See this man? Well, on last night's episode of The Strain — despite having starred in several scenes of two previous episodes — this man finally met a goddamn vampire. Let me explain why this is such a big deal.
The main problem with The Strain — well, besides a plethora of tiny but nevertheless baffling plot holes, but more on that in a second — is that Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan seem to be merely transposing their best-selling book into a 13-episode show, and not adapting it. The patience readers give a book is not what viewers bring to a show, when episodes are the smallest denomination of how the story is broken down. If you sat down and marathoned six episodes of The Strain, I think the story would seem pretty solid. As episodes that get released week to week, however, the stories are being told slowly and stiltingly, so that it's episode five before a major character even has an inkling of what the hell is happening.
Thank the Master that we've finally gotten to the part where pretty much everybody is more or less involved in the main story, at least tangentially. That includes everyone from Horrible Lawyer Lady, who is finally albeit slowly vamping out while threatening to sue the CDC for having the gall to being concern she might have a deadly virus after being on a plane that contained a deadly virus. It also includes Vasiliy the Pest Control Guy above, who wandered into the sewers to see what all the rats are running from and discovered a crowd of the missing morgue vampires. Hell, even Nora, who abandoned the main plot last episode, and then spent what seemed an interminable amount of time hanging out with her senile mother at a retirement home for no apparent reason, was violently returned to the storyline when a vampire showed up there to snack on the residents.
The main story of "Runaways" consists of the new dynamic duo of Abraham Setrakian and Eph. Happily, Eph is on-board Team Kill Vampires, and requires no more soul-searching. He sees the task in terms of an illness he must contain, whose victims are carriers instead of patients, but he's on board. Thus Setrakian can pull the full Van Helsing and start laying down vampire deets. He pulls out a nail gun he's rigged with silver nails, basically to slow 'em down. He reveals that the infected make silver mirrors vibrate when their reflection is shown, which somehow seems even more implausible than mirrors being unable to reflect vampires at all, but whatever. He also cooks Eph a leisurely breakfast despite constant discussion of how their job is of the utmost importance and time is of the essence, which is one of those weird, tiny but galling plot holes I feel like del Toro's work is full of.
Anyways, Team Kill Vampires heads to Ansel's house, where they discover the nice Christian wife who allowed her vampire husband to (seemingly) murder their shitty neighbor has committed suicide. Eph and Setrakian venture to the shed where Ansel has chained himself and lost all pretense of humanity; Eph fires a few rounds of silver nails into him while Setrakian delivers the finishing blow with his cane. Most importantly, Eph records the whole, mouth-tentacle-laden affair on his cellphone, so he has visual proof of the epidemic and the danger it poses.
Eph heads to the CDC with his proof, but the CDC continues to be what is hopefully the worst run government agency in the country. Because Eph comes to the CDC head guy with visual proof of the tentacle-mouth vampire plague, and the CDC guy is like, "Enh, a quarantine would make people sad and inconvenience them. Better to not acknowledge the problem at all and hope it just goes away. Diseases do that, right?"
Unfortunately, the CDC guy is somehow more concerned that Eph murdered the pilot last episode (which he did) than Eph's clear-cut, irrefutable evidence that there are vampires with mouth tentacles loose in New York City. In fact, somehow Eph's actons render his video invalid, and the head tries to sic CDC security on him. Samwise helps Eph escape the building, but alas, Eph can't email the video to anybody because Edritch Palmer hired a lady to make the internet slow last episode. And so Eph takes out his sim card so he can't be tracked and then walks off into the night.
It's not exactly the most thrilling ending, but assuming the shit will continue to hit the fan — and given the "in future episodes of The Strain" preview at the end of the episode, it most assuredly will — it looks like the show is finally delivering the goods. If del Toro could consistently write characters that act and speak like rational human beings, I think The Strain could actually be great instead of a guilty pleasure. But still, it's nice to finally call The Strain a "pleasure" of any sort.
• I failed to mention Bolivar, who eats the special urologist he comes to see his (now missing) penis. His manager/p.r. lady whatever actually witnesses the murder and, because she's one of The Strain's many bafflingly terrible people, she runs away but then hires a dude to secretly dispose of the body instead of reporting the murder. This fixer is like if The Wolf from Pulp Fiction and a can of Miller High Life had a baby. The dude, who is understandably not skeeved out by the body, since it's his job and all, is weirdly also not concerned about the fact that Bolivar's mouth is covered in blood, because Bolivar clearly ate this woman to death. Obviously, Bolivar eats him too, even though High Life manages to shoot him a few times. It has no effect.
• Setrakian gets a few flashbacks, but nothing we don't already know occurs in them. Setrakian is in a German concentration camp. The Master is there. Also, the Master is weirdly noisy when he's wandering around the barracks and eating people in their sleep. Also, everybody is speaking English, which makes the scenes more awkward than anything.
• Setrakian gets the line of the night, assessing his new partner Eph: "Romantic and impractical. Wonderful."
• When Setrakian describes the monsters to Eph, Eph replies incredulously, "Like a vampire?" I'm glad The Strain isn't set in a world where vampires somehow don't exist in pop culture. That would be even more awkward than everyone in 1940s Romania speaking English.
• More baffling, tiny plotholes: Nora's mom wandered off from her assisted living home, and the assisted living boss is pissed. "We need someone to watch over her!" she exclaims tartly, as if it's major ordeal. Excuse me, this lady is staying in an assisted living facility. Isn't watching over old people exactly where every single employee there is paid to do?
• Another: Horrible Lawyer Lady still has the wherewithal to believe she does not have some kind of terrifying illness… but is still compelled to sniff her children's necks for 30 full seconds. This behavior does not change her opinion at all. That's not denial, that's idiocy.
• Another: Is the CDC head a Stoneheart minion like Samwise, or is he just hilariously terrible at his job? Even if he's a Stoneheart lackey, shouldn't he, as an executive of the Center for Disease Control, at least pretend to give the tiniest shit about controlling diseases?
• One more: I literally wrote down "Wait, how did no one in NYC see any of the morgue vampires when they were walking back to their homes?" mere seconds before Pest Control Guy entered the sewers and discovered them lurking there. Question answered! And then I realized Setrakian said in all the first episode's narration about love and how the point was to send the morgue vampires home to infect their loved ones, just like the little French girl did. So what are these guys doing in the sewers? Why didn't they go back to their homes? Are these the vampires who had shitty, lonely lives and have nowhere to go?
- The episode was directed by Peter Weller. Yes, that Peter Weller.