Despite its title, The Strain‘s “Gone Smooth” was sadly not a reference to Ephraim losing his hair (thereby releasing the beautiful baldness that is Corey Stoll‘s dome). However, quite a few others began losing theirs, and thus begins the transformation (and, soon, infiltration) from human to zombie vampire worm-infested killing beast. While The Strain‘s dialogue and character development haven’t been particularly good (and in some cases, it’s specifically bad), what the show excels in are monsters. And if you keep the focus on that, then there’s no strain in viewing it. Hit the jump for “soon!”
In my reviews for other series recently, I’ve talked about the turn towards novelistic storytelling, and how a show like The Leftovers has gotten it all wrong. TV isn’t made for a novel’s exact formula. A good TV show is one that gives you something to work with each week, episodically, while also adding in pieces of things that will come together later as part of a larger story. The Leftovers has failed at the weekly part pretty badly, but The Strain has played both parts very well. Every week there are twists and frights, but clearly things are leading up to some epic battle for the ages, the specifics of which we (who have not read the books, anyway) cannot yet imagine.
“Gone Smooth’s” opening shot is the perfect example of what makes the show unique and worth watching, despite its other stumbling blocks. The horrific beauty of Eichorst putting on his face — in the most literal of ways — silently betrayed so much. The bottom line is that this is what immortality looks like, folks — and it ain’t sexy. It is, however, powerful, grotesque, and operating as an illusion. “Soon,” Eichorst says, “no more charade.”
That statement shows where things are headed. Soon, Eichorst will not have to hide himself and be in the minority, because whatever kind of creature he and his Master are, they will rule.
The greed and ineptitude of those running things on the opposing side does very little to inspire confidence otherwise. Nora, at least, finally seems to have a clue that maybe the old man with the cane-sword who knows things no one else can might have something worth hearing about the contagion. But Abraham doesn’t suffer fools, and instead of getting bogged down in the red tape and paperwork of a government agency, he finds out the addresses of those aboard the plane’s manifest so that he can go find them, and kill them himself.
“Gone Smooth” also did a great job slowly building the anticipation of transformation in the survivors. Gabe’s erratic behavior and blood-shot eyes are doing wonders for his career, but his genitalia falling off maybe not so much (another trait: these vampire beasts are apparently asexual). Ansel, meanwhile, is drinking blood from raw meat in his fridge (uncovered? In a glass dish? Who has that laying around?), which his wife sees (an important point, surely). And poor Doyle is the first who transforms completely into a vampire, and is brained (the show’s favorite kind of death so far) by Ephraim.
Doyle’s transformation and death finally put Eph & Co on high alert about this disease, and those who have been exposed (and killed … and brought back). Meanwhile, there are some minimally interesting things going on with Jim being used by Eichorst as a spy, and more custody battling, and — far more interesting — whatever it is that Vasiliy, the World’s Most Interesting And Compassionate Exterminator is up to. But for now, these are not the things that are keeping The Strain afloat.
The Strain is not a show that’s going to be part of the great canon of television because of its writing or acting (although a lot of it is funny — intentionally or not), but its frights are genuinely creepy and/or disgusting. And sometimes, especially in the summer, all you want from a show is for it to be entertaining. The Strain, so far, is that.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I’m not asking for award-winning writing here, but Ephraim calmly asking a clearly vampiric, bloodied and fully transformed Doyle, “Doyle, what are you doing?” was just too ridiculous.
— And why not ask security — who are sitting in front a ton on monitors — not only if they’ve seen a dude walk past, but if they see him now on their screens, maybe?
— The sound editing on this show … great cabbage. The noise when Gabe’s genitalia fell off and went down the toilet … GROSS!!!
— Abraham playing the “I’m just a feeble old man” card at his trial was perfect.
— When Doyle was in the ER: let’s definitely not try to see how we can destroy the worms and get them out of his body, let’s definitely just wait it out…
— What was up with the light coming through the windows during the custody hearing? It made Eph look like a green goblin. Also, I love that Zach was basically just like, “you know what, two weekends a month is fine.” Also, that Kelly told Eph that he could see Zach whenever, and he blew up at her anyway.
— Even though I don’t yet know how Vasiliy connects (I mean, I can guess, but), I’m really enjoying his screen time. Although what the hell is with Kevin Durand‘s accent? His Ukrainian-tinged English needs some work.
— Did pre-face Eichorst remind anyone else of Voldemort?