Well, hot damn! After a hit-or-miss first half of Season 2, “Intruders” finally delivered an episode that lives up to The Strain‘s potential, leaning into the character and horror elements that make the series so fun to watch. With a bare minimum of divergent side plots, “Intruders” focused on the core characters, restoring the villains as a powerful threat, tying together a number of dangling story threads, and delivering a taught action-sequence with heavy consequences. All told, “Intruders” isn’t just the high bench-mark for Season 2, it’s one of the finest hours of the The Strain to date.
At long last, after a half-season of playing personal assistant to The Master, Eichhorst made a return to form as The Strain’s most menacing Strigoi. The episode kicks off with a quietly eerie moment, as Eichhorst uses his decades of experience in the deceptive makeup arts to give Kelly a human makeover. Eicchorst hand-picks her wig, applies her foundation and teaches her to control her Strigoi impulses, all the while explaining how her body is decomposing. It’s chilling and disgusting, and both actors bring their A-game to the scene.
Despite the fact that he was clearly traumatized when The Master chose Bolivar as his new body, ever the loyal servant, Eichhorst seems to have moved on from that rebuke exceptionally well – that is, until Palmer rubs it right in his face. After his makeover with Kelly, Eichhorst pays a visit to Stoneheart, where Palmer learns about The Master’s transformation and takes great delight in needling Eicchorst about it. But if Palmer thinks he holds the upper hand now that he put Eichhorst in his place, I’d bet that’s a very short-lived victory. Because while Palmer was sniffing out Eichhorst’s wounded pride, Eichhorst discovered Palmer’s dealings with Cardinal MacNamara and it took him naught but a hot second to deduce he was hunting for the Occido Lumen. Eicchorst was less than pleased to learn about the UV traps inside Stoneheart, now that he knows Palmer was also tracking the legendary text that holds the secrets to killing The Master, I have no doubt there will be a price to pay.
Perhaps that price will be Coco, Palmer’s ever-mysterious lady love. Palmer and Coco have taken up an unusual amount of screentime this season, so there’s no doubt that story is leading somewhere, but the writers have played that card very close to the chest. Coco is inquisitive as hell, constantly asking questions, demanding to know more. Try as he might to keep her at arm’s length, Coco has wormed her way into his heart (to phrase it in Strain appropriate verbiage), and picked up a goodly amount of intel in the process. Is she a spy or simply an inquisitive woman in love? Either way, it seems more and more like Coco will be Palmer’s undoing. All that remains to be seen is if she’s a player or a pawn.
Following his confrontation with Palmer, Eichhorst heads over to chez MacNamara where he grills the greedy cardinal about the whereabouts of the Occido Lumen. When utilized correctly, Eichhorst is perhaps The Strain’s most fascinating character, and that is never more clear than when he is in the realm of the religious. Though he doesn’t see it, Eichhorst is a man of blind faith. Whether The Führer or The Master, Eichhorst seeks self-actualization through servitude to men (or monsters) of great power. But he abhors men of religious conviction, and as we’ve seen in his decades-long battle with Setrakian, he enjoys tearing at their faith. We see that side of Eicchorst again in his scene with MacNamara; flaunting the cardinal’s helplessness, ridiculing his faith as he attempts to take it from him. But surprisingly enough, while MacNamara seemed a shady man bent on profit, he’s loyal to his beliefs until the very end, unwilling to betray the location of the Occido Lumen.
Fortunately, everyone’s favorite dynamic duo – Setrakian and Fet – burst through the door, silver grenades a blazin’, just in time. Not in time to save MacNamara’s life, but in time to save his soul. Eichhorst scrams out the window, the cardinal reveals the location of the Occido Lumen to Setrakian – that kid from the Austrian convent has it — and the old man slices off MacNamara’s head, sending him to god before he loses himself to the Strigoi transformation.
