With a concerning sum of characters and subplots, The Strain has been teetering on the edge of convoluted since it started. Up until now, it’s always managed to bring it back when it needs to, the perfect example being last week’s ‘It’s Not For Everyone’, which was the highlight of the series so far. Unfortunately, this week’s episode was more filler than killer, even if it did spare us the small mercy of giving up on the futile ‘Eph and his family issues’ storyline.
‘Runaways’ kept the focus on the spreading virus and it’s history. Having beheaded Emma Arnot and her father at the end of last week, Eph and Setrakian bond over breakfast in the Arnot house…because that’s what you do after killing a couple of monsters. Would you like one egg or two with your side of mutilated vampire?
Sadly, those words don’t leave Setrakian’s mouth but what does is an explanation of the deadly Strigoi; that’s the Romanian name for vampire to you and I. The history behind the Strigoi is fairly familiar, working from well-known stories and myths surrounding vampirism, but it’s nice to have Setrakian talk Eph, and us, through it all.
Aiding Setrakian’s teachings are flashbacks to his time in the concentration camp, where he first encountered a still human Thomas Eichorst. Setrakian survived the camp because he was a skilled carpenter but it’s there that he witnessed a strange creature feeding on the other prisoners, including his brother. How Setrakian got from being a prisoner of war to being a full-on Van Helsing, however, is yet to be explored.
We return to the present day with Nora, who’s visiting her dementia-impaired mother at a nursing home. She witnesses a Strigoi attacking a resident and it’s the first incident not involving the plane survivors or The Master, indicating that the infection is spreading far and fast. Nora escapes with her mother in tow and, while it’s another far-away strand of the story, it’ll hopefully send Nora running back to Eph and his quest, which is where she needs to be if we’re to care about her character.
Meanwhile, snooty lawyer Joan Luss has been mysteriously absent for a while. With Captain Redfern already dead, and Gabe and Ansel most likely heading that way, it isn’t a surprise when she pops up this week with bloodshot eyes and a proclivity for sniffing her children. Her odd behaviour and vertical eyelids scare her housekeeper, Neeva, into fleeing with the children. From the way Joan was nestling into their necks, listening to the blood pumping through their veins, it’s a blessing Neeva had the nerve to steal the kids from their mother.
Slightly further down the transition line is Gabe Bolivar, whose looking more and more vile as the week’s go by. He murders the urologist his agent sends to help him, and then the cleaner she subsequently sends in to remove the first body. The “clean up” guy puts up a surprisingly good fight, knocking Gabe off his feet a couple of times; his only error is in not scarpering in the opposite direction when he has the chance. Eph and Setrakian need to put Gabe down ASAP, and his agent probably shouldn’t keep trying to cover up for him. Any bets on whether she’ll be next on his dinner menu?
‘Runaways’ is an apt title for this episode, with everyone running from something, whether it’s a monster, the authorities or, in Eldritch Palmer’s case, old age. The wonderfully named Vasily Fet is sent running for his life when he goes underground to investigate why the rats are evacuating the sewers. What he finds is a group of hungry Strigoi lurking in the shadows and he barely makes it out alive. He might have uncovered a way of keeping them at bay though; they burn in sunlight.
We end with Eph going to his superior with video footage of Setrakian beheading Ansel (they also find Ansel’s wife hanging from the stairs but that’s brushed over quickly). It doesn’t go to plan when Eph realises that he’s been set up for the murder of Captain Redfern, but he manages to escape with help from Jim, who proves he’s not so useless after all. Eph makes it very clear that the two of them still aren’t on good terms but it’s a start.
This episode was all about filling in the blanks and giving us some back-story, but it’s not quite as satisfying as it should be. More time spent with Setrakian in the concentration camp flashbacks would have been beneficial to the overall story, but we’re whisked away to Nora’s subplot, then Gabe’s, and then Joan’s, so we never stick in one place long enough to really become invested in the action. The Strain is still struggling to balance it’s various plot strands, but when it succeeds in bringing them all together, it’s bound to be worth watching.