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The Strain: “The Silver Angel”

“The Silver Angel”

Episode

After last week’s dull episode, season two of The Strain gets back on track with “The Silver Angel,” ditching the previous episode’s self-serious tone and instead shooting for a lot more humor and a solid dose of backstory. I mentioned in my reviews of the season’s first two episodes that the show had found great material in the interweaving origin story of the strigoi, Eldritch Palmer, and Abraham Setrakian. Tonight’s episode fleshes out more of that story and the episode is better off for it.

The Strain turns into a fun, loose show when it engages its mythology, perhaps because that’s the only way to make a story about the search for an ancient book entertaining. In all seriousness though, the story of how Palmer and Setrakian cross paths and then diverge from one another is some of the episode’s, and the season’s, most fascinating storytelling. The writers, and the cast of actors, seem at home in this other time. Where the contemporary version of New York necessitates some sort of reality and seriousness (there is, after all, a horrible plague spreading through the city), the flashbacks allow for a brand of storytelling more in line with traditional vampire fiction, and that means more fun with architecture, mythology, monsters, and history.

The appeal of the flashbacks is largely in the small details. It’s in the way the younger versions of Setrakian and Palmer carry themselves. Setrakian in particular is more charismatic and adventurous, not nearly as cynical and defeated as he is these days. It’s in the fact that Setrakian tracks the Occido Lumen to a nunnery, a wonderfully gothic narrative touch that just wouldn’t work in the setting of modern day New York. It’s in the fact that Eichorst crosses paths with Palmer, and that he looks exactly the same as he always has. These details are what The Strain too often pushes aside in favor of pensive, contrived musings on fatherhood and masculinity.

“The Silver Angel” does find plenty of intriguing material in its current-day storylines though. The episode’s cold open is a five-minute look at a B movie called Angel vs. The Vampires and introduces us to Angel de la Plata, aka. The Silver Angel, a revered Mexican actor and luchador who now works in a restaurant in New York. For anyone who’s read the books, you know how The Silver Angel plays into the story, but for now, it’s clear from the film that he’s always been intertwined with vampires. Considering that Gus, after visiting the restaurant a few times, recognizes the reclusive actor and approaches him with admiration, it probably won’t be long before he moves from his dishwashing job to something more vampire-centric.

The introduction of Angel de la Plata is more exciting in terms of future implications than it is in execution. The episode finds more exciting material in Eph and Nora releasing their infected vampire into the world. With their pathogen now inside their test vampire, they’re hoping to lead it back to a nest and see if it succeeds in infecting the other vampires. Considering how much this show can wallow in contrived angst, it’s a blast watching Eph and Nora, with some help from Fet, follow their vampire around and see the effect of their work. When they head to the nest at the psychiatric hospital where their infected vampire camped out­–“a little late for therapy,” Eph quips–they don’t find any vampires. They’re worried the pathogen didn’t work, but when they go outside, they see vampires jumping off the roof and killing themselves. The Master is taking control of them and killing them before they have a chance to spread the disease further. The pathogen is working, and it’s nice to see Eph and Nora get a win for once and take some gratification in the work they’ve been doing.

That pathogen is going to need to work really well because Palmer is continuing his work with Bolivar to bring chaos to New York. He calls a meeting of all the leading investors and financial big wigs under the pretense of getting the markets back on track. It’s all a ruse though, a way for Palmer to draw them in so that they’re attacked by Bolivar and a host of vampires, causing the markets to crash and spreading panic. The scene that follows the meeting is one of the most thrilling The Strain has ever done. It’s typical “found footage” type of stuff, but it’s so removed from the show’s usual style that the contrast makes it feel fresh. A reporter stands in the foreground detailing the meeting while all the big wigs exit the Federal Reserve in the background. That’s when one, and then another, and then a whole group of vampires come out of nowhere and attack them all. Chaos and panic slowly takes over, the reporter running while the cameraman dashes away and the show seamlessly moves back to its typical perspective. It’s not exactly inventive, but it’s a directorial touch that adds some flair to the scene.

With “The Silver Angel,” The Strain does a good job of seriously moving away from last season’s proceedings and forging a new path. The narrative feels urgent, and the introduction of new variables like the Silver Angel and Eph and Nora’s successful pathogen mean that this episode manages to create some much needed momentum and mystery.

After last week’s dull episode, season two of The Strain gets back on track with “The Silver Angel,” ditching the previous episode’s self-serious tone and instead shooting for a lot more humor and a solid dose of backstory. I mentioned in my reviews of the season’s first two episodes that the show had found great material in the interweaving origin story of the strigoi, Eldritch Palmer, and Abraham Setrakian. Tonight’s episode fleshes out more of that story and the episode is better off for it.

angel the strain

Before we talk about Gus further let us talk about just how he Strain pulled off this unexpected flashback. It was a glorious sequence with aged and jumpy film stock, a Theremin soundtrack, a cheesy bat on a string and some vampire fighting inside and outside the wrestling ring. One of the greatest strengths of The Strain is its ability to pay tribute to old time horror but keep these loving tributes an integral part of a contemporary narrative. You would think that would be impossible when dealing with the batshit insane world of Mexican horror wrestling movies, but the installment did it in spades as the opening sequence of this week’s episode was probably my favorite thing The Strain has pulled off.

It’s a well know scientific fact that luchadores make everything cooler. If you want to make a show or a movie 85% more awesome, just add a Mexican dude in a cape and a mask and boom-instant classic! And that’s just what happened this week on The Strain as we were introduced to a character who is so unique and daring, I am absolutely shocked and delighted that the series had the balls to introduce him.
Ah, but Angel had a secret. Angel was once the superstar wrestler Angel de Plata, or the Silver Angel. The episode opened with a snippet of one of Angel de Plata’s old movies, where the tecnico grappled with some cheesy ass Mexican vampires. First off, a luchador sequence needs to be in every Guillermo Del Toro project? Hellboy in a lucha mask! Pacific Rim –masked Jaegers! Make it happen! Anyway, Hurtado lived his glory days as the legendary Angel de Plata, but now, he was just a workaday schlub trying to survive in NYC.

