'The Strain' Recap: Corey Stoll Upstaged by a Nazi

The penultimate episode of the second season evokes the pilot's biggest theme.

FX Networks

In the closing moments of the very first episode of The Strain, Setrakian gave a memorable narrative monologue about love and its power as a motivator. This week, “Dead End” revisits that very theme which leaves a hole in a brick wall, a Nazi in tears, and an old, beat-up wrestler training to be a street ninja.

First, the Occido Lumen. Setrakian held it for five seconds before getting clocked in the skull. The assaulter? The little boy monk whom Setrakian saved decades ago in the church. He’s held onto the Lumen, and he didn’t take kindly to an old man holding it with intent. Inexplicably, he remains distrustful of Setrakian and brings it to the dealer whom Setrakian sought assistance from earlier this season. Is The Strain just taking us in circles?

Under captive by Eichorst, Dutch is a damsel in distress, tied to a chamber with Eichorst playing with her in very predictable manners. It’s never explicit and doesn’t go far, but yeah, Eichorst wants to get his rocks off. It’s baffling because we already know how much of a monster Eichorst is — he’s a goddamn Nazi, so why bother? — and yet The Strain actually attempts to make him sympathetic with a largely useless backstory.

For a character of Eichorst’s caliber it’s underwhelming. A loser salesman gone Nazi, Eichorst harbors a crush for a beautiful woman who turns out to be Jewish and Eichorst — favoring a sweet promotion — disavows any relationship with her. He finds her hanging by the neck the next morning, and keeps up appearances before breaking down when no one is looking.

Learning about Eichorst is a mistake. He’s best when he’s like Batman’s Joker, when we’re left wondering what made him so outrageously sinister is when he’s the most interesting. Knowing he could have kept being a loser — a happy one, maybe — had he had the balls to say “Yeah, I know this girl and she’s great, don’t kill her” — shines too much light. The darkness was just fine.

Eph takes a huge backseat this week, barely saying a word. Sorry, Corey Stoll fans. He fills the background while Fet does his thing to rescue Dutch, who unfortunately spends most of the episode as a Hitchcock-esque blonde at the mercy of men. Being captive by the enemy is fine, but I thought Dutch — a strong-willed, clever woman — would be better, and stronger than a horror movie cliche. It just wasn’t her most compelling.

Elsewhere, Gus says goodbye to Aanya with some hot and heavy action before sending her family to safety in quarantined, vampire-free zones. Angel, fulfilling his promise to see them to safety, stubbornly joins Gus as he teams up with Vaun. In one of the few fist-pumping moments of the show, Gus introduces him as “The Silver Angel” to Vaun’s valet. The Strain has created a tag-team.

There’s one week left in The Strain. Setrakian is so close to the Lumen he can taste it, Vaun has two formidable allies, and Dutch is now back with the rest of the Scooby Gang. But Palmer has introduced his superiors to the insanely clever Coco, Eichorst is pissed, and something just something is going to happen with Zack’s mom.

The chess pieces (and set pieces) are in place for a grand finale. If The Strain’s steady, season-long improvement leads into an actually grand finale, then The Strain will go down as a great summer TV show. If not, there’s always Blade on DVD.

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