The Strain S2E03 “Fort Defiance” REVIEW

The Strain S2E03 “Fort Defiance” REVIEW

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stars 3.5

Airing in the UK on Watch, Wednesdays, 10pm

Writer: Regina Corrado
Director: Guy Ferland

Essential Plot Points:

  • Eph and Nora get their vampire plague to work.
  • Vaun, Gus and the gang try but fail to kidnap Palmer; Vaun and his strigoi team are killed but Gus escape.
  • Councilwoman Feraldo declares Staten Island a vampire-free zone. The Mayor asks her to replicate her success in the rest of New York (but he wants some of the glory)
  • Setrakian reveals to Nora that he uses the worms to create a serum that slows his ageing.
  • Ducth spots a missing persons poster for her ex girlfriend, Nikki, and starts a search for her.
  • Some guy who you may vaguely remember from last season, Palmer’s former assistant, Reggie Fitzwilliam, travels to Staten Island to reunite with his brother, Curtis.

Review:

If extreme, imaginative ickiness is your main reason for watching The Strain then you certainly won’t be disappointed by “Fort Defiance”. The kill count is pretty high too. In the first few scenes we have hordes of strigoi attacking some cops; Setrakian beheading a strigoi then using a teaspoon to scoop its wormy bodily fluids into a jar ; and Gus ripping out a strigoi’s tongue through its own neck. Later on a crack team of strigoi fall foul of some ultraviolet disco lights (honestly, it’s like death by Kylie Minogue concert light show) and Eph living to regret bursting a plagued strigoi’s zit. It’s all wonderfully gross. And wonderfully gross is this show’s USP.

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Splat!

 

Sadly the plotting is as meandering as the previous episode. Things happen but the overall plot doesn’t seem to progress that much. Indeed the biggest development has happened off screen between episodes: Feraldo has secured Staten Island. That seemed remarkably easy. Feraldo’s belligerent speech and the unveiling of her tasteful new vampire sculpture makes up for that, though.

A new subplot with Dutch going in search of her ex-girlfriend may have some point, but it doesn’t reveal itself here, leaving her quest an irritating distraction from the main events. It’s hard to care about a relationship we’ve barely been privvy to (and what little we did see involved the ex in question running for her life and abandoning Dutch – let her go!)

Vaun’s team’s plan to kidnap Palmer sounds promising, and is mildly exciting while it looks like it’s running smoothly. However, it turns out to be one of the most ill-thought-through plans in TV history as Palmer and co simply retire to a safe room and turn on the deadly disco lights. Ultimately it all seems rather pointless and just a way of killing off Vaun so that fan-fave character from the books, Quinlan, can now be introduced.

Reintroducing Palmer’s former bodyguard Reggie is an unexpected move and as similarly mystifying as the Nikki plot so far. Presumably his story will go somewhere but all we know from this episode is… he’s visiting his brother. Thrilling. However he did serve as a good device to show off Feraldo’s new regime in all its near-Fascist and unapologetically racist action. The “customs” scenes were effectively chilling.

Zach was as annoying as ever. You kinda hope his mum does actually turn him into a vampire soon. Though he’ll still look sulky, no doubt.

Keeping things enjoyable once again is Palmer whose utter contempt at being babysat by Bolivar makes for great viewing, especially when they start hurling abuse at each other. Setrakian’s disturbing little sideshow this episode is another highlight; as a man driven to revolting methods to make sure he can carry out his mission, David Bradley gives a thoroughly convincing, powerful and surprisingly sympathetic performance.

Overall, “Fort Defiance” plays to the show’s strengths to deliver a crowd-pleaser but the season overall so far still feels disappointingly directionless.

The Good:

  • Lots of great, inventive, really icky gore.
  • Feraldo is awesome and loathsome in equal measure
  • Eph’s chat with the Master via his test subject is chillingly effective (whether the Master is listening or not)
  • Palmer’s vitriol towards Bolivar.
  • Fet’s poster:

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The Bad:

  • Vaun’s plan to kidnap Palmer is laughably poor and full of holes; no wonder it backfires.
  • The crowd at Feraldo’s “unveiling” goes from revulsion and shock to wholeheartedly backing her with the speed only a TV script could conjure up.
  • Zach’s expression at this moment; he looks like he’s embarrassed by his dad’s dancing at a wedding.

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The Random

  • Is Bolivar’s odd “face paint” look in the precredits teaser just an unfortunate side effect of the lighting, or is it supposed to be an ironic gag, in that his “rock star” make-up makes him look more vampiric than being actually being vampiric?

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  • Honestly, after all that stuff with Setrakian ingesting worms to stay young, the sight of him eating spaghetti was more stomach-chaurning than most of the proper gore in the episode.

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  • “Is this foreplay for you two?” “Vasily does love a good explosion.” Fnarr.
  • Just for the record, Setrakian reveals that he is 94 years old.
  • Feraldo namechecks her nephew, a copper. He’ll be dead soon then.
  • Anybody else reminded of a famous scene in Lost Boys at this point?

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Read our previous reviews of The Strain

 

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1 Comment

  1. […] The irony of the Cardinal eating spaghetti shortly before he’s pumped full of worms might have been more effective if the show hadn’t pulled off a similar gag with Setrakian (when he revealed that he’s been elongating his life using worm juice) only a few episodes ago. […]

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