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The Strain: The Assassin Review

The heroes’ victory is short-lived as Eph shows a killer side. Here is our review of The Strain season 2 episode 10.

Last week, we saw the people of New York stand up and defeat Eichorst’s horde in the Battle for Red Hook, but this week, our heroes’ victory was short lived as all plans went awry on another gripping episode of The Strain.

Just about all our cast was covered this week (except, no Gus, no Quinlan and no Angel de Plata boooooo), as Eph tried to execute his plan in taking out Eldritch Palmer while Setrakian continued his hunt for the Oxido Lumen, the ancient book that could be the key in taking down The Master. Both plans failed, and Eph’s plan caused a shit storm of trouble for our favorite team of vampire hunters.

First Eph. Eph hadn’t gone the way of Captain Ahab like Setrakian has but he still executed his plan to take down Palmer. With good reason, Palmer is the key to the Master’s plan. So Eph set up shop and staked out Palmer, waiting for his time to put his newly acquired sniper rifle to use. Along for the ride with Eph was Dutch, and make no mistake this was truly Dutch’s episode.

In Dutch we had a very rare thing, a polyamorous character who wasn’t portrayed as a Larry from Three’s Company type swinger. I can’t remember a positive portrayal of a poly character on TV in like, well, ever. The show spelled out how she is a woman overflowing with passion who just wanted to share that passion with those that she loves. And loves she does, both Nicki and Fet, intently, profoundly, and truly. Dutch loves both her chosen and did not appreciate that society must make her choose. In her moment confessing all this to Eph, Dutch’s character was scaffolded from brave femme fatale genius to a well rounded, complex character that represented the poly community, a community that really doesn’t get much understanding or coverage in popular media. Bravo, Strain, breaking new social ground is always good.

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So this episode Dutch supplied Eph with the equipment he needed to kill Palmer, she talked him through the moral quagmire killing a mortal human brings, and she bared her soul. In truth, Dutch and Eph hadn’t shared many scenes and the focus on the difference between the characters really made both individuals shine. As for Palmer, he was called by the scumbag mayor to meets with Councilwoman Feraldo and talk her out of charging New York’s rich one percent of their income in order to fund her vampire cleanup project. Of course the rich being the rich want no part of it. Palmer was convinced to plead with Feraldo to allow the poor rich newcomers to keep their earnings. Eph overhears this thanks to Dutch’s equipment and he takes his shot.

Palmer has his own problems with Coco. You know, the subplot that never ends? Yeah, it continued. Palmer went to beg Coco to come back to work because Mrs. Drummond misses his sexy French Mrs. Garrett (ugh, I think I just unintentionally wrote slash fiction.)Coco reluctantly agreed and accompanied Palmer to the meeting with Feraldo. I think you see where this is going. Of course, Eph was perched high on a rooftop and took his shot. The whole thing was a rather gripping scene that reminded one more of a Bourne movie than it did of a vampire drama, but there you have it. With one bullet, Eph almost ended the world’s most endless subplot because the shot hit Coco instead of Palmer.

Dutch and Eph tried to make their escape but were caught by the cops as Coco lay bleeding and broken on the sidewalk.

Where were Setrakian and the rest of our cast? They were still trying to find the Oxido Lumen. Fet and Nora accompanied the good professor on his quest around the five boroughs until Fet got wind of Dutch’s arrest. Fet went to try to save the day and Setrakian continued his search. A search which brought him to a small home where he found the book that everyone has been breathlessly waiting to see! The Winds Of Winter by George R.R Martin!! OMG, what’s going to happen to KHALEESI.

No of course it was the Lumen and Setrakian even got a chance to glance at a few pages before he was knocked the F out. Sigh, poor guy.

As for Dutch and Eph, they were arrested and taken into police custody until a horde of vamps attacked. Dutch was already removed from the cell when the entire station was slaughtered. Eph would have been chopped liver if not for the timely arrival of Fet and Nora. As for Dutch, oh poor Dutch, our little poly amorous princess was in the clutches of Eichorst. Oh, that’s just not good at all.

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And our endless subplot became a little more endless as the Master arrived (after Palmer gave Eichorst an ultimatum) to gift the dying Coco with his blood. Now Coco had a taste of the life giving ichors of the Master and that should shakes things up in Evilville. Seriously though, I am intrigued by the power structure of the villains in this series. You have the almost omnipotent Master but he needs the wormy Palmer and will even do his bidding when threatened. You have Eichorst who is even viler than the Master but he acts as the Master’s sycophant. You have Bolivar who acted as muscle last season but has now transcended everybody and became the Master. Watching the dynamics of the villains is almost as fascinating as watching the heroes struggle to survive.

It’s going to be a long week as we wait to see if Dutch will survive her time with Eichorst but at least this week we had a tense episode to keep us happy.

