The Strain Review: “Runaways” (Season 1, Episode 5)


the strain runaways

“Inaction is the greatest evil,” Abraham Setrakian barks to Eph in “Runaways,” and he might as well be talking about The Strain‘s latest installment as a whole. This episode is all about pushing individual pawns down the chessboard one space at a time, not a new strategy for this show, but added flashbacks to Setrakian’s time as a prisoner in the Treblinka extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland makes “Runaways” feel less urgent and important than previous entries.

When the end credits rolled, I was more than a little surprised – it felt like half an episode had passed, if that. One of the major perils of a show like The Strain, which is working with multiple plot threads while attempting to tell a decidedly ambitious story, is that characters can feel lacking in importance due to the fact that they’re splitting screentime with many others. Luckily, “Runaways” opts not to include Gus Elizalde, the most ineffective, poorly developed and currently pointless character on this show (seriously, name one truly interesting thing the dude’s done) – but it still uses much of its length to provide minuscule check-ins with many others we’re still struggling to care about.

Among those secondary characters are Eldritch Palmer, who renews his faith in Eichorst and the Master while in a hospital bed learning that he can’t live through any more operations (“One must rely on a higher power,” he says); Gabriel Bolivar, who brutally murders the urologist hired to look at his freaky genital situation (or lack thereof) then does the same to the no-nonsense fixer that his ruthless manager sends in to clean up the mess; and Joan Luss, who sniffs her children so hungrily that the live-in nanny spirits them away.

The Strain is still weeding out the plane survivors – last week, Redfern had a nasty encounter with the base of a fire extinguisher, and this week, Setrakian and Eph track down Ansel Barbour, only to discover that his morally compromised wife Ann-Marie has committed suicide and left Ansel chained up in the shed. Setrakian’s sword (and Eph’s modified nail gun, like an AK-47 for vamps) make short work of both Ansel and the neighbor that Ann-Marie so viciously shoved into his clutches. Now, the show is down two plane survivors – and either Bolivar or Luss has to be next on Setrakian’s list.

What does this show do once Bolivar and Luss meet Setrakian’s steel? None of the newly turned strigoi, as he calls them (that’s the Romanian term for bloodsuckers), seem to pose much of a threat for this weathered vamp veteran, and I can’t imagine that the reanimated corpses roaming around the city’s sewer system (we know about them thanks to Vasiliy Fet, stealthily the most enjoyable character on The Strain, who went down below to figure out what was driving the rat population above ground) would exactly challenge him either. I’m predicting that Eichorst and the Master will come after Setrakian before long – after all, he is putting a dent in their plans, however small, by taking out some of the carriers – at which point we’ll see a change of pace for the character.

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