The wig is dead, long live the wig. Corey Stoll’s much-bemoaned Strain hairpiece finally bit the dust this week. Eph’s quest to infect the infected leads him to Washington D.C., where the government has the infrastructure to distribute the Strigoi virus on a mass scale, because “the government is more prepared for biological warfare than you’d like to think.” However, traveling to D.C. also means passing through quarantine checkpoints and encountering former colleagues — not so great for a fugitive like Eph. In case you forgot Eph is a fugitive, and the fraud artist providing his fake ID was kind enough to remind us with this subtle turn of phrase: “Ephraim Goodweather from the news. How’s the fugitive life?”
It’s a hasty bit of coverup for some inconsistencies. Eph and Nora have been able to travel freely throughout the city since last season, but we need him to be a fugitive again, so suddenly he’s easily recognizable. While Eph’s sudden infamy feels out of place, it does add a nice layer of tension to a show that is often gross, occasionally creepy, but rarely indulges in paranoid suspense.
And finally, we have the answer to one of The Strain‘s great mysteries — why on God’s green Earth someone would put a wig on Stoll’s gloriously bald head? They did it so that he could eventually render himself “unrecognizable” when he needed to go undercover. And with that plot point upon us, wig-gate is finally over. (Editor’s Note: Huzzah!)
Unfortunately for Eph, while that fake ID and new look gets him past the security checkpoints, his plan quickly falls apart on the train when he runs smack into his former boss, Barnes (you may remember him as the man shaking in his boots when the freshly-revived Palmer tossed the Secretary of Health off the balcony). Barnes recognizes Eph immediately, and after pretending to Sympathize with Eph’s cause, Barnes sneaks in a sucker punch and warns Eph not to “end up on the wrong side of things.” The two throw down for some fisticuffs, the struggle moves outside, between two cars, and Eph tosses Barnes right off the side of the train. Huh, so now Eph’s a murderer alongside all his other fabulous moral qualities. They’re taking Eph to such dark places this season, I wonder if there’s redemption for him at the end of this apocalypse…assuming he makes it that far. Eph does make it as far as D.C., though, and this is our first time traveling outside the confines of NYC. I’m excited to see how such a privileged, high-security city is faring in the vampire apocalypse.
Meanwhile, Nora – who finally stood up for herself by demanding Eph handle D.C. as a solo mission — heads to the police station with Dutch to free Fet after Councilwoman Feraldo’s goons locked him up for blowing out the Brooklyn subway tunnel. When they get to the station, it’s overrun with citizens protesting Feraldo’s increased security measures: imprisonment, relocation, and quarantine. In the interest of cleaning out Brooklyn, Feraldo has locked up many of its residents in a 72-hour hold. Nora wins Fet’s freedom in no time by offering to teach Feraldo how to tell who’s infected in a matter of hours, not days.
Unfortunately for Feraldo, one of those infected is her beloved nephew; unconscious with barely a scratch on his neck, Nora’s UV-light test reveals the multitude of worms squirming inside him. Feraldo pleads, there must be something that can be done, but Nora recalls their experience with Jim (Sean Astin), how they sliced him open with box-cutters in a desperate attempt to save his life, all to no avail. Feraldo accepts the inevitable, but finds herself unable to grant her nephew a merciful death. It’s a stark contrast to our hardened Nora, who, lest we forget, cut her own mother’s head off last season. Indeed, it’s Nora who ultimately has the brass to euthanize Feraldo’s nephew. It’s a surprisingly soft moment for the politician who’s been so hard since the moment we met her, but this is clearly the first time the plague has hit close to home. The question is whether Feraldo’s loss will spin her in the direction of empathy and a more humane approach to ridding New York of the vampire plague, or if her loss will harden her, driving her to more extreme measures. She’s got Nora, ever the voice of reason, by her side now so there’s some hope for the former.
For his part, Fet seemed perfectly content in confinement, playing a chipper round of cards with his fellow prisoners. He’s also not that bent out of shape about the police brutality inflicted on him, though Dutch comes a little unhinged when she sees the bruises on his face. That hostility is short-lived, however, when the police captain recruits the two seasoned vamp hunters to help eliminate the “little spider kids” that took out two of his team members during a residential raid. Through their interaction we learn how rudimentary the government’s Strigoi hunting skills are.They’re not aware of silver or UV weapons, which isn’t completely surprising given that high-ranking politicians have been shown to be under The Master’s thumb, likely doing all they can to prevent that information from spreading. However, alongside Councilwoman Feraldo’s weakness in the face personal loss, it becomes very clear how far our gang is ahead of the learning curve thanks to our beloved 94-year-old Strigoi expert.
Speaking of, Setrakian is back on the quest for the Occido Lumen, plumbing the depths of the black market with some rare bling ready to trade. When one of the criminals tries to rob Setrakian of his valuables, the old man displays his badassery, pulling his sword, ready to go. With their respect levels suddenly in check, the gangsters suggest they may know someone who deals in occult and religious artifacts, and Setrakian rewards them handsomely for their assistance. Headed home from his dealings, a mysterious figure approaches in an alleyway. “Show yourself!” Setrakian demands, and out pops Fitzwilliam (!) who’s “ready to help.” I’m so excited to see him team up with the gang, and I’m so glad they didn’t drag that point out. It’s a small win for the good guys.
However, that victory may not last. Palmer is still hot on the trail of the Occido Lumen as well, and a sketchy man of the cloth, Cardinal MacNamara, approaches him at dinner with the news that the “certain item” he’s been searching for might be surfacing. This pique’s Coco’s interest – the two are out to dinner together, seemingly on a date. Try not to gag.
