The Strain – Runaways Review
"Tedious Narratives Make for a Dull Hour"
When David Bradley showed up in the last moments of last week’s episode kicking ass and stealing every scene he was in, it gave The Strain
a much-needed dose of excitement and entertainment. Finally, someone came in and actually started to do
something. He was someone who could potentially pose as a formidable opponent to the rapidly multiplying creatures, someone to root for. Because we sure weren’t rooting for Eph and his band of idiots, that’s for sure. “Runaways” takes off with some potentially promising stuff; Eph is entirely on board with Setrakian and willing to follow orders (good, he is no good in giving them) and the episode opens with Bolivar and his manager (Regina King s one of the few actors who has managed to overcome the questionable material) who are always kind of fun to watch. Of course, the manager arrives with the doctor, who we know will become vampire food in no time and eventually catches a glimpse of what Bolivar has become. This advances he story and puts those two characters in interesting and opposed positions.
However there is a lot of narrative potential thwarted in this latest hour. After the fantastic impression he made in the previous episode, the show fails in creating an engaging backstory for Setrakian. Instead it unfolded in a disappointing, uninteresting way, without any real surprises or revelations. Add to that the unimaginative writing and bland performances, it makes for a snooze of a story arc. The strength of that character isn’t really his personality or character details, he is another archetypal persona (we have seen this kind of character countless times), it is Bradley, whose portrayal instills the character with vitality and personality that makes him fun to watch, it is the performance that makes him compelling. The flashbacks don’t necessarily communicate anything vital concerning his past (everything shown had been communicated in the dialogue throughout past episodes) and young, unsuspecting Setrakian played by a limited actor is not nearly as engaging as watching Bradley do his thing. It would have been more captivating to just have Bradley deliver the exposition in a long monologue; he can carry a scene like that.
Setrakian’s backstory was not the only discouraging aspect of the hour. I thought the writers took a very interesting route with Ansel and his wife, two seemingly upstanding people being stripped of their morality as they struggle to survive, both of them letting go of their ideas of good and bad and going to the extreme; people will do almost anything to help/save the ones they love. It was thrilling to see the wife basically feed the neighbor to her husband, it was enjoyably sick. I was looking forward to seeing them develop a new kind of relationship, watching them become this screwed up team in which she would lure different people into the shed so he could feed or something. So it was disappointing to see the writers essentially dispose of them so unceremoniously. Besides Setrakian’s great moments towards the end, the dynamic between Ansel and his wife was the most compelling development of the previous hour and instead of exploring that dynamic further, they abandoned it for less engaging material.
Because seriously, who cares about Nora and her senile mother? I wish the show would stop trying to make us care for these characters, especially if the writers refuse to develop them and portray them as actual human beings. There still hasn’t been a character introduced that is not a clichéd caricature, it’s impossible for us to grow any kind of attachment when their characterization is so thin. Ansel and his wife were anomalies; they were actually developing in truly disturbing and interesting ways, which makes it incredibly frustrating to see their storyline dropped so abruptly.
Especially when it is cut to make way for something so hackneyed and tired as Nora and her ailing mother. So, we find out that Nora has a debilitating mother who is having issues with the facility she lives in, this is supposed to create sympathy, humanize Nora, but it really just feels like a time burner. There is nothing we really take away from their talks together, no valuable character information that will come in play later or any narrative information of importance. Plus every moment of this is so tedious. The writers introduce this storyline to fill up space and stall so that they can get to the vampire reveal towards he end of the hour.
“Runaways” does not live up to the good will built by the previous episode; it takes the potentially exciting and noteworthy advancements of its predecessor and does nothing with them. Most importantly, it is a boring hour of television. With the exception of a couple of moments (health department dude’s underground discovery, lawyer lady’s delayed transition, vampires in shed), there isn’t anything remarkable about the episode, not much narrative progression and absolutely no character development.
Even the scares were lackluster, we have seen the vampires feed numerous times, so the shock of that has passed as has the thrill of watching Setrakian slice off vampire heads with his sword. Though I have to say that watching the vampire swoosh inside the barracks in those flashbacks was silly fun. The show always does best when it is doing its over the top gross outs and ridiculous scares and whatnot, it shouldn’t waste its time having their characters sit down to have conversations or attempting to make us sympathize with them. Focus on the silly fun, its what you do best, The Strain
- I go back and forth regarding Kevin Durand’s performance, I find him way too over the top and grating to enjoy, but I do kind of admire how unabashedly he is chewing the scenery. He is having fun with it at least, which is something that cannot be said of most of these actors.
- Lawyer lady is also kind of fun to watch, I think she gets the over the top-ness of the project, she’s got that bitchy, demanding professional woman thing down.
- Again, why is every character so monumentally stupid?
- Shut up, Ephram!
- What did you think?