The Strain, Season 1, Episode 11 – “The Third Rail” Review.
Air date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 10PM ET/PT on FX
If you are at all claustrophobic, take note; this will probably be a tough episode to watch. Nearly every scene is wrought with tension, amplifying your anxiety and nervousness for what will happen next. From Gus (Miguel Gómez) making a horrifying discovery when he gets home, to young Zach (Ben Hyland) leaving the sanctuary of Abraham’s (David Bradley) pawn shop on a fool’s errand, “The Third Rail” will have you glued to your seat— although you’ll probably be watching through your fingers most of the time.
“The Third Rail” bombards you with twists and turns, and plenty of scary strigoi lurking beneath the city’s subway tunnels. Vasiliy (Kevin Durand), with his extensive knowledge of the underground tunnel system, leads the charge with Eph (Corey Stoll), Nora (Mia Maestro), and Abraham in tow. They too are on a fool’s errand. Abraham’s illusions of grandeur will be his demise. The Master (Robert Maillet) is too powerful. The sheer number of minions he commands is more than a few silver bullets, swords, and UV lamps can destroy in one afternoon.
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s trilogy of books have been given a terrifyingly vivid life. The attention to detail is outstanding. The dark, dank tunnels are fearsome in their shadowy depths. What lies beneath isn’t something anyone wants to discover. The make-up and costume departments are to be commended because these strigoi look horrifying. The crawl through the tiny tunnel had me gasping for air and kicking and clawing in my seat. Watching the actors struggle to quickly squeeze through before the strigoi mob gets them, or the tunnel caves in, is so intense, I realized I was clawing my way out of an imaginary tunnel. Needless to say, you should watch “The Third Rail” with plenty of space and ventilation around you.
Zach stays behind for obvious reasons but he isn’t alone. He’s left to watch over Nora’s mother, Mariela (Anne Betancourt). Her dementia is getting the better of her and Zach does his best to be respectful but it’s not easy with Mariela crying out for her “ashtray” and “cigarettes.” Hyland’s performance is fantastic. He really sells his part as a courageous yet naïve young boy and I’m buying all of it. I could have strangled him, though, when he leaves the safety of the pawn shop to get Mariela more cigarettes. The situation he gets himself into is pulse pounding, complete with a strigoi and chance encounter with Gus.
When looters arrive at the abandoned store, Zach runs and hides but his hiding spot isn’t empty. So, who else is air climbing that ladder thingy after Zach grabs the phone he drops? “The Third Rail” should be part of a fitness DVD because the whole episode had me working out! Air climbing, clawing, scratching, kicking— I’m spent!
Gus has become one of my favorite characters on The Strain. Gómez does an amazing job of conveying his character’s emotions, especially during the very heart wrenching scene when he finds his mother, Guadalupe (Adriana Barraza), curled up in the closet. And though he and his brother Crispin (Francis Capra) have their differences, you can still see the sadness in Gus’ eyes. Perhaps his chance encounter with young Zach will lead him to Abraham and the gang. I’d love to see Gus take out his frustrations on a few nasty strigoi.
“The Third Rail” propels the story forward for all involved. With everything that happens in the tunnels, Eph, Nora, Vasiliy, and Abraham have become a closer knit group, despite Abraham getting a little gung-ho at the end. You don’t go into a dark underground cave without checking to see what’s inside. After seeing the horde of slumbering strigoi, Abraham is a fool to think he can go in and find The Master. Zach realizes he’s going to need protection but someone needs to show the kid how to wield a knife. I have a feeling Mariela may be Nora’s downfall. Eventually, Mariela will find her way out of the pawn shop and into a world of trouble. I think Mariela may become a casualty in this “vampire apocalypse.”
What did you think of “The Third Rail?” I’d love to hear from all of you, but especially those who have read the books. I welcome all comments. Tweet me @judybopp or leave a comment below.
Tune in to The Strain, Sundays at 10PM ET/PT, only on FX.