Palmer’s lovely associate, the young Miss Coco is one of the most intriguing player’s on the show because we have no idea what her game is. She’s indulging Palmer’s creepy little crush and I’m not entirely sure why. It could be that the young woman truly sees him as a hero of the city, a savior in a time of need, and idolizes him for that. It could be she’s working a secret agenda; playing a larger scheme that neither Palmer or the audience are privy to. It could be she’s just hunting trout, trying to reel in a rich, powerful old man. None of these answers really satisfy the character we’ve been introduced to so far — a highly competent, composed woman with a moral compass and a keen sense of self-worth. Perhaps she really is taken in by Palmer’s artifice of benevolence, but it’s hard to see a path out from here that doesn’t lead to Coco being a fool or a villain, and as one of the show’s most interesting new characters, I worry her arc may not be properly serviced.
In any case, Palmer and Coco are dining happily in an upscale restaurant, no sign of the apocalypse in sight. The Strain has come under criticism for an inconsistent portrayal of the apocalypse. Is New York falling apart? Are people living in fear, like the old couple the gang found hiding in a storage unit, or are they still relatively safe and sheltered, like Councilwoman Faraldo? As with so many things, that seems entirely dependent on wealth and class. Palmer explains, “denial is a special privilege of the rich.” There’s still some inconsistency to be accounted for, but bottom line, certain people are more affected than others. It’s also worth pointing out that our perspective is a bit slanted because our team has been on the front lines due to who they are – Eph and Nora were first-responders, Dutch helped facilitate the downfall of society, Fet’s a hunter, and Setrakian’s been on the mission for years. It makes sense that they would get the brunt of the bad stuff.
In a nice homage to the pilot episode, a mysterious plane touches down in New Jersey. The lights are dead, it sits still on the tarmac, but this time the door is wide open. Homeland Security comes hot in pursuit, but the contents have escaped, once again. A mysterious hooded hybrid vamp climbs into a car, a bone-handled sword strapped across his back. He’s a welcome sight after Vaughn’s team was hastily dispatched, and I’m excited to see what he brings to the scene.
Finally, we must discuss those creepy little spider kids, Kelly’s Feelers, who we finally saw in action this week. As anticipated, they’re horrifying. They’re also much more deadly than your standard Strigoi – quicker than a speeding bullet, The Feelers are nearly impossible to kill and they are hot, hot, hot on Zach’s trail. With Eph out of the state, I suspect shit is about to get very real.
Episode Rating: ★★★
- It’s interesting how much of a backseat The Master has taken this season. On the villains side, we’ve seen Palmer the most, and he’s just a love sick puppy at the moment, doing vaguely ominous things under the guise of saving the city. We know The Master is injured, and we know he’s planning a “wondrous transformation,” but outside The Feelers and Feeder Vamps, the “bad guys” haven’t had a huge presence in Season 2.
Setrakian: “You will not come out well in this trade.”
- Dutch on Fet: “He’s the best creature hunter in New York!” Damn right.
- Police Officer: “What about the rebar? Does that have some special properties I don’t know about?” Fet: “Yeah, it doesn’t bend.”
- Councilwoman Feraldo: “I’ve been asking my people to be ok with this but I can’t even do it.”
From the Set
I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Strain in Toronto earlier this year, so as a bonus, I’ll be providing some pertinent quotes from the cast and crew as the season goes on. This week we’ve got an entertaining anecdote from Producer/Director Miles Dale.
Miles Dale: Eph’s boss Barnes, Dr. Barnes is played by a guy who I’ve known since grade nine. He’s one of my five best friends in the world, Danny Kash. We played on the high school basketball team together. I see him a lot and in [episode] 13 he was gonna die. He was getting stung by Eichhorst, I don’t know if you guys remember this where the secretary gets thrown off the balcony in the last show. And I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to tell him. I’ve got to tell him.” And then something happened. I didn’t get a chance to tell him before the script came — and I was made to eat shit for a long time with him. And my friends were calling, “How could you not tell Danny.” I was like, “Oh my God, this is the worst thing ever.”
So Guillermo says to me, “Oh, you know, it’s too bad that Barnes died because he lives so long in the books.” And, you know, Danny was thinking, “Oh man, I’m gonna be around for three seasons. This is great. I get to kiss Nora,” because like in the book he has some stuff with Nora and he’s thinking about that. I was like, “Well, you can forget about that no matter what happens.” So I said to Guillermo I said, “He really doesn’t have to die, if you just cut the scene differently he can live.” So we talked about it and we talked to Carlton and he said, “Yeah, let’s keep him around for next season.”
So I got to call Danny and it’s like, “Motherfucker, I pulled you out of the grave. Okay? I am back. I am back. Full friendship status.” He goes, “Yeah, yeah, you are for sure, for sure.” So anyway, this year in my show…he’s number 37 on the call sheet. When Eph goes to Washington he sees Barnes on the train and he looks at him. He’s like, “Oh my God, what am I gonna do? I’ve got my thing here, my solution that I’m gonna have…” so he runs and runs and runs and he gets to the back of the train. Finally he bumps into Barnes and they have a big fight. And…Eph ends up throwing him off a moving train. And Barnes dies.
So I said, “Okay Dan, good news/bad news. You made it to episode five and the cool thing is I get to direct you which I had done a couple of times in the past. And I get to kill you.” And he goes, “But what happens. How do I die?” I go, “You get thrown off of a moving train going very fast between Baltimore and Washington.” Without missing a beat he goes, “I could survive that.”