The Strain S02E12 “Fallen Light” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Watch, Wednesdays, 10pm
Writer: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Essential Plot Points:
- Gus and Angel spring a load of crims from jail to serve as an army for Quinlan.
- Creem tells Setrakian that he’ll host an auction for the Lumen between him and Palmer in the next 24 hours.
- Quinlan tells Setrakian that the Ancients have access to enough gold to win the auction.
- Eichhorst informs Palmer that he will bid for the Lumen. Palmer protests but Eichhorst brings him in line by pointing out that he will need regular doses of the Master’s white essence if he is to go on living; something Palmer didn’t realise.
- Nikki splits up from Dutch (cue tumbleweeds).
- Nora makes contact with Zach’s grandparents. Eph and Nora make plans – drawing in favours from Feraldo including exit visas – so that Zach can escape the city and live with them (cue more tumbleweeds).
- Somebody murders the mayor. Palmer invites Feraldo to fill the power vacuum. She immediately increases her fascistic measures to defeat the strigoi, trampling over all kinds of human rights.
This may be the penultimate episode of the season – a time when most shows will be ramping up the storylines, the tension and the pace – but The Strain sneers in the face of convention. You’re going to get the same meandering, listless storytelling it’s been fobbing off on us for most of the rest of the season.
There are some decent developments here. The mayor being murdered and Palmer’s subsequent Machiavellian offer to elevate Feraldo to power is the kind of subplot that really needs to be made more of. Feraldo may be only slightly left of Mussolini, but she’s an intriguing character to watch. In some ways she has – undeniably – helped to defend parts of the city and has saved lives. She has a moral code – abeit a warped one – and she truly believes what she’s doing is the right thing. But now she’s falling into a web woven by a far more dangerous political player than the Mayor and her scant respect for human rights may be exactly what Palmer needs in a masterpiece of misdirection. As Setrakian points out elsewhere in the episodes, humans turning against each other is exactly what the strigoi want.
Other moments to cherish include an amusing cameo from Creem (“This apocalypse has been very good for me. Hell look, I even got myself my own island!”), Quinlan’s revelation that he’s prepared to two-time Setrakian because he’s damned sure Setrakian is going to two-time him and Angel blasting that guts out of that ungrateful dick of a prisoner Gus has just freed. The latest round in the verbal sparring war between Eichhorst and Palmer provides the usual sparks as well.
Other than that, the episode is all rather dreary. The introduction of Zach’s grandparents has red herring written all over it. Nikki’s split from Dutch is a scene designed to used to be used as a toilet break. The flashbacks are banal and pointless. The endless chase for the Lumen is prolonged yet again for reasons as dramatically exciting as a weather forecast on the moon.
All of which hardly raises your hopes for the season finale. But hang on in there. It is – against all expectation – one hell of episode.
- We loved this visual gag of the strigoi whose life is, um, shortened.
- The amount of vitriol Eichhorst gets into the line, “Ungrateful whore!” is quite disturbing.
- In fact, as usual, the animosity between Eichhorst and Palmer is one of the highlights of the episode.
- While there’s little action for director Vincenzo Natali to get his teeth into in this very talky script, he does produce some striking shots (as above). It’s almost like he’s trying to overcompensate.
- The murder of the mayor was an interesting twist. Are we to presume Palmer set this up? And why is he so keen on getting Feraldo on his side? Keep your enemies close, perhaps? Or maybe having everybody hate her means nobody will be paying attention to what he’s up to?
- The cliffhanger, with Quinlan expecting Setrakian to betray and prepping Gus to kill the old guy if he does, is effectively chilling.
- The flashbacks were totally unnecessary, not very illuminating and featured a very bad wig for Eph. It was almost like the writers suddenly realised they haven’t given Nora a decent scene all season and they need to remind us why we should care about her before they do something horrible to her… like make her adopt Zach or something.
- There’s a double whammy of subplots you really can’t give a flying fart about: Zach’s off to see his grandparents and Nikki dumps Dutch. Dull, dull, dull. Admittedly there’s a slight thrill that we may never have to see Zach or Nikki ever again, but taking them both taken out in a hail of bullets would be the only worthy recompense for having had to put up with them for this long.
- And anyway, you know Zach’s not leaving… the writers can’t have put us through all his misery this season just to write him out with a train journey to never-seen-before relatives.
- The jailbreak is clearly designed to add some action to an otherwise talky episode, but even with a bit of betrayal and some gatecrashing strigoi, it still feels remarkably unexciting.
And The Random:
- Director of this episode is Vincenzo Natali, who made the excellent feature films Cube (1997) and Splice (2009). He also did some amazing work on the final season of Hannibal. It’s a shame he has little to work with here, but luckily he’s back for the finale next week and he turns in some amazing work there.
- We really want to see Alonso Creem chowing down on a strigoi now after that comment about his “bling” teeth.
Reviewed by Dave Golder