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,Â 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) butÂ who hasÂ also realized heÂ 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 inÂ 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.Â BradleyÂ is so convincing in hisÂ portrayal of a man who suffered and survived attacks not onlyÂ by the Master, but also Eichorst, and fortified himself to face them again.Â When we finally see for ourselves that it really wasÂ that awful and terrible, we understand how itÂ made Setrakian who he is–and we see that he’s been weighed down carrying that grief and anger for 60 years.
We realizeÂ whatÂ a miracle it was that he’d survived at all, finding a small measure of peace and carving outÂ a reasonably quiet life for himself as an antiquities dealer and pawnbroker, waiting until he was called into action again, and thenÂ going right to it because there was literally no one elseÂ who hadÂ 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.
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