The Strain "For Services Rendered" Review: Special Forces Are at Work

By Tim Surette

Aug 25, 2014

The Strain S01E07: "For Services Rendered"

Good golly, this show! It's all over the place, isn't it? While New York City slowly turns a few shades paler, The Strain is suffers from its own unique ailments. The pacing as of late has hiccuped quite a bit, and last week's "Occultation" left me with little sense of anticipation for this week's "For Services Rendered." Wasn't that eclipse supposed to be a big deal? What happened when the moon passed in front of the sun—one single vampire ran into the street? Why is Gus on this show anyway? Is Vasiliy ever going to join up with the main story, or will he continue arguing with his dad about architecture scholarships? And why won't anyone listen to a professional scientist? Or notice that a dead body obviously belonged to a grotesque, horrifying no-longer-human creature and consider the fact that maybe Gus and Felix had no choice but self defense? 

I suppose my frustration means it's time to remind myself that The Strain is not a great drama and shouldn't be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form. The series is taking plenty of liberties in order to move to its own beat, even if that means dumbing down the population of America's largest city and using a far-fetched internet slowdown as an excuse.

But it obviously doesn't have to be that way, because at the end of "For Services Rendered," a team of vampire Black Ops (let's call them BlackulOps) stormed in—and all of a sudden, The Strain was once again the fun, campy series I've enjoyed at several points throughout its young season. I giggled. I mean, come on. Follow me here. A team of hooded vampires with guns that shoot silver stakes saved Eva the Nanny's day by killing other vampires! Including those kids' mompire, right in front of their dumb faces! What I ask for from The Strain is so minuscule that batshittery like this is all it takes to leave me feeling pretty satisfied. I know The Strain isn't that good, but I feel compelled to watch it with high hopes every week, almost as if the Master is ordering me to do so.

And please, I'm not trying to be preachy here. If you think the show is slow, dumb, and boring, you've got plenty of evidence to back up those claims. If the flashbacks to Abraham in the Nazi camp aren't doing it for you, you're not alone; all they do is drag, and they haven't really added anything to the conversation. If any scene featuring Eldritch, Gus, or Vasiliy seems disconnected from the rest of the show or unnecessarily shrouded in mystery, I'm right there with ya. We're now seven episodes in, and many of the characters still seem scattered. If you've screamed, "YEAH SILVER HURTS VAMPIRES, WE GET IT!," you've echoed my own yelling. Abraham doesn't need to convince me twice that fighting these monsters is serious business. And if you're wondering how New York could be so blind to what's going on, you're welcome to take a seat at my table. It's as if the whole city is in some hivemind denial.

HOWEVER: I'm so shallow and easy to please when it comes to monster movies and TV shows that The Strain is doing just enough to keep me watching. Put simply, I'm never get tired of seeing a vampire's face open up to shoot a feeding tube into some poor sap's jugular. Maybe it's the lazy summer days that promote brain vacations, but I love that stuff. So I'm willing to let a lot of ridiculous things slide as long as a few key boxes are checked throughout the hour, and I think "For Services Rendered" successfully checked them with its opening scene (someone finally acted normal as infected beasts approached; thanks, Chief from Battlestar Galactica!) and the arrival of the BlackulOps at the end. 

Let's go on a little tangent with the BlackulOps, as they potentially open up some exciting new territory. (If you've read the books, kindly keep your trap shut!) They're almost certainly old vampires who've been doing this for a while, and their ability to not immediately eat those kids makes me think they might be infected with a mutated version of the original strain that's currently turning everyone else into thirsty, uncontrollable brutes. These vampires have retained some of their humanity, much like Thomas Eichhorst (hmmm), and they have enough self control to branch out on their own and not suck dry every human they encounter. If we consider the situation from a scientific angle, perhaps these vampires follow a societal structure that's similar to that of an ant colony or a beehive, with most of the infected slowly becoming drones and other, more evolved vampires keeping things under control?

Aside from that, there's much left to digest from "For Services Rendered," as the story crept forward slowly and The Strain made it through another hour without the start of a full-blown chaotic outbreak. People are starting to wear protective breathing masks, though, so they seem concerned even though the news would rather cover days-old press conferences of Joan talking about suing Regis Airlines or run headlines about Gabe's canceled concert. The introduction of the BlackulOps at least introduces a new layer that will hopefully be explored next week. Actually, it'd better be explored next week, because while The Strain is riding along by including just enough scenes full of projectile blood-sucking straws, monster autopsies, disgusting transformations, and vampire attacks, it can't coast through a few seasons on gore alone. (I'll still watch, though.)


– Was that it for Aaron Douglas (Joan's husband)? He showed up for one episode and got eaten and that's it? 

– Uh-oh! Looks like New York City is under attack from selective cell phone service, as Douglas's character was able to receive one call but not make another. Or is that like every day? Cell phones, amirite?

– Is Jim back in your good graces after helping out the team again? I think he's still coming off as kind of a putz. Obviously he had to help them stop the outbreak because it's his fault, but he seems to be dragging his feet with every choice he makes. 

– The audio trickery when Thomas was talking to Jim in the train station was totally radical. 

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  • TVdoJose Sep 02, 2014

    I DVR it so I press sometimes the FFW/30s button so It doesn't feel to stall, and RRW/7s, and FFW, and RRw, and so on, and so on. Waiting for the Fall Season perhaps. Perhaps.

