Oh, The Strain. You did not just go there.

But you did! You took one of your two-dimensional female characters and subjected her to the infinitely tired, awful sexual assault storyline, in a bid to give your show badly needed drama and some kind of personal stakes for its ancillary cast. I’d say shame on you—but The Strain has never had the awareness required to feel shame.

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In last night’s episode, Dutch has been captured by the vampire Eichorst, who is prepping her for a special meal for himself. As it turns out, Dutch reminds him of a girl he had a crush on back in ‘30s Germany, so it’s flashback time! Is Eichorst a sadsack loser with a crush on the hot blonde in the office? Yes! Is he last in the sales race that every sales company in the 1930s was apparently required to have? Check! Is the blonde Das Magic Pixie Dream Girl to his disaffected adulthood? YOU KNOW IT. Does the blonde turn him down, and does he join the Nazi party to bully those who have belittled him? Of course he does.

Even before the cliché-filled origin story, Eichorst gives off a real MRA/mansplaining vibe, especially when he starts uttering about Dutch being one of those girls who dresses to get attention. Coupled with the fact that Dutch is chained up in Eichorst’s “dining” room and forced to obey his whims (such as eating pineapple to “season” her) under threat of physical violence, the metaphor for sexual assault is obvious, if not quite overt.

And then it gets overt.

Yes, a vampire—with a mouth-tentacle—demands Dutch take off her pants. He sits down on the floor, then orders Dutch to bend over—because he’s going to perform oral sex/tentacle-rape this female character.

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Yes, with no better story to tell—as has been evidenced all season—The Strain has decided to sexually assault one of its female characters, to add a bit of “drama” to the proceedings. The fact that all of this flies in the face of the shoddy information the show has given us about the vampires—that they have no emotions and are beyond humanity—is adding insult to injury. (As is the fact that Eichorst absolutely does not need to have his evilness established, since he’s already a Nazi vampire.)

The tragedy—well, one of the tragedies—is that when most shows and movies and so forth pull this, it’s recognized as the laziest of storytelling. But The Strain’s storytelling is so weak, so slow, so pitiful, that this horrible, clichéd story is honestly the most dramatic the show has been all season. However, this does not excuse The Strain at all. Unless The Strain somehow manages to treat this event with the magnitude, the respect, and the horror it deserves, this will merely be another example of a show exploiting another poorly written female character for a cheap thrill. I believe the chances of The Strain pulling this off are slim at best.

Anyway, Dutch escapes at the last minute, by spraying Eichorst in the face with mace—which is another thing the show’s mythology has never once intimated, given that vamps ignore all other wounds, except head wounds—and runs around the corner. And then the show turns into a standard del Toro horror flick, with Dutch running around myriad halls, unable to escape, while Eichorst saunters after her like a Nazi Pepe le Pew. It takes forever for Eichorst to catch her and start dragging her back, at which point of course Eph, Nora and Fet, having heard her screams, burst through a brick wall, throw a silver grenade at Eichorst, and rescue Dutch at the last second. Of course, Eichorst gets away, again, meaning the show’s larger status quo remains unchanged.

At least Ruta Gedmintas plays Dutch as truly traumatized by what’s just happened, and the other characters seem to acknowledge the true horror of what she’s been through. Again, I have my doubts that The Strain will be able to continue treating this situation with the gravity it deserves, and I worry things will be nauseatingly back to normal next episode.

I would love to be wrong. But then, I would also love The Strain’s second season to be over.

Other storylines:

Setrakian was of course knocked on the head last episode by the grown-up Rudyard Fonescu, who eventually brings the Lumen to black marketer Alonso Creem, in another almost shockingly uninteresting delaying tactic to keep the maguffin out of Setrakian’s hands.

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Gus and Angel get the Indian family out of New York City with help from Quinlan’s lackey. Then Gus and Angel get in a car with Quinlan’s lackey. This is the 11th episode; there are only two left. Only next week do either of these characters finally have the opportunity of doing something interesting in this goddamned show.

Assorted Musings:

• After the first episode of the season, Team Vampire Hunter needed to find the Lumen, and Eldritch Palmer and the Master’s plan had not yet come to fruition. Gus was working with a group of vampire-hunting vampires. That’s about it.

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• What the hell has changed? Eph and Nora have developed a vampire-killing virus, but done nothing with it. Angel has been introduced, and has done nothing. Eldritch has fallen in love with Coco, which hasn’t affected his plan with the Master at all. There’s now a love triangle between Fet, Dutch and Nicki, and it’s boring as hell. The Master has a new body, and achieved nothing with it. Gus is working with a new vampire-hunting vampire, and they have achieved nothing.

• That’s how little has happened in 11 episodes, and in terms of the broader battle between humans and vampires, nothing has changed at all. AT ALL.

• Fuck this show.


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.