So New York City is flooded with vampires who wander the streets at night, murdering hundreds of people. As the only people capable of stopping this insanity, you hold the fate of several million survivors in your hands. What do you do? If you answered “Take swimming lessons”, congratulations! You’re a character on The Strain.
After coming to the realization last week that The Strain has the most lackadaisical monster apocalypse in all of fiction, my whole outlook on the show has changed. Instead of bitterly wishing the show was better, I’ve come to appreciate its failure as entertaining in their own right. I wouldn’t say The Strain is so bad it’s good, but it’s so bad I laughed several times while watching it, which makes it infinitely more pleasurable than season one.
On what I laughed at mostly was the show’s hilarious inability to present characters that behave even slightly rationally during a vampire apocalypse. Again, there are tens of thousands of vampires in New York City—vampires that have giant mouth tentacles that they use to suck people’s blood and infect their victims—and they literally wander the streets at night, murdering people randomly. But despite these facts, somehow very few people have evacuated the city. No one is talking about the mouth-tentacle vampire murder spree in any form. The U.S. government is sending no help, and somehow word has not gotten out to anyone in the continental U.S. or beyond, despite the fact that last season our heroes managed to put actual footage of a mouth-tentacle vampire killing a dude on television.
We know this for a fact because in “By Any Means”, we get two unbelievable scenes given the show’s setting; The first is when the evil Eldritch Palmer sets up food station throughout the five boroughs for people who are staying in NYC, and there are a ton of people there. And Eldritch actually gives a rallying speech about the awesomeness of New Yorkers staying in the city despite adversity and people cheer, despite the fact that the adversity these people are facing is packs of goddamned mouth-tentacle vampires who are literally murdering hundreds of the city’s inhabitants every goddamned night.
The second is even more astounding, because perhaps you could have somehow argued that all the people in Eldritch’s Food Shoppe had just somehow remained unaware of the tentacle vampire plague of the last two weeks. That is, until you get a city council meeting where the mayor, an angry (but not upset, literally just mad at her fellow politicians but not at the vampires) councilwoman and others are discussing the fact that killer vampires are roaming the streets at night like there’s a minor salmonella outbreak. Oh, they’re concerned all right, and they’re worried about their constituents. But the fact that goddamned vampires that shoot tentacles out of their mouths that murder hundreds of people at minimum every goddamned night is something that exasperates them, but not terrifies them, or makes them doubt their sanity, or spurs them to action in anyway. The random councilwoman (who probably has a name, I’m guessing? I don’t recall them mentioning it) has taken it upon herself to “clear” Staten Island of these vampires through sheer force of will alone, and even this somehow doesn’t inspire the mayor or her fellow council-people to do… anything, really. It’s a plague of vampires. Hey, whaddya gonna do?
This ridiculous scene and its mind-blogging lack of concern for is everything I’ve suddenly learned to love about The Strain. How boring—not just to the audience, but the actual characters on the show—can one TV series make a monster Armageddon? Pretty boring! Or at least Fet and Dutch seem to think so, since Fet interrupts his clearing of the block that the team is headquartered on for… wait for it… swimming lessons with Dutch (whom, I must always remind you, single-handedly broke the Internet). Yes, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and Fet and Dutch can’t just get down to business and have sex in the pool, but we have to watch Dutch teach Fet how to float first. Do you see why this show has problems with tension?
Beyond this madness, ”By Any Means” was mostly a collection of the main characters not thinking things through and/or having hissyfits. For instance, Setrakian has decided to devote his resources to finding the Occido Lumen, the suddenly mentioned book that apparently has the key to defeating the Master. Now, despite the fact that Setrakian has devoted his life to destroying the Master, despite the fact he has tons of books about vampires and had decades to organize them, somehow the elderly Armenian samurai has failed to place a bookmark next to the information about the one item on Earth that has info on how to kill the Master.
His decision is even more baffling given that Eldritch Palmer first told him about the book in 1965 Vienna, according to a lengthy flashback. Eldritch arrives out of nowhere to offer to pay Setrakian to find the Lumen and be a full-time vampire hunter. While it’s very strange to discover suddenly that Setrakian has known Palmer for 50 years—I especially don’t know how it never occurred to him Eldritch Palmer might be involved in season one’s shenanigans—you’d think that Setrakian would have somehow placed the original copy of the Lumen page that Eldritch gave him all those years ago in some spot he could easily find it, even if he got old and started losing his memory. But nope! In fact, it’s only because Setrakian has a hissyfit and throws all his books across the room that the page slips out from one of his tomes and falls to the floor. Sigh.
