The Strain: Madness Review
The Strain, season 3, episode 5, ‘Madness,’ was that breather episode where characters stop to learn things, before going all smashy-slashy-hacky-boom, again. As it turned out, there was learning to be had; but mostly to frustrating effect. So the episode took to poking at obsessive-compulsive pursuits – past & present – with a definite back-to-basics theme to it all. In the event you found yourself compulsively obsessing over an end reveal, however, you may have frustrated yourself by confusing a circular plot for a linear story.
The method to this ‘Madness’ was revisiting older plot elements, in order to service what comes next, bringing forgotten beginnings to new ends.
In this case, the end began with a particularly strung out Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) getting a visit from Eichorst (Richard Sammel) plus one. As the plus one turned out to be Sanjay Desai (Cas Anvar), a particularly strung out Palmer left something akin to blood in the water. Desai was clearly a rival magnate; so even if Eichorst hadn’t meant to needle Palmer with his presence, Palmer was left feeling pretty pricked.
There are any number of stereotypes you could apply to Germans; but one I’d subscribe to is a knack for being direct. I suppose Eichorst couldn’t keep the subtext of their meeting from Palmer even if he had tried to (and maybe he sort of did).
In any case, for Palmer, the writing was on the wall – inspiring him to take the autobiographical route. There was still room for a ghost writer collaboration, though; and at the top of the short-list was Setrakian (David Bradley).
Since Setrakian does seem to appreciate Quinlan’s (Rupert Penry-Jones) new free-agent status, the two paired up (so many pairings – I guess Quin-Set is in order) for an Occido Lumen cram session. Why? Because all that beheading the Master hoopla seemed to barely register, two episodes since. If Quin-Set seemed calm about it, Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) was channeling her inner dictator – busting balls she still very much needs. The episode tried to spread some of that OCD madness around, really.
For Quinlan, at least, the bad news was being forced to use the book for research, instead of bait. The good news was that someone finally got around to making copies of the damned thing (so no more cookie fingers ruining its collector value – that was the real reason for concern, right?). Ultimately, their cram session served as an excuse to jar Setrakian’s memory – back to a moment that decent types might actually try to forget; but the rest of us turn down the lights, and raise the volume for.
I never could understand the need for suspense in a flash-back – we know Setrakian survived the adventures of his younger self. It probably would have been better to have kept those events revelatory. Viewers keeping track would’ve recognized the Young Set (Jim Watson) mark as Dr. Draverhaven (evil vamp vet Nigel Bennett) – from the second ep of the second season 2’s second – so I suppose the real reveal was how Young Set dealt with him (being monstrous to the monstrous cancels out the monstrosity, or some junk). That, and how the measure lined up with what the Quin-Set current cram session revealed, semi-ironically.
All the to-do, about the Lumen’s bindings making it untouchable to Stragoi, should’ve made the current ‘solution’ a long considered one – the lead lining component being the only thing really new about it.
Basically, that meant the whole Draverhaven sub-plot amounted to torture porn – but done to the deserving, so pass the chips (hold the ranch dip). All well & good, if you wanted some kind of sustained chill, this episode; but I was hoping this ep to be more of an educational pause to the action.
That came by way of Dutch & Eph (Ruta Gedmintas, Corey Stoll) taking their new Deph Comedy Jam act old skool.
The process of scientific discovery was one of the bright spots to this show, before it went full-blown action-suspense-horror, and it was nice to see the element revisited. At the risk of poking at spoilers, however, I feel the need to mention that the ‘science of vampires’ angle only holds water if the TV series diverts from the novel series in key ways. Until that is settled, I’m curbing my geek-thusiam.
As for Fet (Kevin Durand): I loved the idea of him getting back to solo rat catching; but there was something stupid about him squeezing through a tunnel he knew led to a Stinger nest – any sentries, and he would’ve been a boxed lunch. He could have at least picked up the concept of a drag bag, from the SEALs – make it easier to move either way, without having a full pack on his back.
Of course, things got a bit silly, on the other end – with Stragoi in construction clothes (they were making their own tunnels, so no need for disguise), and Fet deliberately setting off a spray of shredded Stragoi (Stragetti?) without getting infested (again) – so never mind the drag bag thing.
The payoff to Fet’s back-to-basics adventure, however, turned out to be the most productive. Yes, it’s likely Fet’s sure bet will come up Snake Eyes, upon being put into action (still a series, after all). Sure, the Quin-Set learned a new way to read an old trick; but the take-away was something they already should’ve known, and a tactic Setrakian had already used. Certainly, the whole fun with microwaves thing, in Deph(ter)’s Laboratory, was one big circle jerk.
It was kind of what the episode set us up for, from the end priming beginning.
So, about that bigger circle, and where some of those beginnings left our ending. Well, let’s just say that some Bad White might be coming to a certain Bad Whitey; and a new collaboration, to Palmer’s prospective autobiography, may be in the works.
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