What a difference a week makes. Last time I talked about hope and how The Strain has great promise, provided it can get its act together and start focus on telling its story in an interesting way with as little cliché as possible (and better writing). This past week already started delivering on that promise, thanks in great part to writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson. This team has worked together for years now, both writing and as producers, and they bring a very comfortable familiarity to the proceedings. Gone are the overwrought lines (though they may have been straight from the book) and weird character ticks (hopefully we won’t see Eph clamoring for his milk again for a while). Instead, we get some straight-forward drama, believable dialogue, and at least three, maybe four, really tightly written and performed scenes that illuminate character much better than anything in the pilot. It’s still not perfect, but given how weak the pilot was I have much more confidence that The Strain will live up its source material. Corey Stoll is allowed to stop being a dick and start being a human being this week, with two scenes that really allow him to shine. The first is a trip to see his son, to touch base before a custody hearing coming up the next day. Both Stoll and Ben Hyland as Zach do a really nice job playing the scene intelligently and avoiding any sort of saccharine sentimentality. Then Eph stops off at an AA meeting and Stoll delivers a monologue about his life and his fears and his love for his son that provides very solid footing for where this story is going to go (if you haven’t read the books yet, you might want to hold off for a while). The best moment in the episode, though was between Richard Sammel as Eichorst and David Bradley‘s Abraham Setrakian as the two faced off with only a pane of glass between them at the jail. It’s basically a big dick contest that has been going on since World War II and both actors bring plenty of charisma and seething hostility to the moment. We also find out who’s undead heart it is Abraham keeps in a jar, and Abe reveals that he killed Eichorst’s best friend years earlier. It’s a very effective shorthand way of establishing just how violently these two characters hate each other that should play very well when we finally get around to flashbacks of their meeting when Eichorst ran the concentration camp Abraham was taken too during the war. We really only follow up on three of the four “survivors” from the plane after they are let out of quarantine thanks to the behind manipulations of the not-subtly-named-at-all Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) — and yes, I know that’s a reference to a Philip K. Dick character (I’ve been reading PKD since most of you were in grade school — I’m that old — and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch has been one of my favorites for over twenty years). Obnoxious lawyer Joan Luss (Leslie Hope), obnoxious rock star Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy), and super-not-obnoxious pilot Captain Doyle Redfern (Jonathan Potts) all get follow-ups, but not the fourth dude, Ansel Barbour (Nikolai Witschl). I guess we’ll find out more about him later. Of the three we actually see this week, Luss quickly moves on and we really only get quality time with Bolivar and Captain Redfern. Redfern agrees to be checked into a hospital for observation (where things deteriorate swiftly as the episode draws to a close), and Bolivar agrees to a foursome with three hot female groupies (where things deteriorate swiftly as he bites one badly and then proceeds to lick the blood up off the floor a la Cronos, after they flee). Can I just say that very little grosses me out like a person licking something up off of the floor? Well, it’s true. Ugh. We also get a look at the family dynamics of Gus (Adriana Barraza), his shifty brother Crispin (Francis Capra), and their long-suffering mother Guadalupe (Miguel Gomez). It looks like they’re telegraphing right from the start where the brothers are going to fall when the vampire plague hits. And while my favorite scene of the night was between Abraham and Eichorst, my favorite character was introduced in a strange opening scene that makes me wonder just how realistic The Strain is when representing the life of an exterminator for the NY City Bureau of Pest Control. The always entertaining Kevin Durand plays Vasiliy Fet as part superhero, part cat lover, part badass swordsman (??), and part no-nonsense pest control expert. And did I mention we got our first real glimpse of The Master? Well, the back of his head anyway. How long has it been since there were actually scary vampires on television? I mean scary without being sexy at the same time. Has it really been since the 1979 Tobe Hooper directed ‘Salem’s Lot miniseries? Holy hell, that’s a long time. No wonder people have a hunger for zombies these days. The Strain 1.02 "The Box"4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 3 Responses George July 29, 2014 This week was an improvement, but still I knock off an extra half-star for the unneeded and distracting Brendan Fraser wig they’ve put on him! Log in to Reply George July 29, 2014 Okay, maybe add that half point back. Log in to Reply Dignan July 30, 2014 I’ve been sure to catch the show every week and have been enjoying it. Certainly not Walking Dead level writing, but it’s been a fun distraction so far. I had the same thought you did about ‘scary vampires’, this ones not sparkly…just definitely frightening, a nice change indeed. Not being familiar with the source material I find this take on the traditional vampire mythos interesting indeed and am looking forward to see what happens every week (despite the huge percentage of commercials). Afterwards, desperate for something else to watch I catch ‘The Last Ship’. Meh. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.