Perception is a hell of a thing.
The Strain: Season 2: Episode 6: Identity: GRADE: C
Although Identity is the name of the newest episode, this episode struggles to really find one. Pacing and focus is all over the place as so many things are balanced.
First off with the majority of the episode, Mr. Goodweather goes to Washington. Eph spends the episode trying to work around the system with his friend in the CDC and soon to be lord of hell on Fox, Tom Ellis as his old pal Robert who helps him, even after learning that throw from the train last week did indeed kill Barnes. Hopefully that can be further addressed and bring in a great examination of morality here in that the vampire test subjects presented.
Eph’s arrival in Washington didn’t do all that much in separating itself as far as reaction to the plague. Robert and Lee Thompson seem to be as invested as the bureaucracy and epidemic containment of New York. Understandable they might not be that in the know given their location, but still, it needs to feel different enough that it makes the new location distinct. This also represents that with a epidemic/disaster narrative in that you gotta deal with the bureaucracy and the system within the world, it’s just not that terribly compelling.
Not much is done with Eph needing to go through a private pharmaceutical to fund research and develop his cure. Something like that is good for Palmer, but bad for the people that would need it. Many of the scenes in this story and exposition dumps that really don’t add too much and Robert and Lee aren’t that terribly compelling in the narrative of the episode itself. Even their death by a private hitman of Stoneheart doesn’t give this a shot in the arm.
Back home we seem to finally get some excitement in Kelly finally finding Zach. Kelly and her spider kids make some great menace as their movement is still creepy, but it comes right at the tail end of the episode and feels a bit tacked on to finally get us a payoff for now before Zach further sees what his mother really is. The tension in Nora and Zach being corned is quickly done when Setrakian, Fet, and Fitzwilliam show up and then Fitzwilliam dies. The show seems to be misguided in putting the emotional weight on this and it wants, but its not felt or earned considering that Fitzwilliam has now been with the team only for this episode. The mercy killing by Setrakian after he’s been bitten rings hollow and detached. There’s nothing to feel considering he’s barely been here. They built up Fitzwilliam and his past to make him an important fgure then just kill him off. Lazy storytelling.
Gus spends the episode fanboying on the Silver Angel who himself becomes a little more compelling. Gus and Aanya’s budding relationship isn’t too engaging, but the vampire attack as all three of them make a delivery and while it feels like it lets Angel in on more about the vampires than he knows, it goes nowhere. This whole storyline goes nowhere in this episode, its just there and helps to fill up time in the episode. It’s just wasted.
The rest of the episode just has a bunch of things. Palmer is around and not happy, the mysterious hooded figure is there and much isn’t sad about him, and The Master now resides in the body of Bolivar. Now that I quite liked as the ending of the episode itself for how disappointed Eichhorst looks and then realizes he will continue to be The Master’s lackey if he wants to keep his ass alive.
The Strain kinda got lazy again this week and wasn’t that engaging. It felt unfocused and rushed to get to where we need to go in terms of the season. Hopefully that all changes soon.
Masters of Sex: Season 3: Episode 6: Two Scents: GRADE: B+
Identity is a thing that seems to even carry over into the latest Masters of Sex and is expertly highlighted by the guests of the week. Bill and Virginia take on a difficult couple in Alan Neely and Isabella Ricci. They each had this perception about each other, an identity they placed on one another that gave them such an amazing spark when they met and had their way with each other in a fountain in Rome where they felt like Gods. Its more striking in Alan with his reveal he always wanted to keep seeing Isabella as the 20 foot woman he first saw on a movie screen. They both couldn’t take the insecurities, the flaws, their humanity. The moment they see each other as real people, the magic is completely gone.
Expectations go a long way for damn near everything and that is especially true for Bill and Virginia such as they might see what they have with each other especially since they can’t seem to find any real time together to resume their own personal activities. Sheen and Caplan really deal with this well and run with the idea of fantasy in a relationship. Its a terrible foundation, but its not a bad thing to have and Bill’s way of trying to romanticize their first encounter when he stops in the elevator, but she remember how real their first encounter went and doesn’t feel the same love that Bill seems to and part of that might be what drives her to Dan Logan at the end of the episode.
Josh Charles gets an extended role here as he and Virginia once again keep trying to find that scent of sex. The heir that Charles brings to Dan is what attracts Virginia to him and what makes the viewers so interested in his role here on the show. They have such chemistry and both really seem intrigued by what Dan wants to do and they even seem surprised as we are that Lester’s sweat is just the thing that they needed. Lester: Bring the Erotic Thrill of a High School Locker Room. Alright sidenote, I kinda want a Calvin Klein like commercial for that on the season 3 DVD set.
Perception is also Virginia’s main conflict as she finally has it out with her mother after seeing how she changed up Tessa, trying to improve her with how she possibly failed with Virginia and its a remarkable scene where Virginia does own up to the pageants, but it was everything else she had a real problem with, especially with not so subtly trying to further push her and Bill together. She wants to have an idealized life she could have had, an identity for herself that is better than the one she’s currently living in right now.
Edna really just doesn’t care, even when she shifts Tessa’s attention from her winning essay to the hair on the opposing page. It was refreshing for Virginia to do something like that and even see Tessa lighten up and be on her side, until she see the rustled blouse of hers after a night out with Dan Logan, of course thinking it was Bill. She doesn’t even wanna mention she’s been published now. Its a greatly played silent moment that speak volumes for her character and suddenly turns her around from last week’s episode.
Perception hits the Masters household. Bill becomes assistant coach on a youth football team and the kid he bullied that bullied his son is the quarterback. Instantly after that its obvious how it goes, but the way Sheen and play this is interesting. Obviously now Dennis is the son he wishes Johnny was and how he sees it as the son he could have been to his own father. Johnny doesn’t understand that.
Libby decides to get away and perceive herself as Joy and take the apartment she gotten before her brain aneurysm. Libby takes this and makes her fantasy reality here. This is the identity she perceives herself to have. Even the super relating his own divorce she believes nothing will happen to her kids. Libby needs perfect. Anything, like Johnny’s ankle injury while she was away at the apartment, throws her off and she can’t deal with anything and loses focus. It upsets her so much, even revealing Joy’s plan on leaving to Paul which makes things awkward even further. Libby is a great mother, but not the best person and this is so far the most compelling thing to involve her this season.
Al Neely was an overgrown ape, dangerously simplifying sex to animals and it makes sense how at the end, Bill is brought by a zookeeper to see about the sexual apathy of a prize gorilla. The staging of the bars in front of the gorilla might feel a bit on the nose, but it speaks to Bill. Something inside is waiting to come out, the something that came out when bullying Dennis. He thinks love making is able to thrive anywhere, but Virginia thinks context of where it is does matter.
Masters of Sex reaches the halfway point and its solid enough right now that the drama ratchets up here and has a good focus on what its telling. How it keeps telling that is only a matter of time.