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.
AIRED ON 10/5/2014
Season 1 : Episode 13