  • malcolmbrice1 Sep 01, 2014

    i think the show is doing really well so far. what people have to understand is that everything will eventually tie together! It is only the first few episodes of the first season. Of course you're not going to know everything right away. appreciate the suspense and watch the story come together. It's like everyone wants to know the end of the story and could care less what happens in the middle. That's really unsatisfying. With the separate story lines and flashbacks, you can see the characters all develop. Hell, who knew that Setrakian carved the coffin! It may not always be explosions and cool fight scenes but it's still an awesome show. appreciate the little things. and even though the horror genre thrives on stupid people, i like how they atleast try to make it make sense how this could happen in the modern world. all around i think this week's episode was great and help strengthen the story. also Vampires hunting vampires!!!

  • Edupinn Sep 01, 2014

    I really enjoyed this episode! Much better than the previous and it had great moments. Okay, it's still moving slower than I'd like and there are some flaws, but it was consistent and kept me wondering about the next episodes.
    I do find the flashbacks interesting, but I was expecting some meaning there. Ok, Abraham's got the silver knife, but what then?
    A flashback, in my opinion, should be used to make a point, to support the events of present time. Its story must have a beginning and an end. If they drag along the whole series, then which part of the story is the most important?
    Don't get me started on Jim....
    Okay, I'm gonna watch episode 8 now :D

  • vcivi Aug 29, 2014

    I liked this episode, but was a bit dissapointed when the moon came and like you said in the review, just one vampire came...well the good thing about it was that Eph could he should be thanking that Vampire...

    Loved the end...when the nanny and her daughter brought back the kids, to get attacked by their mother...then this group of Vampires came and resceud them sort of...they killed that girl...who the heck were they????

    What the hell is going on with this series..?? Where is Buffy when you need her??

  • akyag Aug 28, 2014

    Aaron Douglas is pretty good actor and I was quite baffled to see him for such a short role.. Should have used him more intelligently or maybe they will.. best thing was the Black Death Squad... Straight to the point.. If you came in contact even slightest, BAAM rod shaped arrow straight to the head ! They are like viewers of zombie shows in disguise...

  • KeyserSoze Aug 27, 2014

    Setrakian's story in Treblinka...much more interesting in the books.
    BUT the final 2' minutes...DEFINING. If you like it, keep watching. If not, maybe you should skip

    For me it was the part near the end of the 1st book - although in another incident, not in Lass' house - that change the genre of the trilogy

  • WildPict Aug 27, 2014

    I liked most of the episode, and some of the flashback. However, the flashback started to lag and I fast-forwarded through about half of it. I don't mind some of the history, especially the carving part, but too much time was spent on food sharing and drinking. Why was that important to the progression of the infection in NY?

    That nanny was smarter than everybody we've seen so far, including the CDC guys. And I think having a good grounding in ancient legends is what has helped her, Vassily and Abraham from the beginning. I can understand why her daughter acted as she did, but her mother's fear should've at least made her wary, and maybe check out the place before dragging the kids into possible danger.

    Thosw vampired hunters were so cool! I want to see more of them!

    I'm still in so far, so let's see how they end this season and I'll figure out if I want to stay in.

  • filmstu2005 Aug 27, 2014

    I havent finished watching this episode yet and I had to come here just to vent about the first 5 minutes. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Why are these character written so stupid? Even if you're a poor-English speaking taxi driver, if some dude comes at you with a sick twisted alien proboscis YOU DO NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR TO CONFRONT HIM, especially when you have the opportunity to drive away!!!! Be smart!!!

    LOL...oh god. I just had to get that off my chest. Utterly retarded and it really really pissed me off. Now back to our regularly scheduled program

  • Gofromiel0 Aug 31, 2014

    Also, I was so happy to see Chief from Battlestar Gallactica, only he dies five minutes later! Shame!

  • WildPict Aug 27, 2014

    Yeah, I don't think I know of any taxi driver who wouldn't have floored it under those circumstances.

  • marcusj1973 Aug 26, 2014

    "I suppose my frustration means it's time to remind myself that The Strain is not a great drama and shouldn't be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form. The series is taking plenty of liberties in order to move to its own beat, even if that means dumbing down the population of America's largest city and using a far-fetched internet slowdown as an excuse."

    I've just had the epiphany I've been searching for with regards to this show. It's The Walking Dead except with vampires instead of zombies and is taking place during the time Rick was in his coma.

    Ever wonder how a country of 350 million with an army 10x bigger than any other on earth could be over run by a bunch of slow moving mindless zombies? By doing the exact same dumb sh*t we're seeing here.

    It's all so's the same f'ing show!

    "What I ask for from The Strain is so minuscule that batshittery like this is all it takes to leave me feeling pretty satisfied. I know The Strain isn't that good, but I feel compelled to watch it with high hopes every week, almost as if the Master is ordering me to do so."

    The prosecution rests your honour

  • KeyserSoze Aug 27, 2014

    You are right. When describing it to some friends I said
    "The 1st Season shall look like The Walking Dead Season 1 or something. Following Seasons based on Books 2 and 3 will be more like Fringe or Supernatural"

  • marcusj1973 Aug 27, 2014

    I don't know about you and without getting into my usual diatribe about how that show's been ruined by extending the number of episodes per season but I thought the first season of TWD was AWESOME! I'm not sure if I'd put The Strain in that same category. TWD season 2 maybe where our "heroes" seeming made one absurd decision after another, after another that served no other purpose than to try and artificially create tension.

    This show has a LONG way to go if ever it hopes to reach the quality of Fringe or Supernatural (Season 1-5)

  • KeyserSoze Aug 27, 2014

    I'm not talking about quality. I'm talking about mood. The Strain was kinda pseudo-scientific and preparatory while The Fall and The Night Eternal are heavily actioned, much internal conflict and heavily relied in the mythology of the story

  • harshagp Aug 26, 2014

    No substance, but creepy and fun!

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