“Runaways” was The Strain‘s best episode yet, because it finally raised the stakes (no pun intended) and set the stage for what is to come (in fact, you could argue it’s already definitely here). The show has had some trouble believably stretching out its early exposition, but at the very least it’s had monsters and frights to tide viewers over while the plot figured itself out. In “Runaways,” though, it double-downed on the monsters, and finally brought them into the light (in a manner of speaking). Hit the jump for why “if you are infected, I will not hesitate to release you.”
The most essential thing The Strain needed to accomplish was getting Ephraim on board with Abraham when it comes to slaying the vampiric worm beasts. As Abraham said, it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around this reality, sure. But as he calmly explained over toast (and while washing his own cookware and dishes — the man does it all!) this “scourge” is one that “is a corruption of both spirit and flesh.” These are no longer humans, but creatures under the control of The Master, an ancient Patient Zero who seeks to eradicate all of humanity.
What was nice about “Runaways” was seeing that unfold as the explanations were happening. Abraham dropped a lot of knowledge on Eph about the mythology of the beast, and his own memories helped show his personal connection to The Master’s evil. For the first time also, The Strain kept to a theme about family, which echoed Abraham’s words about the transformed coming back to first kill the ones they love the most (something that was witnessed with the Arnouts, but really played out clearly in this hour).
Any episode that focuses more on Abraham is going to have an obvious amount of badassery, and “Runaways” was not a disappointment. From his duel beheadings to his exceptional one-liners, Abraham could be a prototype for what Eph could become once he fully invests himself in the war.
Regarding old and young, the show did a good job integrating the modern world with the ancient as well, like when Eph went into the shed with his cell phone held higher than his nail gun (let no pathogen go unfilmed!), but the plan from last week to slow the world’s internet (eye-roll) played a part. The documentation of these beasts on social media and throughout the population via the internet would have been immediate otherwise. It was a fair-enough way to shut down that option, and leave people unaware of the danger until it is upon them.
In addition to this good exposition and some actual forward motion of the plot,The Strain did not leave behind what it has done consistently well all season: monsters and gore. “Runaways” was full of it, and graphic about it, from Gabe’s killing spree to Ansel’s death in the shed, to Abraham’s memories of his brother, and the hoard Vasiliy finds underground. It’s not just about blood and python-esque projectiles (though which are great, because they are largely old-school and visceral), but about the anticipation: June sniffing her children and Neeva trying to hurry them out of the house, the “cleaner” Gabe regards for awhile before attacking, the sleepy scene at Nora’s mother’s care home that suddenly turned murderous. The Strain both teases and reveals.
In a similar vein, there was finally some consequence to Eph performing an unauthorized autopsy on Doyle in the last episode. In addition to seeing the tape, didn’t the staff also find the body? How did they not come to that same conclusion? How could Everett look at that video for even one second, and not call the President? These are the kinds of things that hold The Strain back, because the show is holding itself back to save plot and create tension in areas that don’t really need to be addressed (at least, not in ways that are going to stretch normal believability — we’re already onboard with a vampiric worm creature with a projectile tongue, let’s at least make everything else feel normal).
“Runaways” was an episode that could not have come fast enough in terms of plot advancement, and finally showed viewers how and where things are headed. The pandemic is here.
Episode Rating: A
– Losing Ansel’s wife, whose twist last week left one of the episode’s most lasting impressions, was a blow. It seemed to be leading somewhere really interesting.
– Again the sound editing … the crunch of that ankle roll, the slurping sounds of the feeding … so grossssssss.
– Eph actually showed some personality this week when he was sarcastic with Abe. “Is the Master a proper name, or …?”
– But no one is as sassy as Abraham, who had a lot of great lines in this episode. My favorite, though: “So you’re romantic and impractical? Wonderful.”
– I thought that Nora visiting her mother was going to lead back into the idea of the infected coming back for loved ones first, and it still might. In the meantime though, it did some nice character building, and was actually quite a sad interlude.
– According to TV and movies, every mythological thing on Earth was somehow tied in with the Nazis.
– “I have seen what happens when people stand by and do nothing. Inaction is the greatest evil” – Abe.
– I loved the moment when Eph watched back his video while Abraham burned the shed.
– We learned that the infected have a shaky reflection, and abhor sunlight (and silver). So some familiar legends hold.
– I like the idea that this is all a plan by The Master, and that those who were left alive were done so in order to create a diversion.
– “One worm. That’s all it takes” – Abraham.