on the overarching story. There hasn’t been one episode where the vampires and virus wasn’t shoved down the viewer’s throat. Whether the city or even the rest of the United States knows there is a virus running amok the characters know and we know about the virus. It was about time we had an episode that had more character (in both senses of the word).
We want our characters to be real as possible. We want to feel their fears and joys. When we can believe the characters the other problems in the series become almost inconsequential. Strong characters, whether it’s a boy in Devil’s Backbone or a demon from hell in Hellboy, has always been a hallmark of del Toro films. Focusing on the characters, developing them a little more, and their interactions with each other will vastly improve the series and make it a series worthy of del Toro.