“I give you another day of life, Jew…for services rendered.” – Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel)
One of the things that really elevates “For Services Rendered” is the dynamic between the former Nazi/current vampire Eichorst and Holocaust survivor/vampire hunter, Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley/Jim Watson).
Though the relationship was hinted at back in “The Box” and expanded upon in flashbacks in “The Runaways“, “For Services Rendered” crafts an excellent tale regarding the two adversaries. Thanks to the juxtaposition between flashbacks in the concentration camp and the modern day pursuit of Eichorst by the ever expanding team of heroes (which now includes Sean Astin’s Jim), we’re treated to just how deeply connected the two are.
Back in “The Runaways”, I complained about how ineffective the flashbacks were. While they revealed information, they were more intrusive to the overall story than they should have been and seemed out of place. In “For Services Rendered”, however, writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle have deftly interwoven them into the present day tale, helping to move the action and plot forward even though the events happened 70 years ago. Adding to the great dialogue is the chemistry between the actors. Sammel, who is always fantastic, portrays two different types of monsters here with equal success. He’s no less threatening as a Nazi commander taunting the young Abraham (a similarly superb Jim Watson) as he is a powerful vampire nearly killing the elder Abraham (David Bradley, excellent as always) later in the episode. It’s great to see the writing rising to the level of the acting talent involved with The Strain. If the story between the two foes were the sole focus of “For Services Rendered”, it would still have been successful, but there’s oh so much more going on.
When the episode begins, the as yet unseen husband of Joan Luss (Leslie Hope) arrives home, only to be greeted by vampires lurking about outside. He narrowly escapes, but is attacked by his wife, unrecognizable after turning completely to a vampire while he was away. After the nanny and her daughter return with the Luss children (Chloe O’Malley and Jayden Greig), Joan and a few other vampires drive them into the wine cellar and she’s about to attack, but is killed by a spike to the head. Her assailant?
Meanwhile, Jim’s wife is off to her cancer treatment and Gus (Miguel Gomez) is tossed in jail along with the infected Felix (Pedro Miguel Arce) but both storylines are wisely kept to a minimum of screen time to allow the other action to unfold.
If there’s one minor quibble I still have with The Strain, it’s that there are still too many characters, though the current forward momentum is starting to eliminate a lot of the unnecessary baggage. While I’ve enjoyed all of the actors in their roles, some of the characters stayed on long after needed, but that appears to be what I would assume is the fault of the writers failing to trim fat from the book adaptation. Perhaps they’ve realized that as much as you’d like to be faithful to the source material, it makes for better television to change as much as you can to avoid getting bogged down.
Finally, kudos have to be given to director Charlotte Sieling who helmed a very successful episode, not only maintaining a perfect pace, but for focusing on the strong performances of all actors involved. It’s worth noting that there’s one very impressive scene in the train station where Eichorst threatens Jim and the background noise drops out to a near silence before seamlessly introduced once again when Eichorst backs off. I was so impressed, I had to rewind it.
I’m hoping to continually be impressed as the season rolls toward the finale. If this high quality is maintained throughout, I might even find myself looking forward to next summer for reasons other than a respite from the harsh winter months! Congratulations to everyone involved with The Strain on the renewal to season 2.
The Strain – “For Services Rendered” grade: A