Martin Carr reviews the fourth episode of The Strain season 4…
Real menace can take any form. Understated, cold and calculating, supremely manipulative and smugly conceited are just a few traits which Richard Sammel has mastered. His theatricality in front of a make-up mirror, face offs against David Bradley’s Setrakian or subserviently grovelling before his leader, Sammel has flourished as Eichorst. Which is why his threats are chilling because his commitment and belief are absolute. Here is a man not to be reckoned with, not to be bargained with and never to be trusted. For more weeks than I care to mention Eichorst has taken a backseat, played second fiddle or received no screen time at all, but ‘New Horizons’ serves as a reminder of what Sammel brings to the role.
As plans begin gathering momentum it becomes clear that ‘The Master’ has something heinous in mind, which imply human battery farming, concentration camps and a totalitarian state with minimal choice. While our players on the inside remain as resistant as ever, whether opening up about past transgressions, kidnapping captors or raiding a fortified stash of armaments.
Where The Strain comes alive this week beyond the narrative necessity of forward movement is through elements of pathos. Characters considered by some to be cold and calculating reveal something new born of incarceration, desperation and emotional need. Where the shock factor comes in to counterpoint this is served up moments before the credits roll, in a revelation which starts delivering on the groundwork laid years before.
It is one thing to hear talk of production lines, meat hooks and dismemberment discussed as if making casserole, yet quite another to be faced with such a reality. This is where we finally get close to post watershed territory and not before time. To begin making good on talk of human harvesting, indoctrinated slavery and embryo utilisation is not for the faint hearted. This may be tame stuff to some but for others there are angry letters for writing and newspaper articles baying for blood waiting in the wings.
These may be liberal times and information might not be the precious commodity it once was, but for some reason people have become less tolerant. An irony which has not failed to escape me should anyone wish to question me further. What they fail to understand is that television, like every other medium of entertainment, is only of value if valuable information and relevant themes are addressed. What The Strain sets out to do as we reach the midway point of this final season is make it count. By bringing out the big guns, delivering on those uncomfortable themes and broaching ideas some might consider distasteful, it continues to bravely answer those naysayers and give us some solid entertainment.