Now we’re getting somewhere.
Where last week we dealt with a slew of cliches, this week’s episode of The Strain gave us some higher quality melodrama, but also successfully fleshed out some vampire moments it had been building up to.
If we can assume that “Del Toro” can be equally adjectival as it is the creator’s last name, I’ll go ahead and deem the opening scene of the episode exactly that: complete with a decaying creature of the night putting on prosthetic ears, nose, teeth and makeup in a dim, golden lit room whilst listening to operatic music. As it turns out, this vampire is the true appearance of Thomas Erichost, our primary expositional ex-Nazi villain played by Richard Sammel. At first glance, I thought this would be a resurrection of Voldemort, or The Master from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (You’ll know when you see it, Whedonites).
This opening, and the entire episode in fact, had me wondering how this “greater good” of vampirism would be worth the centuries of work for characters such as Erichost, with so little left to enjoy in such a body. Sure, he can enter homes uninvited unlike the traditional vampire, but as of this third episode, The Strain could make the gothic folk in your local community think twice about adopting the lifestyle. According to the Del Toro mythos, it’s not all sparkles and stalking buxom lassies when leading the life of a vampire. Your skin may decay, in conjunction with your hair falling from your head.
For example, the poor nerdy gentleman who survived the incident at JFK has been awkwardly dealing with quenching his thirst for blood around his wife and children and the press lurking outside of his house. How exactly does one explain drinking raw steak juice from the fridge in the middle of the night to their spouse? You don’t, clearly.
For our Marilyn Manson rip-off, Gabriel Bolivar, his hair has begun falling apart, along with his other symptoms, but even worse is his genitals are rotting off of his body, as the episode title insinuates, “Gone Smooth.” (Darn, you thought it was about Goodweather’s head, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint!) At least Gabriel still has the drugs and the rock and roll, I suppose.
Unfortunately for our pilot survivor, his lack of blood consumption caught up with him, making him much more… zombified when Goodweather, Jim and Martinez find him in the kitchen of the hospital, resulting in The Strain’s first genuine action scene. The effects budget is used well for what it is worth, but the choreography confirms this show’s all-around campiness to the maximum, but perhaps I was spoiled in that department by my time spent with Buffy’s own campy battles.
On the human side of things for this episode, my assumption of Jim (Sean Astin) being blackmailed into assisting Erichost’s vampire occult may have been jumping the gun, but it did become true by the first half of “Gone Smooth.” One can’t blame Jim’s decision however, as he is in a complicated position of his wife being denied experimental treatment for her cancer, but promised such treatment by the wealthy undead. It’s not like he truly understands that his actions are progressing an apocalypse anyway, right?
We see Vassili Fet characterized a bit more in “Gone Smooth” as well, on yet another extermination job in a high end apartment in Tribeca. The scene proves Vassili’s scientific understanding of pests and rodents and that he happens to be good with kids. Upon leaving the apartment, Fet notices rats fleeing the city sewers by the thousands, which is alarming even for a Manhattan exterminator, I suppose.
Goodweather finally gets his son’s custody resolved in the Family Court, but not in the way he desired, as Zach did not believe joint custody would genuinely work for him and his parents, but instead made a decision that was best for his own father. Eph does not react to this well, throwing a hair-pulling tantrum within sight of pretty much everybody in the aftermath.
For a third week in a row, I would like to make note that Corey Stoll is a great performer, but Ephiram Goodweather’s personal life is made to be so jarring and melodramatic compared to the rest of the show that this incredibly intelligent CDC agent comes across as an immature child, especially when his ten-year-old son is the person in the room making the mature decision.
His partner, Martinez, attends a trial herself, as Abraham Setrakian (I guess I’ve been spelling it wrong until now) gets himself back on the street by playing the classic “kooky old man” card, after which she reintroduces herself to him and apologizes. This is the moment where the show proves how different it plans on going, where Abraham says to Martinez that all the missing corpses and survivors of the flight are infected, will infect others swiftly, and it cannot be stopped until they are all killed and/or burned. Obviously she finds this request medieval, barbaric and impossible, and Abraham knows this, so he sets off to do the deed himself.
The vantage points of The Strain are beginning to bottleneck ever so slightly, and it is far more entertaining now that its characters and its consistency of campiness and creeps, are being cemented. Now will be the time where both the living and the undead will begin to clash and both sides will have to begin making sacrifices, and I don’t mean the kind such as accepting money for a sick wife…
Episode I – iii “Gone Smooth” (7/10)