The Strain - Season 2 Episode 2: "By Any Means" TV Episode Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Directed by Gregory T.J. Scott
Written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle
2015, 49 minutes, Rated TV-MA
Episode premiered on July 19th, 2015
Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather
David Bradley as Abraham Setrakian
Mía Maestro as Dr. Nora Martinez
Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet
Jonathan Hyde as Eldritch Palmer
Warning! There are spoilers in this recap.
This week's episode of The Strain adds dimension and depth to the characters and their motives, especially Eldritch Palmer. Here's a quick run-down of this week: Eph and Nora are on to a cure for the vamp-virus; Setrakian and Palmer's past relationship is unfolding through flashbacks of 1965 Vienna (HELL YES!); Fet and Dutch have a rendezvous in a Redhook YMCA and briefly, Kelly's vamp-children (called The Feelers by Eichorst) and their quest to meet her human baby, Zach, is slowly developing. The Strain knows how to blend and measure the horror and drama, while always being grounded in the sympathy of the characters. The episode's title, "By Any Means," is alluded to from beginning to end, as these people truly captivate the essence of being human, through madness, fear, sorrow and joy. Whether we are seeing Ephraim's demise to alcohol and Nora's confliction while in pursuit for a cure; young and old Setrakian's aspiration for knowledge of the strigoi; Palmer's yearning for youth and vitality; Fet and Dutch's love affair in the midst of bloodsucking hell; or Kelly's vampiric desire for Zach, all of these characters suffer from humanistic qualities – the good and the bad.
Back at the laboratory, Eph and Nora are doing tests on the married couple. These scenes are illuminating to the pain Eph is suffering and Nora's internal battle with righteousness, thus channeling sentiment. Eph says, "…they're infected, does it matter?" Thinking about Ebola all over the media recently, this is a serious question when brought to a real-world context, outside of fictional vampire subject matter. We see Eph drink throughout his venture at the lab, villainously betraying the married couple, and eventually strapping down the husband without his permission, next to his slowly dying wife. Eph is on a downward spiral, evident as he chucks Petri dishes at a garbage can as if they were crumpled paper balls. He isn't rock bottom, but the slope is slippery. As for Nora, she has a breakdown after witnessing the husband begging to be killed as his wife is turning strigoi. While she is breaking down, the bottle of booze is highlighted and I thought she was going to guzzle away. Mia Maestro is portraying Nora with an edge in Season 2. Last week she was chopping heads like a samurai, this week she's on to a virus strain to treat people. Also, there is a scene where she is discussing the morality of the testing with Setrakian. He is appalled, and would not wish this on his worst enemy. It is the noble thing to do at this point with the infection spreading rapidly through the city. Try to cure it by any means.
Setrakian is a unique vampire hunter, an intermingled Van Helsing (they do share the first name, Abraham) and Stephen King's Father Callahan character from Salem's Lot. Through flashback scenes of him as a professor, we learn of his previous relationship with Eldritch Palmer, who is wheelchair bound. Palmer offers to fund his crusade for knowledge of the strigoi, just as long as Setrakian pursues Sardu's cane and the Lumen, an ancient book with the secrets to destroying the Master and the rest of the overgrown parasites. Palmer's motive to find a cure for his disability at the young age of ten is the real catalyst, and he will do it by any means.
Fet is developing a fondness for Setrakian, and for Dutch. We see him in scenes with Setrakian, as if he is subtly mentoring him. Then we see him in scenes with Dutch, skinny dipping after silver-bombing a YMCA full of vamps. The set design and action sequence is superb. Blood-smeared walls through hallways, showers and saunas looked dreary and sinister, as they uncover a group of sleeping strigoi. Dutch convinces Fet, who does not know how to swim, to go for a skinny dip and the duo relieve some tensions. They are smiling and laughing throughout the episode – joy by any means.
Lastly, there is the opening and closing scenes depicting Kelly and the Feelers (sounds like a band name). Though there are only two, they are important scenes, setting up for what I think will be the focus of next week's episode. Her character is developing, no longer the mute bloodsucking mom of Zach. Now she is mommy to a brood of crawling vamp-kids and they sniff out Zach's clothes, as she utters the words, "Find my son." I am curious as to what will happen when she does find him and Eph, as he is her ex-husband and loved him at one point (remember, the strigoi go after their loved ones). We don't get any of the Master and very little Eichorst, but that is fine. Coco Marchand writes a speech and is still a wild card. I have no idea what to expect from her. Will she turn vamp? Will she fall in love with Palmer? I hope not, but regardless the show is unraveling nicely. When the credits hit, the coming attractions come on and the television gets turned off. I hate coming attractions.