‘The Strain’ 3.01 Recap: “We Finally Taking the Fight to These Things?”

FX brought ‘The Strain’ back for a third year. I suppose that means people are still watching it. Sadly, I’m not sure I can hang around for another season.

The show’s second season was, in my opinion, incredibly lame. To be frank about it, even the first season wasn’t that great. After the S2 finale, I said I might be done with it. I’m not sure why I even bothered to watch the third season premiere. I guess it was mostly just curiosity to see whether anything had improved. The start of the season also happens to air during in a lull in my other TV watching, so I didn’t have anything truly compelling to distract myself with instead. That doesn’t say much for it.

A voiceover and montage at the beginning inform us that the premiere takes place 23 days into the vampire apocalypse, which seems absurd given how much has occurred during that time. Yeah, I understand the math that each episode supposedly equates to one day, but it feels much longer (and I’m pretty sure some episodes have been set over multiple days). We’re told that the strigoi (vampires) are evolving, but don’t get much detail on that. Vampire outbreaks have also popped up in other cities, which means that the military is spread thin trying to contain the contagion.

The episode starts on a strong note, as a Navy S.E.A.L. team sweeps a vampire nest out of a building and the sewer beneath it. The fetishizing of military badassery is aggressive enough to make even Michael Bay smile. Aboveground on the street, Fet is super-psyched to act as a civilian advisor, monitoring their body-cams and directing them through the old buildings. (Fet apparently knows everything there is to know about the city.) He’s pumped to help them flush out the “King Rat” vampire, a.k.a. The Master, now possessing the body of former rocker Gabriel Bolivar.

It’s pretty clear what’s going to happen before the end of this episode, right?

Following the death of his girlfriend Nora, Eph is drinking pretty heavily again. He spends his days at the lab toiling away at the anti-vampire bio-weapon, which he’s told is becoming decreasingly effective as the strigoi adapt to it. He nights are spent back at his old house, sitting up and hoping that his annoying twat son Zach will come home.

Gus the gang-banger is back in his old apartment. He keeps his vampirized mother leashed in the living room and feeds her bowls of his own blood. Remind me again why we’re supposed to care about this character.

Now that he has the ‘Occido Lumen’ in his possession, Setrakian obsessively pours over its pages. He refuses to make another move against the Master until he has studied every word in the book. His hesitancy makes Fet impatient. Fet also doesn’t much care for or trust Setrakian’s half-vampire ally Quinlan.

In an utterly pointless excuse for an action scene, Eph gets attacked by vampires in a parking garage. This amounts to nothing and isn’t even particularly well-staged.

The episode climaxes with the Navy S.E.A.L.s chasing a horde of vampires to an old church. When he spots Eichorst outside, Fet tries to warn the team that it’s an ambush, but they charge in anyway. Of course, they get picked off one-by-one, because the writers and/or director of this episode are big fans of ‘Aliens’. Fet grabs a rifle and runs in to help. He rescues two of them, but the rest are all killed, including his man-crush, the squad leader.

Unfortunately, Zach has been neither written out nor recast this season. Despite running off with his vampire mommy last season, he hasn’t even been vampirized. The Master has promised Kelly that she and Zach can be together so long as she does one more thing for him.

The episode ends back at Eph’s place. Kelly and a group of little “Feeler” vamps invade the house. Rather than attack Eph, Kelly reveals herself and conveys to him an offer from The Master. If he ever wants to see Zach again, Eph will need to hand over the ‘Occido Lumen’.

Oh noes! What will he do? What… will… he… do?!

Unanswered Question

I asked this last season, but I have to do so again: What’s the big deal about possessing a physical copy of the ‘Occido Lumen’ book? As far as I know, it’s not magical. It’s just a book with information about vampires in it. Why does The Master want it back so desperately? What’s to stop Setrakian and Eph from taking photos of all its pages and then handing over the hard copy? They’d still get all the info they need that way.

I don’t understand the purpose of this storyline at all.

Episode Verdict

I’m not sure what I was hoping for with this. I wished, perhaps, that the new season might bring some sort of fresh reworking of the concept, or at least a reinvigorated sense of purpose. But no, everyone in the cast looks tired and bored, like they only showed up for work because they were contractually obligated to. Nothing of consequence happens in the premiere. The episode doesn’t set up any overarching plot for the season. Even the action scenes are slack and dull.

The worst part of this is that the show’s not even flat-out bad enough to be a fun hate-watch. It’s just boring. Ultimately, that’s an even greater sin.

4 comments

  1. Les

    I have to agree. I have the DVR set to record The Strain and have watched it from the beginning. As I was watching this episode, at some point, I was thinking this show should be way better than it is. I think The Walking Dead has spoiled me in many ways. I had hoped The Strain would be of a caliber that could be compared to The Walking Dead, with regards to the overall quality of the show, but it doesn’t even come close.

  2. “I didn’t have anything truly compelling to distract myself with instead.”

    Check some shrinkwrapped Blu-rays? Unwatched special features? Brush off G.I. Joe action figures?

  3. AMMAN SHIRD

    Josh: in regards to your unanswered question- the Occido Lumen contains info on how to destroy The Master. It’s been some time since I read the books, but the info isn’t visible to the human eye. Dr, Setrakian and Fet did something (I don’t remember what) to it to make it visible; and even then, it was an ancient language only The Elders could decipher. You should read the trilogy of books (not the graphic novels); they’re much more satisfying than watching the series. I tuned out after watching the 2nd ep. of season 2; after reading this recap, I was surprised Nora was killed off. Which doesn’t make sense seeing she is central to the storyline pertaining to defeating The Master (I didn’t give anything away; you have to know they eventually destroy him at some point, right?). I totally agree with your assessment about the cast looking bored; it’s what I’ve been feeling while I was watching the 1st season. Only the actor portraying Setrakian seems to have gotten the tone right (at least as far as season 1 goes).

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I read the first book and wasn’t impressed. The first season of the show seemed to be fairly faithful to it.

      The TV show has not stated anything about info in the book being invisible to the human eye. Even if that turns out to be the case, these characters don’t know it yet. They have no reason to insist on holding onto the physical copy of the book when they could take photos of all the pages. Even if they still don’t want to hand it over, they should take photos anyway in case it gets stolen or destroyed. Sadly, they are all idiots and nobody has thought of this.

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