tv review – FX’s The Strain, episode 1.5

‘Runaways’ was a bit of a mixed bag: for every enjoyable moment there was a moment that didn’t quite work and distracted from the more interesting and thrilling goings-on. The Strain is also becoming quite repetitive; it’s taking baby steps and giving us a lot of the same before we actually get to the escalation is it has teased us with since the first episode. While we’re certainly getting there now that these vampires show up in public places and are gathering in the sewers, it all feels surprisingly small and uneventful, and the role of the Master is still very much being downplayed. The episode’s shining moments were fantastic, though: the Abraham-Eph dynamic may not be original, but it presented us with a very enjoyable buddy cop vibe that simply worked, while Vasiliy Fet is still the show’s coolest character. Getting these three together is something The Strain should do as soon as possible, because, honestly, that’s what we all want to see.

What we didn’t want to see was a whole plot line dedicated to Nora and her mom, a plot strand that came out of nowhere and stopped the episode dead in its tracks every time precious screen time was spent on it. It could make for solid and touching dramatic moments, but subtle and deep writing is not something The Strain excels at: gross-out monster moments is its forte. Similarly the WWII plot didn’t quite work: while ‘Runaways’ managed to used its historical setting effectively, what happened at the concentration camp failed to be very scary or inspired. A few times we were treated to scenes in which the Master fed on the camps prisoners, and to scenes in which a young Abraham told a friend how something came into the barracks at night to feed. This plot strand was repetitive because of it and therefor didn’t pull us in as much is it could have.

Eph and Abraham’s vampire disposal was a lot more fun to watch, even though that storyline was predictable: of course Eph was trying to get the CDC to help them and of course this big organization was either too dumb or too corrupt to help him. Aided by Jim Kent Eph fortunately wasn’t apprehended, which means that from this moment on Eph will be working with Abraham while probably dodging government forces looking for him. This is a necessary development to eventually give us our independent and small group of heroes/underdogs who are trying to battle this epidemic, but it’s being dragged out at the moment, while everyone simply wants to get to the good stuff. The same goes for the development of the Bolivar and Joan Luss’ stories: Gabriel is hiding in his lair and eating everyone who comes in, while Joan is still sick in a bed, not fully vamped out yet. Granted: Luss’ plot at least gave us some tension while actress Leslie Hope did a fine job with her character, but Bolivar’s segments were a do-over of what we’ve seen him do before, once again giving off the impression that he show is dragging its heels.

‘Runaways’ was a bit of a frustrating episode: The Strain kept dangling the show’s potential in front of its viewers, while only slowly inching toward it. 6/10

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