Meanwhile, Eph and Nora are studying the old couple who got infected, trying to find something that will kill the vampire infection. Eph continues drinking, which would be interesting if it seemed to cause a conflict of some kind, but it doesn’t. However, he does have a hissyfit when the first attempt at a cure doesn’t pan out. On the other hand, Nora also has a hissyfit when se gets super-bummed out that they’re studying the old couple instead of killing them promptly, even though, again, they’re doomed and the survival of the human race is at stake.
But, uh, then they find a cure. Well, not a cure, but a virus that will kill vampires. So, uh… I guess that’s it, guys. It took them maybe half of an episode, but they finally did it! After all that minimal effort and virtually no setbacks! I can’t wait to see how this transparently unearned plot device totally definitely solves the problem in the third episode of the second season!
I just hope they have time to answer all the other burning questions I need The Strain to answer! Will Coco realize that someone doing a background check on a potential high-level employee is pretty normal and not that disturbing? Will Eldritch learn to read the speeches he order before he delivers them, if only to know the proper cadence? Has Fet learned to swim?
Will Setrakian realize that semi-total shutdown of the city might cause a problem in finding the Occido Lumen? Will Eph decide whether he wants to drink sporadically or problematically? Will Fet successfully nag Setrakian into eating an appropriate amount? Will Dutch.. uh… do something other than make a vague, potentially useless device and have sex with Fet? Will Zach stop making Carl from The Waking Dead look like a goddamn hero of maturity and skill?
I’m pretty sure I know the answer to all of these questions, but I’m looking forward to see what The Strain does next instead of answering them.
• Oh, in the flashback we also learn how Setrakian got his wolf cane sword, which is to say Eldritch told him where it was—owned by an ex-Nazi hiding in Austria—and Setrakian took it from him. Setrakian may be a master vampire slayer, but he’s only an amateur chaser-of-middle-aged-paunchy-Nazis-down-the-streets at best.
• Also, when the Nazi “escapes” by jumping on the back of a passing truck, the truck is going, at maximum, three miles per hour. It amazes me how poorly this show is shot sometimes.
• Other things that happened: Coco wrote a speech for her new boos Eldritch an Eldritch not only didn’t approve it before reading it, he didn’t read it at all before giving it, which is something only an idiot would not do at a press conference especially one that factors in whatever the hell his master plan is.
• Also, Vampire Kelly is babysitting the Feelers, the weird batch of scuttling vampires the Master made out of those blind children. She immediately kills one for no apparent reason and then uses the others to go find her son Zach. I sense a poor performance review in her future.
• I’ll leave it to the smarter people in the crowd to say for sure, but when Eph and Nora started talking about creating the virus I could not for the life of me understand what anything they were saying. Was it me being dumb or were they speaking scientific gibberish? I could see it going either way.
• Uh, why did Fet and Dutch wake the vampires up and use Dutch as bait before throwing the daylight grenades at them? Why couldn’t they just use the grenades where the vampires were sleeping? Also, why did many of the vampires survive the daylight grenades?
• So the Goth guy is still around? Holy shit, what a thankless role. Since his dick fell off—which is not me being blasé, that is really what happened on this show—he’s been onscreen like what, twice? At least he got to talk in this episode, which means he has his will and though process released like Kelly did. Oh, and he’s still wearing his Goth wig, which is utterly hilarious to me.
• Eph’s kid Zach has a hissyfit because… I don’t honestly know. He’s pissed at Eph for studying the old couple, even though he knows it’s the only way to stop the vampires, and starts erasing things from Eph and Nora’s dry erase board in vengeance. It’s an incredibly stupid conflict for conflict’s sake, and it means Zach is somehow consciously putting his petulance over his dad’s work which will potentially save the entire human race. Basically, he’s like Carl from The Walking Dead, but sabotaging stuff consciously instead of put of stupidity, making him officially worse than Carl.
• As such, I will now refer to Zach forevermore as… Carl’s Jr.
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