tv review – FX’s The Strain, episode 1.4

‘It’s Not For Everyone’ kept things moving throughout, gave us a lot of vampire action and managed to put a lot of the characters in interesting places by the episode’s end. But not all developments made sense for the characters, which took away from an ending that at first seemed to have everything going for it. We finally got to see Abraham take care of some vampires: he beheaded a little girl, then he chopped up her dad and, finally, he instructed Eph to burn the whole house down. It was a great vampire hunter moment, but what it led to rang false: Nora, the one character who had sought out Abraham to learn from him and ask him what needed to be done during The Strain‘s previous episode, and who had stood by Eph when he dissected a vampire body at the start of this outing, now suddenly didn’t want to play any part in killing these incredibly dangerous creatures while the previously hesitant Eph took care of business without a moment’s notice. It was an unlikely and inorganic reversal of these two characters’ traits, which made for a conclusion to the episode that really fell flat.

The development of Sean Astin’s character Jim made more sense: confronted with the vampire and his guilt over letting the coffin through during the pilot, Jim confessed to Eph and Nora. He told them he thought it was just an object full of dirt, that he had not foreseen this and that he had done everything for his wife. While this speech was a little rudimentary Astin made us feel for his character and this moment signified that, for the remainder of the season, Jim will likely try to redeem himself. The payoff to the scene was painfully clunky and uninspired, though: Eph punched Jim in the face and then said the most trite of things: “You are dead to me.” While Eph’s anger certainly is understandable these men have been friends for a long time, which made this particular reaction seem misplaced and forced. Nora, meanwhile, just said nothing and, from this moment on, Jim was not seen again. ‘It’s Not For Everyone’ chose to focus a large part of its running time on the character of Gus, whose storyline hasn’t added anything interesting to the narrative.

The Stoneheart and Ansel plot strands fortunately were much more entertaining. Stoneheart hired a hacker to make sure that NYC can’t properly communicate with outsiders, which was a fun way to explain in advance how no one will come to the aid of the New Yorkers in the future. Aside from his cover-up activities Eldritch Palmer didn’t do very well, though: his liver gave out and he had to get a transplant. While all of this wasn’t much of a surprise it was good to see Palmer was disappointed in the Master and that he knows he’s being used. Hopefully this will lead to some interesting moments with him in the future. Ansel, meanwhile, has gone full vampire but before he did so he chained himself up in the shed to keep himself from harming his family… after drinking their dog’s blood of course. His wife so far hasn’t contacted anyone about it, but she did wind up feeding her nosy jerk of a neighbor to her husband, which you could see coming from a mile away, but made for a fun horror moment as well, with the blood running from the shed and onto the snow. Still, it would be welcome if The Strain would actually try to throw viewers for a loop now and then: so far it has mainly relied on familiar tropes that are certainly functional, but also cause the episode to have a been-there-done-that feel to them.

‘It’s Not For Everyone’ was entertaining, but it also definitely was a shakier episode than the previous three. The Strain so far is a functional horror pastiche, but some ideas of its could really set it apart. 7/10


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