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Humanity’s Fate Is Left in the Hands of Morons on The Strain

Illustration for article titled Humanity’s Fate Is Left in the Hands of Morons on iThe Strain/i

Good news, everyone! Something happened on last night’s The Strain. Actually, a few things happened, even though they uniformly proved our heroes are mind-bogglingly incompetent, it’s still a significant improvement over the previous waste of an episode.


“The Assassin” is mainly about Eph finally trying to kill Eldritch Palmer, after deciding to kill him a few weeks ago; the fact that Eph has terrible aim, as proven last week in his futile attempts to shoot Eichorst, does not deter him. After the two inexplicably manage to get a hi-rise room directly opposite Eldritch’s penthouse, and after Dutch sets up a shockingly complicated laser/listening device with tech she acquired because she “knew people,” Eph learns that the mayor has asked Eldritch, who is essentially a random rich white person, to talk to Councilwoman Feraldo, who has decided to tax the rich people of the Upper East Side in exchange for ridding them of vampires, which seems like 1) something she should be doing anyway and 2) that the city would be funding with all its power given that people are literally being murdered in the street.

A few things to note here: The fact that The Strain glosses over how Eph got this particular room, and how Dutch was able to create a military-grade remote listening device, and yet when Eph needed a gun he had to spend the entire episode performing surgery on a character we had never seen before and will never see again is infuriating. Also maddening: even though Dutch can get hilariously expensively tech, when Eph goes to a weapons dealer and saves his life, the best gun he gets for his troubles is basically a Red Ryder BB gun.


I don’t want to blow your mind here, but Eph misses, and instead shoots Coco, whom Eldritch had just talked into working for him again. So our hero, who has attempted to murder a bad guy in cold blood, has instead nearly killed an innocent woman because he couldn’t wait for another opportunity or think of a better way to kill Eldritch. Anyways, despite the fact the city is under siege by mouth tentacles vampires, it appears the NYPD’s rich white people services are unimpeded, as they catch Eph (and Dutch, who was palling around with him) pretty much instantly.

Now, if you thought that Dutch and Eph being in jail would lead to more happenings, well, yes and no: Yes because Dutch is taken away and, as we learn later, is the new victim in Eichorst’s murder room; No because a bunch of vampires attack the police HQ and kill all the cops so Fet and Nora can enter and break Eph out with hilarious ease. (There’s actually one cop who lives, but then just lets Eph the arrested would-be assassin go, because ehh, why not.)

As for Coco, she’s in bad shape, and Eldritch is forced to throw a temper tantrum until the Bolivar-Master stops by and gives her a little Master Juice, which heals her just as it healed Eldritch. Coco wakes up and see the vampire, and Eldritch is forced to reveal he’s working with the vampires. Coco does not seem convinced that selling out the human race was necessarily a good idea, but we’ll have to wait for her real reaction next week; here, she basically wakes up and looks perturbed to find Nosferatu leering over her bed.

Since there’s an extra helping of stupidity in this episode—see “Assorted Musings” below— I figure I should point out a few things “The Assassin” does right. First off, it turns out that Eph and Dutch make for an oddly intriguing pairings. Dutch isn’t a nag like Nora, and she and Eph don’t have any romantic tension, which means they can actually just act like normal human beings. Dutch is far more interesting than usual, and Corey Stoll gives a clear reminder that he’s a skilled actor who deserves a lot better than the material he’s getting.


The second scene also involves Stoll, as Eldritch Palmer accosts Eh in his cell as police HQ (having paid all the cops to leave, I guess). We’ve never seen the two of them together, let alone actually having a discussion—kind of crazy, given that it’s more than halfway through season 2—but having the human faces of both sides brings an immediacy to the conflict that The Strain has badly, badly needed. It would have even more impact if Eldritch’s reasoning for helping destroy the human race made any sense whatsoever (he rambled about dominant species killing off inferior species, which is madness, given that the only reason the vampires are dominating anything is because of an immense amount of help from humans). But again, seeing Eph actually call out Eldritch to his face has been badly overdue.

