They should have gotten Alfonso Cuarón to direct the opening shot of the eclipse over earth for this episode, but then they would have blown their whole season budget.
Remember how with the last two weeks of The Strain I had complained about how this show tries to balance too many characters in 40 minutes? I’m going to try a bit of an experiment that’s not really all that fascinatingly different. I’m going to do this review like a traditional TV recap, but instead of sequencing everything chronologically, I’m going to summarize what happened this week in order of character arcs, and we pretty much had five of them this week, not counting appearances like Erichost, Jim and Ephiram’s wife, kid and her asshole boyfriend. I’m sorting the episode this way to show just how much we get out of each character, and how much important time we lose at the expense of the supporting characters.
Erichost starts us off with a dude he’s loaded up on sugar to cure his… cravings, I guess.
Vassili Fet is shown casually doodling the vampires he saw in the sewers, but not making a particularly big deal about it. He returns to his office to find it completely empty and discovers his coworker and boss in the back room completely infected already, and sets them ablaze with the power of the sun. Fet decides to visit his family in Brooklyn to warn them to get out of the city, but his request is rejected because he was a disappointment of an architect’s son.
Nora Ramirez wakes up on her mother’s couch, who seems to have forgotten everything from the night before, most likely because she has alzheimer’s as far as I can tell. When Nora finally gets a call from Jim warning her about people looking for Eph, the signal goes down and her mother almost answers the FBI at the door. I’m confused, did the FBI drop the phone signal, or was it from the one-time appearance hacker girl hired by the vampires? If it’s the latter, that was a hell of a coincidence.
Of course, now we have to deal with Nora’s mother not knowing what the hell is going on, as if we didn’t have enough characters like that on the show already, and Nora decides to rip a page out of a phone book to contact none other than… uh, we don’t know yet!
Ephiram Goodweather breaks the first rule of “Being Hunted by the Feds” by going directly to his ex wife’s house to warn his family. Luckily, her boyfriend makes an ass out of himself more than she does by calling the agents back to the house and gets him arrested. Eph, buddy, maybe you were concerned they’d think you were drunk, but you would literally have accomplished just as much with a call from a pay phone.
So, of course the FBI doesn’t believe his crazy tale and decides to leave him chained up in the interrogation room because they don’t have any other investigations to deal with. So, with his wig tousled beyond imagination, he makes a deal with the agents to show them where the missing bodies are. Somehow, with the internet still not working, the FBI agents are able to get bad driving directions from Siri, and then blame the traffic jam on it. Suddenly, amidst the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the coroner we hadn’t seen since Episode One stumbles through the street. When Eph recognizes him, what remains of the doctor is trying to pull a poor woman out of her car, and the agents go to stop him. Take a guess at who dies. Eph gets out of the car, and out of his cuffs, and makes a run for it.
Mr. Abraham Setrakian has a golden “I’m getting too old for this shit” moment when he enters a house that has had a whole catholic family sucked upon by this plague. He just barely makes it out of their basement alive due to suddenly needing to take some old man pills in the middle of a fray with the horde of vamps. He makes it upstairs and supposedly just sets the house ablaze by sticking one of the candles on the gas stove, and then takes a cab back to Harlem.
Gus gets his boxing practice interrupted by Erichost’s… Butler? I don’t want to call him a butler because he’s black, but he’s appeared as the liaison for our corporate vampires since Episode One and he hasn’t done or said anything interesting enough to make me want to know his name, if we were told it at all. Anyway, Gus is brought down to the sewers for a quick chat with Erichost that sounds like:
“Ya no trabajo para usted!”
“Pero tengo dinero y tu madre, entonces, hacerlo! Ja jajaja!”
Damn straight, four years of Spanish in a nutshell right there.
So, Gus is blackmailed with legal vampire voodoo to complete one more task for Erichost, who so politely asks him to dump a body in the river, but when he describes love as some morbid metaphor, Gus decides to wail on him like a punching bag. Had to finish that boxing practice anyway, right? Gus reluctantly takes the job after getting his ass handed to him by the vampire nazi.
Who is Gus’ ride to the body in question? None other than our favorite blackmailed hobbit, Jim! Gus’ friend, let’s call him Fluffy, gets too curious about what is in the body bag and reveals that it’s inhuman. Later, Gus is arguing with his buddy Fluffy in an alleyway when that infected coroner suddenly shows up (it’s all connected, guys!) and beats him in the head with a lead pipe, but not before Fluffy gets latched onto by the worms and the two get arrested by magically appearing cops.
The episode concludes with Eph arriving on Setrakian’s doorstep ready for Jedi training, where we find (Hi, everybody!) Nora and her mother have been camping out in the Little Shop of Horrors. Setrakian then gives us a neat cliffhanger: “I have a new plan.”
I certainly hope so, because I don’t know how much longer I can handle five, one inch long plot threads on a weekly basis. This episode is probably one of the better ones so far: it actually has a fair amount of story development for our few main characters. Eph warns his family, Nora accepts she was wrong, and Setrakian realizes his lack of ability he had in his youth (which had no appearance this week, strangely). I like the secondary characters like Fet and Gus just fine, but all of these story arcs are stealing proper time from each other.
Despite my choice of review structure for this week’s episode of The Strain, “Occultation,” it is the first to include all the character arcs at once that I would argue are the best of the bunch, and the most actions accomplished by these characters that have mattered within a weekly 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, the darkness of the eclipse pours over the island of Manhattan and for some reason most people literally do not care! Maybe because their Wi-fi still isn’t working.
The Strain – episode I – vi “Occlusion” (7/10)