Get strapped in, guys, because this week’s episode of The Strain is packed with action and reveals, and quickly catches up with some major players who’ve been hanging out in the sidelines.
This episode opens on Bolivar, the fan-favorite goth rocker turned Strigoi, and we finally get a good read on just how well he’s taken to his transformation. His eyes are glowing white, and a notable protuberance is forming at his throat, but his irreverent persona is still intact and given the grotesque image he created for himself in life, he can still pass as living (with a little help from a wig).
Bolivar is dragging a sack of dirt down an empty alleyway when two police officers stop him, demanding to see what’s in the bag. “Don’t touch that,” he warns the officer, “You’re not worthy to touch it.” But the curious cop plunges his hand right into the dirt, which happens to be The Master’s resting ground, and gets a handful of flesh-hungry worms. Bolivar laughs maniacally, skipping free as the second cop yanks off his wig, and the street is suddenly infested with countless Strigoi. The cop retreats to his car, radioing for backup , when Bolivar pulls him through the window and throws him to the ground. The Strigoi circle him and feed, but not Bolivar — he’s not on their level, he’s a higher breed of Strigoi, above the feeding masses.
“Fort Defiance” also catches us up with Gus, yet another fan favorite who’s had little to do this season. Gus runs into a nondescript room and a vampire pops out, ready to pounce. He eliminates the threat easily with three quick shots to the head before another Strigoi lunges out of the corner. Gus aims, fires — but his gun is empty. “Alright now, hand to hand,” badass vamp hunter Vaughn calls from a balcony seat. Gus’ life isn’t in danger after all. He’s training, learning how to hunt Strigoi with the help of one of their own. He engages in combat without hesitation, dodging the vamp’s stinger, and goes into full offense mode, plunging his (gloved) hands into its neck and ripping the stinger right out. It’s gnarly, disgusting, and shows that Gus is becoming a vamp-fighting force to be reckoned with. But he’s had enough of living in the dark with no answers. He wants to know what’s going on, why they’re training him, and why he’s so important. They answer the question in part: they’re about to “embark on a most important mission” … to kidnap Eldrich Palmer.
For his part, Palmer is enjoying the company of his lovely new secretary when Eicchorst and Bolivar strut into his office. “I don’t see you on the schedule,” Coco politely warns Eichhorst. “That’s right. That’s because I am never on the schedule,” he retorts, strolling past her without a care. Eichhorst is unhappy with how easily Setrakian confronted Palmer publicly, and demands that Bolivar take residence in the Stoneheart office as an added layer of security. Palmer is understandably peeved by his new housemate, and asks Coco — who’s listening a bit too intently — to leave the room. He doesn’t want Bolivar around, but Eichhorst leaves him with no choice and the two engage in one of their ever-entertaining arrogant stare-offs before Palmer backs down and concedes. Palmer uses this forced hospitality as an opportunity to learn more about the transformation, noting that Bolivar has retained much of his personality.
As has been made clear since her introduction, Coco is no fool. She knows she’s missing something. Palmer tries to brush off her concerns, but she’s not having it. She knows that Eichhorst and Bolivar are bad men and worries that she’s making her great life mistake in working with Palmer. He calms her with his politician’s doublespeak, telling her that horrible times call for measures that good guys won’t take, and for now, she seems appeased.
Meanwhile, in team Good Guys, our heroes continue on their individual quests to stop the vampire apocalypse. Vasily has been posting signs all around Manhattan, warning people of the “Deadly Creatures!” — complete with a detailed drawing of a Strigoi and details on how to kill them. Eph is impressed with his efforts, but completely grossed out by the flirtations between Fet and Dutch.
Eph and Nora have been hard at work in the lab, and have finally developed a virus that infects the infected, but there’s a problem — it’s too efficient. The infected strigoi dies almost instantly, allowing no time for transmission. Eph gets predictably cranky about it, while Nora quietly steps up to continue working. She hasn’t been sleeping anyway.
