The Strain: “The Assassin”

(Episode 2.10)

TV Reviews
The Strain: “The Assassin”

“The Assassin” is a strange episode of The Strain in that it feels like it comes from an alternate universe where the series always consisted of danger, stakes, fear and character development. After last week’s vast improvement in group dynamics with “The Battle for Red Hook,” “what “The Assassin” ends up doing is coming in and giving the show a direction, something that has been sorely lacking for a long time.

Most episodes seem to have our characters uncertain of what to do, often fumbling around with whatever idea they’ve just come up with. “The Assassin” builds on the events of past episodes, which rarely happens, while also becoming exciting and making it feel like the plot is actually moving forward, which is even rarer.

Eph finally goes through with his plan to assassinate Palmer, with the help of Dutch. Meanwhile, Palmer makes up with his assistant/love interest Coco. When Eph shoots for Palmer, he misses him and instead shoots down Coco. Once again, it rarely feels like any action on The Strain has any reaction, but here it’s completely different.

Eph and Dutch run from the cops, but are eventually captured and put in jail. Dutch is taken away and at the very end, we discover she is in a padded room with Eichorst who seems to be planning on torturing her. It’s a dark conclusion to an episode in a series that almost never ends on such great cliffhangers. But almost just as exciting is Eph’s face-off with Palmer. Eph’s desire to kill Palmer is strong, but probably not as strong as Palmer’s desire to kill Eph, after he’s shot his lover. Both Eph and Palmer make excellent points about the side they choose and for once, we sort of empathize with the choice to fight on the side of the strigoi.

“The Assassin” also takes big strides in making the Palmer and Coco love story more interesting than it is incredibly creepy. With Coco likely braindead, Palmer pleads with Eichorst to get The Master to bring her back to her normal state. The Master surprisingly does this, which Coco does not seem all that thrilled about when she’s told by Palmer. Leading up to this, anything Palmer and Coco-related has been a complete bust, but “The Assassin” seems ready to change that.

Even one of the weakest plots this season—Setrakian doing pretty much nothing but searching for a book—has also had a spike in interest. Much of this plot focuses on Setrakian, Nora and Fet searching apartments for the book, to no avail. When Fet hears about Eph and Dutch getting arrested after the shooting, the two of them leave to save their imprisoned friends. This is the first time that we’ve seen Fet actively taking a stance against Setrakian and it feels like a big deal. This has been one of the most consistent bonds of the entire show and with Fet choosing friends over, potentially, the good of humanity, it seems like a turning point for them.

When Setrakian FINALLY finds this damn book, he is knocked out and has it stolen from him. It doesn’t feel as frustrating as it should, but rather like an interesting development towards a compelling mystery. But it also doesn’t keep this entire season-long search from feeling like anything other than a waste of time.

As The Strain’s second season is coming to a close, the show has a wonderful renewed focus in the type of show it should be. For once, The Strain is compelling and exciting, rather than monotonous and frustrating. The Strain seems like it’s taking huge steps in a great direction and hopefully it won’t fumble at the end, like last season did.

Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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