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‘For Services Rendered’

A couple of weeks ago The Strain teased the history between Setrakian and Eichorst in a Treblinka extermination camp flashback. It was a fascinating insight into both characters, but it was all too brief. Thankfully, the writers seem to appreciate what their viewers want – more backstory – and this week they delivered a bucket load of tense flashbacks that raised the bar on a show that’s been an all-together mixed bag.

‘For Services Rendered’ moves the story along by forcing the gang out of the safety of Setrakian’s underground lair, in search of The Master. Setrakian puts his new plan in motion but disagrees with Eph over the most logical way to stop the Strigoi. As the only one to have encountered them before, Setrakian explains that The Master is the key to it all; kill him and you stop the spreading strain. Eph, however, wants to make the world aware of the terror on its doorstep, despite the fact that communication and transmission is down. After a heated discussion, they recruit a reluctant Jim, who’s the only one with a direct link to Eichorst.
the-strain-for-services-rendered-02Eph’s familial drama seems to have transferred onto wimpy Jim, who argues with his cancer-stricken wife over his part in the spreading contagion. All this behind-the-scenes personal stuff might be showing us the human side of these characters but it’s nothing more than a distraction. Jim is boring at best but when he’s bickering with his wife, you can’t help but wish that the writers would kill him off already. I can’t be the only one foreseeing his departure in the near future, so why prolong the tedium?

Jim is used as bait to lure Eichorst into leading them to The Master, but it’s obvious from the start that it’s not going to end in their favour. Eichorst is a slippery snake and he anticipates the entrapment waiting for him. There’s a nifty scene where the gang chase Eichorst through the subway, before he and Setrakian have an unfairly matched duel on the platform. Eichorst escapes like an animal jumping onto the side of a train, showing us just how bionic he is and how frail Setrakian has become. At this point, it’s really not looking good for the makeshift vampire hunters.
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All of this is going on in-between flashbacks to the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where the still-human Eichorst recruits Setrakian to carve a large box; we know this later becomes The Master’s coffin. Eichorst takes a macabre shine to Setrakian, obviously in awe of his artistry despite the fact that he’s a Jew. The scenes between Richard Sammel’s Eichorst and a young Setrakian (played with quiet intensity by Jim Watson) are tense and revealing, exposing Setrakian’s resilience and Eichorst’s arrogance. These traits have stayed with them and shaped their paths to the present day, and it’s nice to see the progression play out.

The excitement in this episode, however, comes at the Luss house, where Joan’s terrified kids are hauled up in a room with their maid, Neeva, and her daughter. Having fully turned, Joan tries to attack her children but is eliminated by a group of mysterious saviours. The leader checks the kids for bites or scratches, before shooting Neeva’s daughter because she was infected. The stealthy rescuer’s mutated face and rattling throat signal that he’s far from human himself; Could this be a resistance Strigoi army rallying against their own kind? If so, it’s one hell of a game changer.

So Setrakian’s plan has failed and we’re no closer to finding The Master, but with the story developing the way it is, we are closer to getting a series that’s consistently good week after week. Let’s hope next week’s Chuck Hogan scribed episode doesn’t disappoint.

★★★★

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