Angel ran into Gus in this episode and the two butted heads for a bit when Gus realized that the dishwasher was a Mexican wrestling hero. After losing his vampire vigilante comrades last week in failed attack on Eldritch Palmer, it looks like Gus could have found a new ally in a much unexpected place.
Setrakian continued his search for the book he believed may bring about the downfall of the vamps and took his search to Fitzwilliam who was still visiting with his firefighter brother. We also got to meet Fitzwilliam’s daddy via another effective flashback that saw another early meeting between Palmer and Setrakian. The same flashback also showed us the first meeting between Eichorst and Palmer as well.
As for Vasiliy Fet, our favorite exterminator made good on his promise to blow a nearby subway tunnel and cut off the vamps’ entry point into Manhattan. Fet was successful but his actions did not put him on the good side of a group of street vigilantes who busted him up and abducted him. Things looked dire for Fet and despite a few victories this week, things look dire for everyone as Zach’s mom and her creepy ass Feelers are sill tracking Zach and Eph-and they are getting close.
We all know The Strain relies on flashbacks to spin its narrative. From the story of Setrakian to the tale of Eldritch Palmer, the series effectively fills in the gaps through masterfully told back stories. Heck, the story of The Master that kicked off season two still gives me tingles. But this week-this week we were treated to the most wonderfully strange flashback yet as The Stain introduced Angel Guzman Hurtado, an unassuming dishwasher who works in an Indian restaurant.
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The Strain gets 85% cooler as a new Mexican capeman comes to New York City. Here is our review of The Strain, Season 2 Episode 4.

The Strain gets 85% cooler as a new Mexican capeman comes to New York City. Here is our review of The Strain, Season 2 Episode 4.

After last week’s action and payoff-packed episode, The Strain took a bit of a dive this week with “The Silver Angel”, an episode so focused on setting up new narratives that it forgot to contain an arc of its own.

The Master: “The ancients are the past. I am the future.”

  • Gus: “Taking someone’s soul isn’t enough for you? You got to put on their skin and dance around in their body?”
  • Setrakian: “I think you think it’s too late, that evil has already won. I don’t believe that for a second.”
  • Eph: “I thought you liked architecture.” Fet: “I do, Doc. It’s just I like killing vampires more.”
  • Fet: “Wile E. Coyote, eat your heart out. Meep Meep!”
  • Wandering aimlessly after Palmer brutally executed his pack of half-breed strigoi hunters, Gus ambles into the restaurant in search of a little respite and “something that kinda tastes like spaghetti.” While the pretty young waitress is happy to oblige, seemingly enchanted by Gus’ quiet ruggedness, Angel spots Gus for the thug he is — or at least used to be — instantly distrusting him.

    As for our primary gang of vamp-hunters, Nora, Eph and Fet set lose their infected Strigoi in the hopes of spreading their virus throughout the vamp community. Set to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and interspersed with Fet’s pithy observations, we’re seeing a new, lighter side of The Strain where the heroes are allowed to indulge in a little humor and the occasional smile. Our ruthlessly efficient gang of vampire hunters are finally finding the fun in their new, gruesome lifestyle. “Better than breadcrumbs, huh?”, quips Vasily as they follow a blood trail to a nest of sleeping vamps where patient zero lays down to roost and spread their virus.
    From the Set
    As the memory of his mother looms over Zach, so does her memory of him — though admittedly, in a much more pernicious way. The episode ends on Kelly and The Feelers, who were greatly missed last week, as their hunt for Zach leads them to the batting cages. They are hot, hot, hot on Zach’s trail. The Feelers are still The Strain‘s creepiest creations to date, and it’s been clever to keep them on the sidelines, because once they’re fully unleashed we’re in for a hell of a horror show.
    The team returns the next night to find their infection has spread just as well as they hoped, and finally, Eph “releases” the old man who served as their test patient, dispatching him with a single blow. Unfortunately for Eph, The Master is no fool, and realizing what Eph is up to, he forces the infected Strigoi to commit suicide. It’s a creepy scene, Strigoi plummeting from the rooftop, their wormy brains splattering on the sidewalk, made even creepier as Eph laughs with maniacal elation. The Master has stopped the spread of the virus for now, but Eph has plans to go large by bringing his and Nora’s research to D.C. for the higher-ups to dispense on a massive scale. Nora is reluctant for oddly vague reasons, but her disinclination adds just enough unease to make me think that Eph is embarking on a foolheardy mission.
    Miscellany

    • The Strigoi eliminated New York’s “key financial players” in a slaughter, Palmer — cold-blooded as ever — watches from the safety of his Sedan as Bolivar feasts on the blood of a stockbroker. The calculated attack has sent the open market into a free fall. I’m not yet sure how economy plays into The Master’s grand scheme, but it can’t be good.
    • Of course Zach is the kind of kid who listens to Bolivar’s music.
    • I don’t know what was up with the dialogue this episode, but it was painfully expository. Check out this gem — Eph: “The Master is forcing them to commit suicide.” Nora: “Rather than spread the fatal disease”

    Will Eph’s virus work? How will Councilwoman Ferdaldo’s extreme measures affect the gang? Read Haleigh’s The Strain recap of “The Silver Angel” to find out.

    Before we talk about Gus further let us talk about just how he Strain pulled off this unexpected flashback. It was a glorious sequence with aged and jumpy