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Heather’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2014: The Strain’s David Bradley 

Photo Credit: FX Networks
Photo Credit: FX Networks

When the promo campaign for The Strain with the worm in the eye came around last summer, I was OUT. No, thank you. I had not, and have not, read the books, so I knew very little about it. And then, for whatever reason, my longtime (we’re talking Dark Angel, people) adoration of Kevin Durand won out and I sat down to watch it. I’m also a Corey Stoll fan, and it was filmed in Toronto, so it looked promising. But the thing that kept me coming back every week, and turned The Strain into appointment TV, was David Bradley as Abraham Setrakian.

Setrakian is a character haunted by the Master, and for the show to be believable at all, you have to believe that Setrakian is deadly serious about the dire implications of the Master’s descent upon Manhattan. This is particularly crucial when then Master is sight unseen until fairly well into the season. We get a glimpse in the pilot, but not a complete taste of how terrible he is.

When Setrakian’s cane is unsheathed as a mega sword, he’s immediately interesting, and you know he means business. Bradley is perfect as a man who’s spent decades waiting to avenge the loss of his wife (and talking to her sustained heart kept inside a jar) but who has also realized he can’t wage this war–that he’s dreaded the return of–on his own. He’s matter-of-fact and efficient in dispensing with the infected, and a firm, and persuasive recruiter, convincing Eph, Fet, and Dutch to fall in line beside him. When he falters, finally in front of The Master after all these years, they support him. That sets us up for season two, of course.

I wasn’t familiar with Bradley before The Strain (he also recently recurred on the U.K’s Broadchurch and Mount Pleasant), but I love that the show hinges on his character. Bradley is so convincing in his portrayal of a man who suffered and survived attacks not only by the Master, but also Eichorst, and fortified himself to face them again. When we finally see for ourselves that it really was that awful and terrible, we understand how it made Setrakian who he is–and we see that he’s been weighed down carrying that grief and anger for 60 years.

We realize what a miracle it was that he’d survived at all, finding a small measure of peace and carving out a reasonably quiet life for himself as an antiquities dealer and pawnbroker, waiting until he was called into action again, and then going right to it because there was literally no one else who had a clue about what was coming or how to stop it.

I loved watching him be quiet and thoughtful and then in a rage, but limited by the physicality he still needed but could no longer muster–hence the need for lieutenants. And with the exception of a questioning Nora (who was well within her rights to ask questions) the others took it on faith that Setrakian knew exactly was he was talking about, and his battle was now theirs, too.

At its heart, The Strain is strange little ensemble show about a ragtag team trying to save the world. There are several of those on the dial right now, but this is the only one led by a character well into his eighties who survived the previous battle they’re now facing again and is still a force, but not a superhero. He’s human, and he’s hell-bent to keep humanity in the picture. Bradley is 72 years old–I love that he’s getting to play such a badass.

The Strain returns to FX in 2015. You can watch season one now online, and on DVD/Blu-ray.

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