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
To begin this week, I’d like to address the elephant in the room regarding this season and the general public’s view of the show as a whole. It seems that there are a lot of stones currently being thrown at The Strain by people who claim that the characters are not taking this vampire apocalypse seriously. Since last week’s episode, I have come across many articles and comments that read, “The characters are too calm. If I were there, I would grab a rifle and a machete and work my way out of New York to find safety. There’s no way I’d be so relaxed with vampires overrunning the city.” So I wonder, have we as an audience been so affected by the pop culture zombie revolution from the last 15 years that we cannot be bothered with a story that doesn’t focus entirely on a dysfunctional team of survival-quest monster hunters? Drew, thoughts?
Yet another reason for me to hate what The Walking Dead has done to the pop culture landscape. Unlike that show, The Strain isn’t interested in fulfilling some kind of cathartic need for people who would like to imagine themselves living in a world without moral boundaries. This has always been an outbreak story (albeit draped in vampire lore), and those kinds of stories aren’t about vicious survival. They are about fighting to eradicate an incredibly resilient enemy and preserving the society that enemy has infiltrated. If people took on the mentality of the characters in The Walking Dead, then The Master would win thanks to people being more concerned with themselves than the world they live in. And while I’m sure there are individuals in the world of The Strain who have fought their way out of Manhattan, that’s nowhere near as interesting a story as what del Toro and Hogan have crafted. This response that you say people have had makes me wonder if the selfishness and self-gratification of fictionalized self-preservation has begun to override our desire to see characters band together to actually prevent the end of the world instead of battle through it.
Hawkins: That’s what I’m saying! There is far to much misdirected want for this show to be a fast paced action-horror adventure. This is not Zach Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead. When I watch each new episode of this season, I see more callbacks to films that center on how people react to being overrun by creatures that consume and destroy societal norms and collapse established foundations. If I were to really try and pinpoint where The Strain sits for me in relation to other horror properties, I would say it falls right in line with the arc of George Romero’s Dead films up until Land.
I get the fascination and the rush of constantly seeing monsters getting their parts bashed in and blown off, but sometimes it’s interesting to see how normal folks with day jobs would deal with this kind of madness if all they had available to them were there technical skills and experience. Thank god we have Setrakian in the group to balance out the “average Joe” factor. Speaking of which, I was completely thrown by Abraham’s development in this episode. We can talk about the Bolivar opening and Gus’ training session, but I really want to jump straight into those strigoi eye drops.
Drew: Of course you want to jump into those eye drops because what? This was a great turn for Abraham, showing that even he isn’t immune to utilizing the enemy’s powers for his own purposes. I never stopped to question his age, so this doubled as something of a wake-up call for me as well. I also love that this scene revealed that Abraham has his own brand of “science-ing the shit out of this” that compliment’s Eph’s and Nora’s plot so far. I do prefer Abraham’s old school lab materials though. My only gripe with this has to do with him keeping it a secret from everyone. At this point, any knowledge about how this virus works (for good or ill) can only help in the team’s fight against it. I’m hoping that this plot point either goes unspoken of for the rest of Abraham’s tenure on the show, or it gets revealed sooner rather than later. How do you feel about Abraham’s miracle elixir?
As far as the other two items you mentioned (Bolivar and Gus). I’m really digging Bolivar’s upped villainy. I want more scenes with him and Eichorst! I’m far more interested in them as antagonists than I am Eldritch Palmer at this point. And though the plot he’s involved with is the most intriguing and world-expanding, is it bad to say I’m not really digging Gus as a character? He seems a little too cool for school considering he’s now part of a vampire strike force (can’t wait to talk about that). He’s always had that tough guy swagger about him, but now it’s coming off a little tired and one-note. Are you more on board with Gus this season than I am?
