I speak, of course, of the terrible wig the show forced Corey Stoll to wear.

Yes, Ephraim Goodweather has shaved his wig head, meaning Stoll is finally allowed to let his dome free in all its shiny glory. If that had been the only event in “Quick and Painless,” I would have counted it one of the better episodes of the season, but in fact there’s some actual forward movement in the plot as a few separate characters finally come together and—gasp!—information is shared. It still doesn’t make any sense, if that makes you feel better.

For instance, I have no idea how Dutch learns that Fet was arrested last episode for blowing up the Red Hook subway station, as she wasn’t with him. I don’t know why Nora feels she has to go with Dutch to get Fet from the police station, other than the plot requires her to be there. I don’t know why Fet, who blew up a public area endangering the lives of several police officers, wasn’t being held in jail but in some kind of break room where he was playing cards with other people. I also don’t know how Council-cutioner Justine Feraldo has managed to make Staten Island plague free when we learn that she and her troops have absolutely no idea what the virus is or how it works.

This is where Nora comes in. She overhears the cops directing someone to the 72-hour quarantine, and informs them that symptoms actually show up in just a few hours. She also shows them the easiest way to check to see if someone is infected is to shine a UV light on them and check for worms. Which means Feraldo has been doing this whole thing without having consulted a single scientist or doctor, which would be impressive if it weren’t so ludicrous.

At any rate, Feraldo is very happy to have some very basic information about what the hell she’s doing, and Nora is able to trade this information for Fet’s freedom. The cops are weirdly totally cool with letting a confirmed bomber back on the streets. Maybe this wouldn’t be weird if, say, people realized there was an actual vampire apocalypse happening and the normal rules of society must be ignored for the greater good, but remember, virtually all of New York City is still open at night and people were still using that goddamned subway station. Much like the tentacle-mouth vampires butchering people in the streets every night, a dude who wants to blow up subways stations is just another nuisance for people trying to get Indian food.

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In fact, the cops are so cool with Fet that they take him along on their next trip to clear out an apartment building. Fet and Dutch tells the cops about the vampire’s aversion to silver, which would probably be more impressive if the cops weren’t significantly more effective vampire-killers with their assault rifles, but whatever. I’m not really upset about any of this silliness, because at least the cops tell Fet and Dutch about the existence of Kelly’s Kidz, the hopping vampire tots who are apparently searching for Zach door-to-door. So now Team Vampire Hunters actually know about a new, albeit very slow-moving threat on the streets, and Feraldo and the city have finally figured out what they’re facing and the best way to handle it. This is a major deal for The Strain, people!

Thank goodness that almost nothing else happens in the episode. Setrakian visits Marlo from The Wire because Marlo is apparently one of those gangsters who have heavy ties to the occult artifact world; Marlo says he’ll ask around. Eldritch dances with Coco. Carl’s Jr. continues to be the fucking worst, and is still furious at Eph for trying to cure the vampire apocalypse. And, as I prophesied last week, Fitzwilliam arrives and agrees to help, but does get around to doing any actual helping.

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And Eph travels to DC on a train in disguise, hence his wig’s mercy killing. To be honest, I have no idea why he traveled to DC other than it has something to do with the virus he made; if The Strain clarified this and I missed it, my apologies. At any rate, the hilariously corrupt/lazy CDC chief Barnes is on the trains so Eph can spend an entire episode traveling instead of advancing the plot any further. Eph tosses him out of the moving train in a fight scene that Eph seemed to have a great deal of difficulty with, given that his opponent was an out-of-shape 60-year-old. I’m just going to assume that his balance was off after he took off the wig.

There’s one other major development in “Quick and Painless,” which neatly sums up The Strain’s strange cognitive dissonance with good storytelling. In the episode’s final scene, a plane has landed in New Jersey, and a mysterious passenger has left the tiny airfield in a strange direction. Airport staff chases after him, but only find a large hole in the chain-link fence. Shortly, we see that the passenger appears to be one of, or similar to, the Spec Ops Ninja Vampire Squad, except he’s carrying a large bone. He’s picked up in a towncar. The end.

Now, I call this “major” because The Strain obviously feels this is a major character; it’s the episode’s final scene, and he’s presented as an ominous, mysterious badass. A gamechanger, even. But what The Strain has actually done has shown us is a dude who looks exactly like a bunch of guys who died like punks a few episodes ago who managed to get through a fence. That’s it. The show could have introduced him tearing through a pack of vampires, or even just the airfield staff seeing him and running away in terror. Nope! We just get the fence.

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The Strain knows what it wants to do, it just doesn’t know how to do it. But as long as it fails so entertainingly, I don’t really mind.

Assorted Musings:

• So Nora is a known associate of Eph, who is of course wanted by the police, but she enters the police station and then tells everyone her real name and bona fides. Shouldn’t that have been a problem?

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• The first time the cops sweep the infested apartment building, it’s night, which means they somehow haven’t even learned that the vampires are active at night.

• The next time the cops take on the building with Fet, they come in the day, but some vampires are asleep, and some are awake. This show has completely stopped caring about this rather major aspect of vampire physiology.

• I laughed out loud when Eph asked Carl’s Jr. if he knew what magical thinking was.

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• I also laughed out loud when The Strain made Corey Stole say “It’ll grow back.”

• Hey, Fet—I’m not an elite vampire hunter, but if there’s a vampire in the wall, and the vampires can shoot killer tentacles out of their mouths, maybe you shouldn’t put your face right up to a hole in the wall while looking for said vampire.

• Last week’s episode: Setrakian asks Fitzwilliam for help. This week’s episode: Fitzwilliam agrees to help. Next week episode: Fitzwilliam helps?

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• The CDC head Barnes is a terrible character, but I’m fascinated with him. So here’s a guy whose job is controlling diseases. He is willing to let the entirety of New York City die from the vampire plague—a plague he could technically contract randomly at any time—because someone threatened him once. And when Eph meets him on the train and says he’s found a way to stop the vampires, Barnes is like, “No, saving humanity is hard. Let’s just keep giving up.”


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.

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