So, shortest version: Eph fails to kill Palmer, Coco is shot but healed with vampire juice and learns about Eldritch’s plans, and Eichorst has Dutch. For the second season of The Strain, that’s as close to action-packed as we’re going to get.


Assorted Musings:

• Setrakian spends the episode looking for Occido Lumen, and of course, we have to travel to every dead end with him. Not only are the four “R. Fortescues” in New York City, one of them runs an antique book shop and yet he’s not the one who has the antique book.


• Setrakian actually finds the Lumen and then is immediately knocked cold by an unknown assailant, and the book is taken away. In case the breakneck pace of the storytelling here had overwhelmed you. The tragedy here is that even once Setrakian actually holds onto the book for more than 15 seconds, I just know there’s going to be some more bullshit to wade through. He’ll have to find some special items, or wait for an eclipse, or Team Vampire Hunter will have to waste their time doing some kind of busywork before they can actually try to kill The Master.

• So your executive assistant is gunned down in the street and her life is hanging in the balance. Where do you take her? If you said “The hospital,” congratulations, because you don’t work on ˆ. Eldritch takes her to his goddamned office, where doctors and medical equipment have to be wheeled in and surgery is performed! It’s so, so dumb.


• Because the world of The Strain is insane, the mayor holds a press conference to announce that Councilwoman Feraldo is going to rid the Upper East Side of vampires, because somehow the vampire apocalypse is not an emergency, per se. The mayor actually makes a reference to the theme song from The Jeffersons sitcom, and it’s just a perfect encapsulation of how oblivious The Strain is to its own premise. People are dying in the street. The death toll is insane. And the mayor is cracking jokes during the press conferences! Can you imagine if any politician made a joke during any of the press conferences following 9/11? And everyone in the room laughs at it! Arrrgh.

• Do not get me started on Feraldo demanding gold and silver from the rich people for protection. Do NOT. GET ME. STARTED.


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Last night I finally realized why this show has bugged me so. And it’s all the showrunner, Cuse’s fault. He’s running The Strain like his last show, LOST. On LOST there were so many storylines that were started, had no logic to them, left unfinished and dropped for the next storyline. Luckily for him, for the most part it worked. (Mostly because he promised that everything would work out in the end. What a crock.) But LOST was drawn out like a mystery. However, The Strain is not a mystery. It’s a horror show. You can’t play it out the same way. You can’t just jump from one character to another and have them do nothing toward the over all storyline. It simply doesn’t work in that genre. Horror movies are all about focus. Which is why so many of them are actually boiled down to a handful of characters and a straight as an arrow structure from beginning to middle and then to end. Ask yourself, how many horror movies and series have casts coming out of your ears. And how many have been shaven down to barely a tiny room full? Even when the plot is about a monster apocalypse, like The Dawn of the Dead or Shaun of the Dead or 28 Days Later, we don’t see the entire world but a small band of people trying to survive.

And that’s what The Strain needs to do. Stop bouncing around the characters. It’s frustrating with what they have done with Gus, Angel and Quinlan. Even the Master, the big bad, is barely, BARELY on screen due to the number of characters on this show. It’s ridiculous. Get rid of half the cast. (I am so, so, so sorry actors.) Focus on what they do. If you start a plotline stick to it. Don’t wait three episodes down to return to it.

Until the showrunners do this, The Strain will never be good. Oh, you will still watch it because, hey, vampires. But you will never look forward to this horror show like the way you did with Hannibal, a horror show that understood what it was and squeezed its genre for every drop.

P.S. Stohl is criminally abused as an actor on this show. He’s a damn good actor. The scene with Eph and Palmer proved that. I wish the writing would give more chances to shine more.

P.P.S. This episode was the worst of the season because I kept on guessing what was going to happen next. Coco being shot. Coco drinking the Master’s blood. The vampires raiding the police station. Etc. Etc. The last thing you want from a horror show is to be bored because the writing was so predictable. The writers really, really need to read and watch more horror because it’s clear none of them have seen or read much. And they grabbed the first ones they came across and shoved them into the plot. Too bad the first ones were cliches.