What They Say:
Madness – New information surfaces from the Lumen, forcing Setrakian to seek out lifelong rival Eldritch Palmer for help. Eph’s new experiments take him to the brink of sanity and Fet tries to unearth strigoi movements.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The strain largely worked through some minor place setting material the last time around after the events with the Master and how it didn’t play out as expected. There were good conversations to be had, I especially like seeing how Quinlan is dealing with his attack not achieving the expected results, but that certainly couldn’t carry the episode. As we’re moving to the halfway mark of the season there’s a bit of a natural lull as events have to refocus after the opening salvo so expectations are certainly a bit low to mediocre at best since things have to be put into proper place for the back half.
The cold open finally gives us a look at what’s going on around the world and with the US itself as the spread hits and it’s certainly welcome to get a little more context to how everything has played out. It may be a small piece but it’s the kind of thing that I like as it puts everything in New York City into a bit more perspective. We also get to see what Eph and Dutch are up to with a too-cute approach to acquiring a strigoi for experimentation. With the weapon that Eph developed now being pretty ineffective, research is the key and he’s back on the game after recent events. It’s good to see him working with Dutch since she provides since decent humor and better skills overall, but considering both of them are pretty much the definition of damaged at this point they kind of feed each other with it so that there’s no safety release.
One of the very fun releases the show does have is with its flashbacks and this one gives us a really enjoyable one with Setrakian back in 1972 in Amsterdam as he hunts up some strigoi there. It goes back to the whole monomaniacal hunter thing that Quinlan talks about and it’s enjoyable seeing him working the red light district as he searches for clues and more, notably in trying to find Eichhorst. The flashbacks have been pretty fun and well done in general and this one is no exception. The first half of the episode moves in these kinds of odd directions with lots of small things playing out. Eph discovering microwaves making an impact on the strigoi is intriguing. Fet’s continuing his hunts to find out what the strigoi is up to is fun considering his style and attitude and a nice balance to Faraldo’s problems as the city is losing ground in the fight against the strigoi. None of these plot points feels terribly fresh but they nudge everything forward just enough to at least keep it interesting.
The back half carries all of these forward well enough, though some are more interesting than others. I like what we get out of some experimentation with microwaves and how the strigoi communicate as well as how Eph and Dutch interact with each other, though hopefully that doesn’t develop romantically. Similarly, the teases we get from Quinlan and Setrakian as they research the Lumen and talk about various events from millennia gone by adds a bit more to just how expansive this fight has been over the years. We’re simply exposed to the latest iteration of it, one that’s far harder to contain simply because the strigoi have so many opportunities to take advantage of like a proper virus.
Setrakian’s flashback doesn’t really add too much to the story overall but I do enjoy this in getting a different version of Setrakian himself in his younger days along with the trials and tribulations he had to face in getting closer to the Master. It reinforces his darker side well in that he’ll go the distance to get things done. Which is why he and Fet get along so well, though I wish Fet was with him instead of spelunking into the sewers itself as nothing good will come from that. Discovering a huge number of strigoi down below in the darkness certainly makes it clear where the next big threat is coming from, but dealing with it is going to be a significant problem. The strigoi continue to evolve and realizing that they’re digging tunnels and are able to appear where they need to be in order to do so also explains why Faraldo’s having as much of a problem as she is.
The Strain feels similar to the previous episode once again as we get some decent things and small reveals along the way but it avoids going truly big for the bulk of it. There are neat things in the wind with what’s being discovered by all of the groups and that leaves his hopeful that things will go big as the season moves into its back half. I’m still enjoying the show a good bit overall but like pat[s episode have totally accepted the flaws of the show in order to do so.