As for Setrakian, our sage old vampire hunter, we see him on a different mission, leaving his hunt for the Occido Lumen aside for the week. Setrakian strolls along the water, the gleaming NYC cityscape behind him, when a Strigoi lumbers into frame. Setrakian dispatches of the monster handily, shooting it twice in the face with a nail gun (wtf?) before adeptly slicing off its head. With the vamp’s decapitated head still blinking on the side, Setrakian scoops up some of the viscous fluid and wriggling worms oozing from the stump of its neck. Back in his lab, he creates a solution from the worm, which he proceeds to drop into his eyes. And now we finally learn how Abraham Setrakian, a 94-year-old holocaust survivor, is spry enough to fight vampires. He consumes the worms to maintain his health. He’s accepted that this may send him to hell, but it’s to late to stop. He needs it to keep living and, most importantly, to keep fighting The Master.
(Side note: While the relationship between Setrakian and Fet is my personal favorite this season, the moments between Setrakian and Nora have been excellent in their own measure. Nora was the first to believe him, to take him seriously, and the two have always shared a refreshing candor. Mia Maestro hasn’t been given a lot to do this season yet, playing second fiddle to Eph’s tantrums in the lab, but she shines in her scenes with David Bradley).
Elsewhere, Dutch is on a side-mission of her own. After finding a “Missing” sign posted with a picture of her ex-girlfriend Nikki (the one who scampered off in a real hurry last season), Fet offers to help Dutch track her down and get some closure. The two roll up to a very affluent neighborhood where Dutch confronts Nikki’s mother — a woman who clearly despises Dutch and makes no efforts to conceal it. She comes at Dutch with venom, blaming her for Nikki’s disappearance, laying into her about how she once abandoned Nikki, and calling Dutch a “vampire” who sucked the “good and spirit” out of her daughter.
Dutch takes this all to heart, and storms back into the van sobbing. Fet continues to be the all-time best, comforting her and offering to defend her honor, but Dutch insists she’s no innocent and never has been. “She’s right about me,” she tells him, and she decides to prove it, turning on her sexuality big time, lunging at Fet. Dutch is clearly one of those people who sees the flaws in herself and opts to roll around in them rather than try to improve. We always knew Dutch was morally dubious, charming though she may be, and while Fet is physically strong as could be, his emotions make him vulnerable. With Dutch on the hunt for her ex, and with a history of abandoning people who love her, I’m a little stressed out that our beloved Vasiliy is in for some heartbreak.
Meanwhile on Staten Island, we finally see (yay!) Fitzwilliam again. Palmer’s stalwart ex-assistant is seeking entry to the island to visit his brother, and we see some of Councilwoman Feraldo’s anti-Strigoi measures in action. No one gets onto the island without a thorough medical screening. “What if I refuse?” He asks. “You left your civil rights on the other side of the Hudson.”
And those measures are working. Feraldo gives a press conference to announce that Staten Island is officially plague free, and as a statement of the Island’s strength she drops a tarp to reveal the decapitated bodies of five Strigoi. It’s a ghastly, medieval message, but it does send a message. Her methods are extreme, but effective, and the mayor wants to expand them across all of NYC. She greets this idea with open scoffing and side-eye, “I don’t think so,” but the mayor appeals to her sense of grandiosity. “You’d be a hero,” he tells her.” And she buys into it – on one condition. It’s all going to go exactly as she says, when she says it; no interference. The mayor agrees on a condition of his own – he wants to present this as a partnership. She agrees. Councilwoman Feraldo wants her glory, and the mayor wants his share of it.
