I officially take back everything I ever said about Gabe Bolivar – he was gnarly this week. What a way to open an episode!
We’re dropped into episode four (“Runaways”) with the rock star in his velvety goth palace, blending with shadows and complected like a bruised fruit. It’s here that viewers get their first glimpse of the Master’s control: with one word, echoed twice – “Mine” – we get a subtle idea of his ventriloquist-like power.
Though we get just three brief flashbacks to the concentration camp at which Abraham and Eichorst met, it’s among the best exposition we’ve gotten thus far (though I might be biased, as these scenes were among my favorite in the book trilogy). Abraham’s character draws on equal parts family folk tales and Holocaust horrors, and in Eichorst, we have an antagonist to both. I’m excited to see the backstory develop further. Fans (like me) of the trilogy appreciate a more accurate, plausible origin story for these creatures than the baroque eyeroll that is Dracula. The Romanian history of the strigoi, described as a combination of zombie-esque souls returning from the dead and feasting on the blood of the living, actually helped to create the modern vampire legend, and is truer to this universe than something more fantastic would have been. I think of it the same way as understanding which villains were appropriate for Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City. The gritty realism is what differentiates “The Strain” from other vampire stories, so details like these are paramount.
Again, the drama was intermittent (I’m standing by my assertion that this vision is better served commercial-free on the big screen), save for Vasiliy’s terrifying sewer encounter (reminiscent of “30 Days of Night” and “The Descent” all at once), Ansel’s decapitation while Eph freaked out and/or fangirled behind his iPhone, and the first strigoi to strike in public. There are finally indications of momentum building, so I can appreciate the peripheral indications of the impending eclipse, though the show hasn’t made its significance particularly clear yet. To reiterate my “next week’s the week” schpiel from last week, next episode’s previews make it look like all Hell’s (finally) gonna break loose.
In fairness, it’s hard to objectively enjoy a show when you know what’s “supposed to” happen, but I’m optimistic about the direction of things. My friends who haven’t read the books are enthralled thus far, so it’s the right call to keep entrusting del Toro with my fangirly hopes.