I’ve Decided to Root for The Strain’s Evil Vampire Overlord

Because he’s the only character with the power to put these stupid, boring people out of my misery—and at this point, I don’t just main the main characters, I mean every single person in New York City.

Let’s start with the boring: Despite the fact this is the penultimate episode of season two—yes, thank vampire albino Jesus, the finale is next week—“Fallen Light” still wastes over half its runtime on our characters continuing not to accomplish things we don’t care about. For instance, were you dying to learn about how Eph and Nora originally fell in love, despite the fact that the show has barely tried to posit a romantic relationship between the two? Of course not, but that’s what we’re spending time on. Sure, it brings Sean Astin back for a bit, but it reveals nothing, it adds nothing, and as usual it is a monumental waste of time.


Likewise, Setrakian continues to fail to get the Lumen. The show is really waiting for the season finale for our heroes to get their hands on the magic maguffin and its unknowable deus ex machina (that I’m dead certain will require them taking another entire season to assemble). Broker-gangster Alonso Creem has the book, and he’s going to hold an auction between Eldritch (for the Master) and Setrakian (with the Ancients’ gold). That’s right, we’ve watched Setrakian hunt for this book for 12 weeks only for it to end in an auction; I’m sure some kind of fight will ensue,

Oh, and there’s a bunch of political nonsense and the Mayor mysteriously dies and Eldritch helps Councilwoman Justine Feraldo become Emergency Safety Dictator of New York City, and people—politicians and actual regular protestors outside the city council meeting—complain about fascist rule as if everyone would not be completely and solely concerned about the goddamned vampire apocalypse at this point. Everyone in New York City is an imbecile with absolutely no sense of self-preservation.

And that includes the two people who actually manage to accomplish things in this episode, Gus and Eph. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Gus did something?” He did! Under orders to assemble an army for Quinlan, he broke into jail and released a ton of his former cellmates who were coincidentally all fine. Gee, might freeing a bunch of criminals, giving them automatic weapons, and then demanding they work for an unknown, unseen entity possible not go well? If you said yes, you’re smarter than Gus, because of course as soon as they all escape the prison one of the criminals pulls his new gun and declines Gus’ vague “opportunity.” Luckily, Angel murders the criminal, and all the other criminals join Gus’ crusade.

The other accomplishment is Ephraim’s; after all the interminable Nora flashbacks, he tells Councilwoman Justine Feraldo about his vamp-virus, says what he and Nora need to make it, and Justine tells him no problem. Eph’s only request is passage for Zach to get out of NYC so that he can drop him off at his grandparents, who are safe in Georgia. Now, my official synopsis for this episode read “Eph must decide between Zack’s safety and the people of New York,” so I expected Eph to have some kind of moral dilemma about wanting to personally make sure Zack got to safety and his responsibility as the only hope of the millions of people who have moronically refused to leave New York City.


Nope! Eph doesn’t waste a second of thought on the matter; he tells Justine he’ll drive to Georgia drop off Zack, and drive back to NY, and then start work on the virus. Justine says fine. And then Nora decides she wants to come too, so Zack feels a little better, meaning the only two people who can stop the vampire apocalypse are going to take a road trip (minimum 13 hours each way) before they worry about trying to help the human race. No other option is considered; Eph doesn’t try to find an alternate driver; the greater good is not considered at all. Don’t worry, Eph and Nora; I’m sure only a few hundred people will die horribly while you’re gone.

It all boils down to one problem that The Strain has (and, frankly, I think almost all of Guillermo del Toro’s work suffers from, but we’ll have that discussion another day): It doesn’t understand how people work. It does not know how to make characters that are believable, or relatable, or thus interesting. There is no line of dialogue that sums up everything wrong with The Strain than Alonso Creem’s line: “The apocalypse has been very good to me.”


That’s not something a person says. That’s something the Red Skull says. That is someone who is so self-centered, so comically evil that they are not only oblivious to the death of thousands, but are oblivious to the fact that saying this out loud to another person marks them as a sociopath of the highest order. “Sure, countless people are dead, but personally, I am making more money than usual, so it’s all right by me!” No moral conflict, no ambiguity no hint of regret—just pure, dumb contentment that the character is getting more money when the world is ending, never realizing that these riches might not be much use when the human race is extinct.

But there’s no sense in me freaking out about The Strain’s fundamental problems now—after all, the finale is next week. Maybe something exciting will finally happen, although I can’t imagine how the show could possibly come close to making up for the waste that this entire season has been.


Assorted Musings:

• Of course there’s also more Dutch/Fet/Nicki love triangle bullshit, but Nicki leaves NYC, and Dutch is emotionally crushed, because she can’t understand why someone would leave her even if the city is infested with murderous vampires. Dumb.


• The one good thing in this episode: Angel the ex-luchador has brass knuckles that are shaped like a giant cross. He doesn’t use them, because that would be entertaining, and The Strain must avoid that at all cost.

• We still don’t know what “phase 2” Eldritch and the Master’s plan is, because the show refuses to even hint at what it may be. Think the finale will finally reveal it? My money’s on no.


• When Eldritch tells Eichorst that he’s going to tomorrow’s auction (I still can’t believe this is leading up to a goddamn auction), Eichorst tells him no, because it’s too important and that he is going instead. And Eldritch freaks out as if this is a betrayal of the highest order.

• So to make this clear: The Master’s not allowing him to attend an informal book auction may be what finally drives a wedge between the two. And not, interestingly, the wholesale murder of a large portion o New York City inhabitants. Nope, it’s not getting to go to the book auction (for a book Eldritch doesn’t actually want for himself anyways) that is what really gets his goat. Arrgh.


• I’ve been very gratified to learn that 98% of you think this show is crap for the same reasons I do, as that doesn’t always happen (e.g., Almost Human, which I felt was about a homicidal maniac and a robot, and some of yu thought was watchable). But there are usually two of you in comments who hate that I dare criticize this masterpiece of… something-or-other, and beg me to stop recapping it. I’ll do the finale, and then I too will beg to be allowed to stop recapping this piece of shit next season. Just so you know we’re on the same page.

Contact the author at rob@io9.com.


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