It has been as much of a surprise to me as anybody that The Strain has gotten consistently better week by week. Now the show’s story is at a point where the monsters can speak for themselves (or at least, their forked python-esque tongues can), because we certainly don’t need much of that dialogue spoken by anyone else (save for Abraham). “Occultation” showed that everyone is starting to have a vampire problem, and watching that spread is good, terrifying fun. Hit the jump for what lies beneath.
Though The Strain is a vampire show, its unique breed of monster is really more like a zombie than anything. Because of Eichorst, we know that there is some way for these vampires to become (or stay) humanoid. But so far, the only version we’ve seen as part of this current epidemic are zombie figures who roam around with blueish skin, feasting on blood (without, necessarily, a predilection for brains). And like zombies, they must be beheaded. On the other hand, sunlight makes them melt (a standard vampiric trait), making them a hybrid unlike any other.
The Strain‘s trajectory has been easy to track so far, because it has followed the spread of any contagion: there is Patient Zero, then the first to be infected, and then more and more from there until it is a full-on epidemic. While most of the characters have had brushes with the creatures throughout the show, “Occultation” was the first time every single one of them finally had faced off against a beast on their own, and experienced the horror first-hand.
While this has been a slow process in many ways (having taken about six times longer than if it were in a movie), The Strain has consistently provided enough entertainment week by week to make it worth the wait, as these disparate stories and characters begin moving together. By the end of the hour, Ephraim, Nora, her mother, and Abraham were all united. Gus and Felix know something isn’t right, but don’t know who to go to for help (although tellingly, Gus’ interactions with Abraham early on may be a connection that he finds useful). The strain has also visited Kelly’s new boyfriend Matt’s office, which presumably now puts Kelly and Zach in danger.
Vasiliy is the only character who is currently truly on his own. He was suspicious of the rat’s “mass displacement,” and it led him to the sewers were he found “the mole people,” as his exterminating compatriot referred to them. When he returned to his office, he found his boss already turned, and used his knowledge of how the sunlight affects to creatures to melt him with it (one of the show’s most gruesome scenes yet). And, in one of the first heartbreaking killings, he also burns up the secretary who he used to flirt with, whose daughter he only recently became aware of.
The skills each of these characters possess are starting to manifest as well, especially in how they might be able to aid Abraham (though him losing his medication was a worry — he may not be long of this world). The creatures are affecting everyone, and they are getting bolder. Bennett the unfortunate Medical Examiner careened through traffic, killing as fast as he could. Unfortunately, he unhelpfully killed both of the FBI agents escorting Eph, so he still doesn’t have anyone to go to bat for him.
Jim’s connection to Ephraim, Eichorst and Gus is also proving to be an interesting link; as The Strain continues, its narrative complexities are becoming (naturally) more rewarding. There were still moments that dragged, and many that caused tension because people don’t want to flee New York, even though they’re being begged to. But that latter part is the mark of a good show, because it means we are invested enough to care. It’s also a good sign that it looks like The Strain is clear about the story it wants to tell, and, finally, how it wants to get there.
Episode Rating: A-
— The minus is for more custody battle nonsense, even though it made sense, whatever.
— Of course Nora finds the one phone book hanging off of the last pay phone in New York (presumably).
— “You think he’s in there?” “With his wife’s boyfriend home? Nahhhh” – FBI.
— Once again, the FBI is portrayed on TV as being useless at best, and a direct hinderance to anything getting done at worst.
— I can understand with cell phones being down and a lunar eclipse coming and zombies on the loose that people are freaked out. But the lunar event actually showed, if anything, that people are focused on the wrong things to be afraid of.
— “Ha! Kel, I’m a queens girl. We never leave” – Kelly’s friend.
— Eichorst without his face on is quite a sight. I love, love, love the tactile nature of the vampires.
— I really liked the little bit of character-building with Vasiliy, where his father mentioned he hadn’t visited in 2 years, and also that at one point he had turned down a full Architecture scholarship to Cornell. So far, he’s the most interesting character (aside from ole Abe).
— Super, super creepy but awesome scene when Abraham visited the empty house (a life interrupted) with a coven of vampires in the basement, the walls smeared with blood. Also, that he blew it up (which I also love). Vasiliy mentioned that event off-handedly when he entered his offices, which was another neat connection.