‘The Strain’ season 1, episode 7 review: ‘For Services Rendered’

By Will Ashton,

Coming off of last week’s return-to-form mid-season episode, the seventh episode of season one of FX’s The Strain—while a little more thoughtful and not quite as quick paced as the last two episodes—showcases the show returning to its finest form.

While asides are given to Gus (Miguel Gomez), who, in the slammer, is trying to help his recently bitten friend, this episode is primarily focused on the continued adventures of Eph (Corey Stoll), Abraham (David Bradley) and friends, along with Abraham’s troubled past with Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel). This is a man he is trying to take down, but knows all too well, as this episode showcases.

The biggest takeaway from this episode is the revelation that Abraham (who then is played by Jim Watson) is the one that builds the giant box McGuffin that has been at the heart of The Master’s plan and the show’s focus since the pilot. Now, this is not a matter of using the tired story stereotype of Abraham on The Master’s side, then betraying him but, rather, it is returning to the awkwardly placed flashbacks of a young Abraham in a WWII concentration camp that was first introduced into the story’s narrative in episode five.

While these sequences seemed rather redundant and distracting the first time, here they are among the most subtlety chilling and most impressionable in this week’s installment. Added primarily by the continuously engrossing supporting performance by Sammel—who may very well be working his way towards an Emmy nomination if he can get the right people watching, Bradley too—is not only given more time to play and wiggle room, but also gains some illuminating character development and backstory that is productive towards learning his philosophy and also understanding his sneering underbelly.

Not to mention the fact that this episode is probably the best written one yet, with a teleplay by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, it is not only better in the dialogue department. This week's episode mostly avoids that filler dialogue foreplay in favor of straight exposition and explanation, but is also demonstrating the show's continued knack for narrative building. While, for now, some stories still seem awkwardly placed, it is becoming more and more clever that this show has a richly dark and twisted plan at foot.

This is distinctly noticeable in the show's final moments, centered on the one supporting storyline I have not mentioned thus far: Joan Luss (Leslie Hope) who not only finds herself infecting her returning home husband, but also seems to be tracking down her kin, Audrey (Chloe O'Malley) and Keen, who are being protected by their wide-eyed caretaker Neeva (Kim Roberts) and her daughter Sebastine (Shailane Garnett). As the show reaches its final moments, without getting too detailed, the series decides to ramp up some more uncovering of mythology, which suggests a whole new layer of mystery to this show and changing of the tables.

Also, as a side note, this is easily the funniest episode of The Strain yet. Laced with underplayed dark comedy, this is a factor of the show that has been sorely missing from the program until now. Keep this up, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. You need this here.

Much like The Master, The Strain clearly has some very, very big things up its sleeve. But now, thankfully, it is finding itself a little more, and also making sure to include more character movements that are less in-the-way-of-the-story than they were before. If they can continue to improve, this may just be able to become a really good or great series.

Image courtesy of Peter West/ACE Pictures



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