And there was not even a single scene with that old fart smeller Zach. Let’s call that a win as we pray for Dutch.

The heroes' victory is short-lived as Eph shows a killer side. Here is our review of The Strain season 2 episode 10.

The Strain: “The Assassin”

“The Assassin”

Episode

Where has this version of The Strain been all season long? Far removed from the dull and contrived episodes that have defined the back half of the show’s second season, “The Assassin” is a legitimately thrilling hour of television, with barely a missed beat along the way. There are still some problems within the episode, the same problems that the show hasn’t been able to shake ever since its premiere, including horribly trite dialogue, but they’re not as noticeable when the pace is ramped up the way it is in tonight’s episode.

What really makes “The Assassin” stand out is that it has a streamlined narrative. Much of this season has struggled to build significant momentum because of the sprawl of characters and storylines. The Strain has had to not only move along the story of Eph and his Merry Band of Vampire Hunters, but also introduce a handful of new characters that, at least according to the books, will be integral to the story as the narrative moves forward. That means the show has often stretched itself thin. “The Assassin” doesn’t have that problem. Rather, the focus on Eph’s attempted assassination of Palmer, alongside Feraldo’s evolving plan to help battle the strigoi, adds clarity and momentum to a season that sorely needs it.

There are other storylines bouncing around the main narrative that threaten to bog down the episode, but they’re largely relegated to the sidelines. For instance, the search for the Lumen continues to produce lackluster results, largely because each episode relies on the same narrative beats. In this episode, Setrakian, Fet, and Nora find four people with the same name the dead priest gave them, the young boy from Setrakian’s past who grew up to own the Lumen. Once they find out the addresses they spend the entirety of the episode going from apartment to apartment looking for the Lumen. It’s as uneventful as it sounds, a storyline devoid of tension and intrigue that’s mostly a build to an admittedly great cliffhanger. When Setrakian finds the Lumen underneath some floorboards in the last apartment he searches (because of course!), and is attacked from behind by an unknown assailant, it’s a great bit of mystery, but shows that there was no need to drag out the build across multiple episodes. Think back on what Setrakian has done this season and it’s easy to see just how stagnant his storylines have been. He’s done two things this season: 1. Bled from the eyes and, 2. looked for an old book. That’s not how you continue to build up a character whose whole life has been dedicated to fighting the strigoi, the central villains of the story.

The rest of “The Assassin” avoids such narrative pitfalls and finally injects this season with some stakes. The centerpiece of the action is Eph’s failed assassination attempt. The entire contained storyline, from scouting out the rooftop to his time in jail after he misses Palmer and hits Coco, is some of the best stuff The Strain has produced across its first two seasons. There’s emotional resonance before the assassination attempt, as Eph and Dutch bond over issues of love and not really liking being around other people. Dutch musing on monogamy is the only bit of stilted dialogue in their time together. Considering that The Strain‘s identity is “stilted dialogue,” only one instance of it is a relief. More than that, the failed assassination attempt creates conflict in a mostly conflict-less season. Not only does Eph now have to reckon with shooting an innocent person in Coco, but he’s also tipped off Palmer to his larger plans.

The ensuing scene where Palmer confronts Eph in jail is perfectly executed. It’s a bit campy, but also contains an urgency that the show could use more of. Palmer walks in with pure swagger, completely in control of the situation, while Eph has fire behind his eyes. He wants Palmer dead so badly, and his hatred and desperation comes across beautifully thanks to Stoll’s performance. It’s the type of scene that feels important and momentous, and more than that, feels like the writers letting loose and having some fun with their characters. Palmer is finally allowed to be more than just a whiny disciple of the Master who’s also in love with his secretary, and Eph is allowed to seem like a man with a purpose. The scene is wonderfully paced and boasts evocative storytelling beats, immediately making “The Assassin” the best episode of the season by far.

More than just being an entertaining hour though, “The Assassin” builds upon last week’s solid episode by swiftly moving towards the season’s end game without tipping its narrative hand. That means that The Strain feels fresh and consequential with only three episodes left in the season. There’s a balance between mystery and revelation that creates intrigue for those final few episodes. By having Palmer get the upper hand, with a newly transitioned Coco by his side, the show has streamlined Eph’s arc, while retaining a sense of mystery via the cliffhanger involving Setrakian. “The Assassin” isn’t perfect by any means, but coupled with last week’s strong episode, it’s more proof that The Strain may just pull out of its nosedive by season’s end.

Where has this version of The Strain been all season long? Far removed from the dull and contrived episodes that have defined the back half of the show’s second season, “The Assassin” is a legitimately thrilling hour of television, with barely a missed beat along the way. There are still some problems within the episode, the same problems that the show hasn’t been able to shake ever since its premiere, including horribly trite dialogue, but they’re not as noticeable when the pace is ramped up the way it is in tonight’s episode. ]]>