Back at Stoneheart, Gus and his gang of half-breed Strigoi hunters embark on their mission to kidnap Palmer and that shit gets real in an instant. After a fabulously badass moment when Vaughn and his cronies hitch a ride to the penthouse on the bottom on the elevator, Palmer’s security team catches wise to the infiltration, and everything takes a dark turn real fast. Palmer is escorted to a safe room, Coco by his side, where he promptly arms a high-tech anti-strigoi security system . “I never wanted this,” he tells her. The room fills with UV laser lights that herd the vampires to a single spot where they’re dropped into an inescapable pit of UV light. Gus reaches in to try and grab Vaughn, but it’s too little too late and Vaughn screams for Gus to get out, which he promptly does, leaving the audience in their own death pit of “what the fuck?” I certainly hope the series is playing a long game here, because Vaughn the Vampire Hunter was one of the most intriguing and promising elements The Strain had going for it.
Finally, in this week’s installment of “Goodweather Men Are the Living Worst,” Eph is pulling a Lori Grimes, unable to keep track of his son, asking everyone else where he is. When they notice Zach’s boots and coat are missing, the team heads out in search of him and finds him boarding a bus to Long Island. He wants to see his mom. Ugh. Look, I get that losing a parent is hard, but Zach has seen, first hand, the brutality of the new world around him. It’s a dumbshit thing to do and Eph is understandably pissed. But that’s where my sympathy for Eph ends. He decides the best way to make Zach understand is to bring him to the lab and tell him about the virus they’re creating. Eph is swept up in a random, emotional story about his father, and unable to face his feels he tears off into the hallway. Faster than you can say, “What an asshole,” Zach begins to destroy the lab, smashing equipment and mysterious liquids (you’re dad just told you he’s working on a virus, maybe don’t). Eph’s officially had it. He drags Zach to the Strigoi patient and forces his head down to his chamber, screaming at him that this is what his mother has become. It’s just … the worst parenting.
Nora escorts Zach to safety and Eph drunkenly stumbles up to the Strigoi to have a moment with The Master. Looking the monster dead in the eye he tells him “You took my wife. My son’s mother. I’m going to take hundreds, thousands of yours. I will work my way all the way to the top, to you –” Then he notices the Strigoi’s eyes trained on Zach and realizes The Master’s plan. He knows that The Master will send Kelly after his son, and shit gets real dark. “I will kill him and I will kill myself before I let you turn us into anything,” he tells The Master. And I absolutely believe him. It’s one of the darkest moments we’ve seen on the show, and thankfully there is a little light in that tunnel. Nora and Eph have refined their virus, it’s not killing instantly, and they’re setting it loose on the Strigoi as soon as possible.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very Good
Sad to say goodbye to Vaughn and his badass vamphunting hybrids. Even more sad to say goodbye to Stephen McHattie, the excellent actor underneath all that makeup, whose talents are too infrequently utilized.
- Dutch about Fet: Kinda sexy, don’t you think? Eph: Super sexy.
- Setrakian: “I will win or die confronting The Master. I will not fade away as a weak old man”
- Justine Feraldo: “This is who we are. This is Staten Island.” Yikes. Remind me not to vacay in Staten Island anytime soon.
- Setrakian: “My dear, I believe I’ve gotten my second wind.”
From the Set
I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Strain in Toronto earlier this year, so as a bonus, I’ll be providing some pertinent quotes from the cast and crew as the season goes on.
- Jack Kesey on Bolivar: “We know he’s been eyed by the Master as someone special with qualities that are kind of important to the Master. He’s been under his wing, watched after. He’s been a loyal henchman.”
- Jack Kesey on why Bolivar has transitioned so well: “Fucks knows, man. [Makes a cuckoo sound.] Who knows. He’s a sick puppy man…Maybe he had this empty hole in his heart, and he was ready to feed it with anything. He’d take any kind of power, whether it be a good source of energy or bad source of energy, he was just like, “Fill me up, sir.” He’ll take what he can and run with it.”
- Kevin Durand on what unsettles Fet this season: “It has nothing to do with the vampires. It’s more like getting under his skin a little bit more on an emotional level.”