Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain is now in its second season. To keep up with what’s happening with the show each week, Drew Dietsch and Andrew Hawkins will be putting their words together to cover only the most important of events from each episode. Strap in and enjoy as we recap, analyze and occasionally riff The Strain.
Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead
Holy shit. What a way to bring us back into this story. Guillermo starts us off with a recap of the first season, and man is it gory. Then, once we’re past the “Previously on The Strain” segment, we immediately dig into an eastern European folklore tale about how Sardu became the great vampire known as The Master. Drew, what was your take on Juseph Sardu’s backstory and the awesome cameo we got from Doug Jones as The Ancient?
As soon as Sardu showed up on-screen, I was giddy with the knowledge that we were getting some backstory on The Master right out of the gate, and all wrapped up in a tale told to a young Abraham Setrakian by his bubbeh. And seeing that del Toro directed this prologue makes sense, because that scene in the cave is del Toro as hell. The light snowfall, the unashamed detail we get to see of The Master’s former strigoi host, and the awesomely disgusting way The Master takes over Sardu by puking on him Sam Raimi style. I don’t know what’s in store for the rest of the show, but this is my favorite thing The Strain has produced yet. And Doug Jones has done no wrong in my book, so it’s nice to see him creature-ing it up under del Toro once again. In fact, all of the stuff involving the vamps this week was top notch and mythology-broadening. Are you as excited to find out more about The Ancients as I am?
Hawkins: Y’know I think I may have enough info on the Ancients to go on, but what I’m really jonesing for right now is some backstory on the lead vampire known as Vaun. Not only is he a hardcore militant strigoi killer, but he is also played by the always great Stephen McHattie. When his character, Setrakian and Gus are getting acquainted, he delivers one of my favorite lines of this episode, “Ok, shut up. Come on, let’s go!” It’s so glib and impatient and hilarious, but then we wind up in one of the show’s most uncomfortable scenes to date.
When Setrakian reveals the amount of knowledge he has about The Master and begins to wake the ancients, we see a feeding scene that is cringe worthy to an extreme. I was not expecting that to happen and it almost calls back to the first season where at one point we see how Eichorst feeds. Gross. So then we get back with the gang later on when Abraham returns. What are your thoughts on the team dynamic we have now between our main group?
Drew: Glad we both agree on the best line from the episode. Vaun is yet another awesome character to add to a roster of awesome characters, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about him (and therefore, more about the Ancients and The Master).
And I love that feeding scene. It reminds us that these vamps may be allies, but they are not our characters’ friends.
As far as our hero team goes, I was actually worried that Setrakain was going to bite it this episode. With The Master looking for a new host, the idea of succession felt strong in this episode. Of course, Setrakain’s obvious successor is the badass Vasiliy Fet, and I hope to see the two of them paired up more throughout the season. Zach apparently metamorphosed in between seasons, and though I can’t completely judge the new actor playing him, I can say that he sounds like a helium addicted chipmunk. Looks like he and Velders are going to be buddying around this season, so we’ll see where that goes.
And I know it’s not PC, but I like Eph more when he drinks! I can’t imagine that this won’t come between him and Nora, but I’ll enjoy it for now. Also, Corey Stoll’s wig got way better. I know he’s got to lose all of his hair at some point (going undercover as a vamp?), but his faux hair definitely got an upgrade.
Hawkins: Yes, yes, absolutely yes. Ephraim Goodweather needs to drink. Eph is a functioning drunk and his drunk deduction scene with Nora proves that if he’s three sheets to the wind he can get past the chaos going on around them and focus on the solution to the vampire epidemic. Hell at one point he even quickly mentions Jim without batting an eye, and man I really hope we get a flashback scene with Sean Astin at some point.
So Nora is surviving and stable, nu-Zach is in full on pre-teen angst mode and I’m pretty sure Dutch gave him a beer in their “You’re stealing?” scene. Everyone seems to be getting along as they fortify the building they’re now in. I actually like how when they go to the storage unit later on we see they are still using the bread van from the show’s arguably best episode where the gang played “Assault on Precinct 13” in a gas station. They’re all working towards their goals and we know Abraham is now lying about his involvement with Gus and the Ancients, and we definitely have more of that to look forward to. Now all that aside, let’s talk about Eldritch Palmer.
Drew: *sigh* The part I was dreading. I was already a little miffed that Eldritch wasn’t completely turned at the end of the last season, but as long as he was being evil I was okay with that. But we’ve gone from an Eldritch who tosses people off balconies to one whose doing real estate purchases, and now that his storyline seems to be taking a predictably boring turn into romance, I’m worried if this season will end up wasting the always excellent Jonathan Hyde. That would be a crime.
Express your feelings about the former Jumanji actor so we can get to the real bonkers part of the episode (blind children have never been more enjoyable to me in a TV show. I don’t care how horrible of a person that makes me).
Hawkins: See I’ve read the book series, but it’s been a few years. I have an idea of where this is going, but I’m not going to try to jump ahead of the show. The stuff I’m really paying attention to comes very quickly and most of the important foreshadowing almost seems to be delivered in throwaway lines. The Master tells Eichorst to have Bolivar get the loam, Ms. Marchand gets asked if the building can handle tons of liquid waste. There’s definitely more going on than what we’ve been shown.
That said, I enjoyed the hell out of Jonathan Hyde’s work in this episode. What a great turn as a hyper-entitled asshole and sometimes sleazy douchebag. I loved it. The baseball conversation had me rolling, not because of what was being said, but how Eichorst reacted to it with impatience and total disdain. I gotta give credit to Richard Sammel here for his delivery in that scene. It was excellent.
Now we get to the real horror of this episode. Guillermo, goddamnit. The school for the blind being caught up in this vampire apocalypse was already disturbing enough, but to then have them be sacrificed to The Master and become the creatures known as “the feelers” was just brutal. Kelly’s summoning and that final scene just had me in shock. This one went beyond with kids being involved in Guillermo’s horror stories and man it hit me where I least expected it. I think that’s definitely one of the main factors of why this episode stands out and works as a great season opener.
Drew: The feelers. What a true piece of horror imagery. And combining that with Kelly’s raised importance in the vamp hierarchy is a killer way to kick off the season.
The first season of The Strain took a while to really get cooking. Season two isn’t having that problem. If they can maintain this momentum while continuing to give us new bits of mythology to digest, this is going to be a hell of a ride.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Next week: Episode 2 – By Any Means