Because I’m pretty ambivalent about ‘The Strain’ at all, I have to say that I find it really annoying that FX is super-sizing episodes this season to 75 or 90 minutes – especially when most of that difference is just padded with extra commercials. Even fast-forwarding through them on a DVR is a little extra burden that the quality of this show can’t justify.
That aside, does anything interesting happen in Season 2, Episode 2 ‘By Any Means’? Eh…
Hey, remember Gabe the vampire goth rocker? I guess I just assumed that he’d been killed off last season. Apparently not. He shows up for about 30 seconds at the beginning of the episode for Eichorst to explain to him that The Master is choosing a new host body and he’ll have to get on-board with taking orders from someone new. He grumbles something about being passed over and leaves, and that’s the last we see of Gabe.
During the season premiere, I thought it was implied that Eph’s vampire wife Kelly will be the Master’s new host. Maybe not. Instead, she’s been put in charge of the “Feelers” – the blind kids who were vampirized and, for some reason, have been turned into creepy things that crawl around on all fours and make weird clicking noises. (I assume that’s meant to be some form of echolocation, which real blind people can actually do.) She trains the kids like dogs, and even kills some because… I don’t know, they don’t click loud enough or something.
Meanwhile, Eph and Nora are busy running tests on the McGeevers, the old couple from the storage locker. They were bitten by vamps and can’t be cured, but Eph hopes to use them to develop a new vampire plague that will infect and kill the bloodsuckers. Unfortunately, their vampire blood proves resistant to even the heartiest viruses he tests on it.
FLASHBACK! It’s 1965, and young Abraham Setrakian teaches history at the University of Vienna when he’s approached by young Eldritch Palmer, who believes in vampires and hires Setrakian to locate the sword-cane that belonged to Josef Sardu.
Back to the present day. The Mayor meets with Dr. Everett Barnes (Eph’s old boss, who’s now the new Secretary of Health and Human Services and also in Eldritch Palmer’s pocket) and a testy city councilwoman (Samantha Mathis). They discuss finally implementing some quarantine protocols in the city. Barnes gets dodgy when asked where the hell the National Guard is, or what he plans to do with the infected. Councilwoman Feraldo (sounds kind of like “Ferraro” crossed with “Geraldo,” which would be a very weird combination) storms out prissily, vowing to take back the city one block at a time by flushing out and killing vampires.
Eldritch Palmer continues his PR good-will campaign by opening up food distribution centers for the needy, which will undoubtedly really be used as easy points for vampires to harvest new victims. Palmer asks his new assistant Coco Marchand to write him a speech. She seems nervous at the prospect.
Fet and Dutch have a similar idea to the councilwoman about clearing out their block. They break into a fitness center that currently houses a vampire nest and slaughter a bunch of vamps with swords and grenades loaded with silver. Then, all that death and destruction having made them really horny, they go skinny-dipping and have sex in the pool, because why not?
FLASHBACK! Young Setrakian traces Sardu’s cane to an antiques dealer who illicitly traffics in Nazi artifacts and memorabilia. The dealer is very proud of the cane, but says that it’s already been sold. Setrakian recognizes him as a Nazi doctor from his concentration camp and calls him out. The dealer runs and they have a foot chase. The dealer gets away but drops the cane, which Setrakian collects.
As Eph works on his vampire virus, his son Zach (recast this season with a new actor who’s a thousand times more annoying than the old one) constantly pries him with questions that Eph doesn’t want to answer – presumably because he doesn’t want the kid to realize that the virus is designed to kill his mommy. Eventually, after just about giving up the cause, Eph and Nora find a virus that will attack vampire cells.
Palmer delivers his speech at the food distribution center. It’s a bit cruder than he expected, but is very effective at rousing the crowd with the refrain “We will endure!” Palmer seems to be preparing for a political run.
After the speech, Setrakian confronts his former employer. He gloats that he wounded the Master and tells Palmer that he will soon have that ancient book the vampire commandos told him about (which supposedly contains information on how to defeat the Master). Setrakian says this in order to study Palmer’s reaction, which tells him that Palmer doesn’t have the book. Fet then sets off a pipe bomb in the food center to cause a distraction so that he and Setrakian can get away.
FLASHBACK! The Nazi antiques dealer runs to Eichorst, who was of course his original buyer for the cane. He tells him that Setrakian is on to them and asks for help skipping town. Eichorst informs him that a new Fuhrer has emerged, more powerful than the last one, and then he eats the dealer.
At Eph’s lab, the McGeevers have now fully vampirized. Eph keeps them strapped to tables with masks on their faces to contain their crazy tentacle tongues. He injects them with his test virus to see if it kills them. In the next room, New Zach studies a whiteboard and figures out what his dad is doing.
Over at Eph’s old house, vampire Kelly stops by for a visit with her coterie of Feelers. She has them sniff some of Zach’s old clothes and orders them to find her son. End episode.
In a recent interview, producer Carlton Cuse claimed that the role of Zach was recast because the character’s storyline will go to much darker places this season. I take it that the implication here is that the Master will use Zach as his new host body, out of some sort of ploy to piss off Eph. That seems pretty stupid to me. Who would want to get trapped in the body of an annoying twerp like that for centuries?
However that really goes, this episode is just OK. The flashback stuff in which we learn that Setrakian and Palmer have history together is kind of fun. I guess I kind of like the idea of fighting off the vampires with an engineered plague. That’s a little more inventive than the usual staking and beheading routine. Still, I find it very hard to get too invested in or excited about anything that happens in this show, and I’m not sure what it would need to do to bring me around.