Of course, it wouldn’t be The Strain without at least one extraneous side plot. This week, it’s Eph’s mission to track down a sniper rifle. It seems unlikely that Setrakian — the man who was equipped with silver grenades — wouldn’t have had at least one rifle in his giant storage unit of weaponry, but alas. Continuing his campaign for “Father of the Year”, Eph brings Zach along on the gun run. When they reach the black market vendor, they find him critically wounded from a robbery, and Eph uses his top-notch medical skills (and base-level parenting skills) to perform emergency surgery with Zach standing in as his assistant. Because Zach is clearly a budding sociopath, he enjoys the surgery, but that doesn’t prevent another father son rift when Zach refuses, yet again, to accept that his mother is really gone.
And this leads to finest scene in a very strong hour. All dolled up from Eichhorst’s makeover, Kelly drives through the Brooklyn quarantine with relative ease, a pair of Feelers stashed away in the trunk. While Nora finally confronts Eph for his dishonesty and terrible parenting skills (Preach, Nora. Preach.), we see Kelly’s figure through the window, skulking outside the loft, searching for a way in. Once she spots Zach, it takes her about 30 seconds to convince him that’s she’s just fine, thank you, not worry about that time I tried to kill you, and the little fool opens the door right up for her. From there we get one of the finest, most tense action scenes in the series to date as Eph and Nora defend the homestead against Kelly and her Feelers.
Eph and Nora defend themselves handily, brutally dispatching of a Feeler on Dutch’s spiky art project, and nearly getting the drop on Kelly until the second Feeler takes a bullet for her (if nothing else, the Strigoi are loyal creatures). Kelly descends on Eph, ready for the kill, as Zach pleads for her to leave him alone (maybe, please god, maybe understanding that his mother is now a monster). Nora saves the day with a well aimed chain, knocking Kelly down and taking off half of her human face in the process. Kelly runs out into the night, leaving everyone safe…for now. Because now that Kelly knows where the gang is shacking up, so does The Master. And with next week’s episode titled “The Battle of Red Hook”, it looks like things are about to get pretty dire for Team Good Guy.
Episode Rating: ★★★★★
- Poor Gus. Try as he might to find a little happiness with Angel and the Guptas, he’s embroiled in this fight whether he likes it or not. He finally got his romantic moment Aanya, only to be interrupted to Quinlan. Gus played a role in the onset of the apocalypse, and he’s never going to be able to just walk away.
- There seems to be something magical about eighth episodes in The Strain — “Creatures of the Night” marked the moment where Season 1 finally lived up to its promise, and the same can be said of “Intruders” for Season 2.
- How many Feelers are there?! Eichhorst only turned a school bus’ worth of children, and every episode sees a few of them meeting their end. Seems like some free-wheeling math going on there.
- Intruders wasn’t a just narratively satisfying episode, it was beautifully shot. In a series that is known for colorful moments of visual flourish, Intruders has a number of stand out shot – the glint of light that catches Kelly’s human eye, highlighting the monster behind the makeup, the skewed Dutch angle as Eichhorst makes a mocking plea to god on Cardinal MacNamara’s behalf.
- Zach: “You’re wrong dad. Look at her! She needs our help.” God DAMNIT, Zach! This kid, I tell ya. The Strain gods, hear my plea. Zach just watched Kelly try to kill Eph and saw half of her face ripped off. He has to finally understand. I think I speak for the general audience when I say we cannot take this kid’s shit anymore.
- Quinlan: “Beauty and love are fleeting but powerful. I’ve known both. I’ve lost both.”
- Setrakian: “We’re gonna rob the son of a bitch” Fet: *Laughs gleefully*
From the Set
I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Strain in Toronto earlier this year, so as a bonus, I’ll be providing some pertinent quotes from the cast and crew as the season goes on.
Natalie Brown on the relationship between Kelly and Eichhorst: “It’s Bonnie and Clyde. It is like tutor and pupil, it’s father and daughter. We’re hardly lovers, boyfriend/girlfriend, but it’s the closest thing to an ally Kelly has. The Feelers are her children, and Eichorst is daddy, partner-in-crime.
Richard Sammell on Eichhorst war on God: “I think it’s not about killing immediately; it’s a war of religion. It’s ‘Does God exist or not?’ And the only human who’s not afraid of Eichhorst is fucking Setrakian. So why is he not afraid? Because he believes in this fucking God, and he has this piece of hope.”