Hawkins: Abraham Setrakian is doing what needs to be done. I have no problem with refining the worms into a topical substance so he can continue to survive and fight The Master. I was definitely thrown when we saw him lying on the floor with blood streaming from his eyes, but in the end I fully understood his motives and I continue to root for him. Abraham’s scientific efforts were a main focus of this episode, and I do wonder if Eph and Nora will dig into that later on.
I’m all about Bolivar gaining more power in The Master’s ranks. Seeing Eichorst tell Eldritch he needs a babysitter made me really look forward to where we’re heading. The Master is playing chess with these characters and Eldritch Palmer has yet to realize that he is just a pawn. I love it. Now about Gus; I have to admit that his strengths from the first season were based on the supporting characters that led him to where he is now. We had his brother, mother, best friend, enemy and conspirators to help us get a feel for his character. On his own, Gus is capable but weak. Sure he can tear the tentacle out of a strigoi’s throat while quipping one-liners, but when shit hits the fan he flees. But this episode wasn’t entirely about Gus, how about Dutch?
Drew: Your chess analogy is so perfect that I am now imagining chess sets with characters from this show. Abraham is totally a knight.
While I liked that the writers decided to revisit Dutch’s one-scene girlfriend to show that Dutch still cared about what happened to her, I can’t say we got a whole lot out of that subplot other than “Dutch is bad for people.” It all seemed like setup for the inevitable destruction of Vasiliy and Dutch’s relationship, which bums me out since I’m loving them together. They are cute but not in a saccharine way, and they also know how to be badasses. I love their banter and how Dutch tells Vasiliy to shut up about a building’s history. And Kevin Durand’s reaction to Dutch’s impulsive bread van tryst is priceless. I really like these two characters together, and spending a whole episode reinforcing Dutch’s past in a negative way was slightly tedious and didn’t offer up a whole lot other than “my girlfriend’s mom didn’t like me.” Also, that line from the girlfriend’s mom about Dutch being a vampire? That was a little eye-rolling.
Hawkins: The relationship between Dutch and Fet is doomed and there is nothing we can do about it. One thing that we can do is get excited about what’s happening on Staten Island. Samantha Mathis’ Justine Feraldo is now decapitating vampires and hanging them as a warning to strigoi to stay out. Holy shit this was a shock moment. The gore and unsettling nature of that scene was intense, but to me i think the assault on the Stoneheart building to kidnap Eldritch was the biggest curveball this episode threw at us. What are your thoughts on the events that resulted in Vaun’s defeat?
Drew: Maybe Feraldo’s actions will satiate those complainers we mentioned at the start of this recap. That image was both disturbing and badass, Although, I don’t know if her attitude towards the plague will be rewarded in the long run. Apropos of nothing, I also love how society seems to have casually embraced calling these things “vampires.” That didn’t take long!
Man, that assault on Stoneheart was cool but unfairly short. Seeing that Eldritch was fully prepare to deal with these vamps was both awesome and illuminating. I can’t imagine The Master will be happy to hear that Eldritch had countermeasures in place to defend himself against the strigoi. While it was an exciting way to fend off Vaun and his strike force, I hope this doesn’t mean the end of those characters. We barely got to know them, and if that means Gus is going to be our only conduit into this part of the story, I’ll admit to experiencing a sliver of worry.
This was a piece-moving episode, with Eph and Nora’s “fight virus with virus” strategy paying off and spending some relative downtime with a lot of the characters. It feels like we’re ready for something substantial to go down, and even another appearance from The Master would be nice at this point. You know I’ll be there next week!
Hawkins: Yep. A lot of groundwork has been laid for some really serious stuff to go down and I have a feeling it won’t be long until we start seeing some of our favorite players go down. Seeing Vaun’s team go down was harsh, but it’s nothing compared to thee looming threat of what Kelly is going to do when she finds Zach. Even the plan of releasing the turned Mr. McGeever seems ominous. Eph, Setrakian and Fet better be on guard. Let’s see what happens.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Next week: Episode 4 – The Silver Angel