‘The Strain’ 1.03 Recap: “A Thing of Enormous Power and Terrible Will”

I wasn’t much impressed with the second episode of FX’s ‘The Strain’. Fortunately, the third is an improvement. Even so, I’m not sure that it’s enough of an improvement to completely win me over.

The characters in the show still do a lot of stupid, nonsensical things. All four of the plane survivors have been told that they were infected with a fatal virus, yet three of them refuse to take it seriously or go back to a hospital. Nerdy Ansel is clearly very sick. His head is throbbing, his eyes are bloodshot, and all of his senses are heightened to the point of pain. None of that seems weird to him, and he thinks he can just sleep it off. Really? How about when his wife catches him drinking meat juice from a raw steak and lapping it up with a forked tongue? That doesn’t concern her enough to tell anyone?

Goth rocker Gabriel Bolivar has similar issues. His Dr. Feelgood enthusiastically prescribes him a bunch of pain meds, but can’t do anything for what is apparently his horribly deformed penis. Of course, since this isn’t a premium pay channel, the series can’t actually show that on camera. However, Bolivar later goes to take a leak and we hear something plop into the toilet. We catch a brief glimpse of a fleshy mass before he flushes it, then turns around to expose himself in a full-frontal shot, revealing that he now has the anatomy of a Ken doll.

At this point, I’m willing to give the show some credit. Being infected with the vampire virus must have overrode the victims’ reason and made them unconcerned with the changes happening to them. That still doesn’t explain Ansel’s wife, though.

The only of the plane survivors worried about being sick is the pilot, Redfern. Ephraim keeps him under quarantine in the hospital while he runs tests. Later, Redfern disappears from his room. Nora, Eph and Jim (Sean Astin) corner him in the hospital basement, where the previously friendly pilot goes full monster and attacks them with a tentacle tongue. Eph smashes his head in with a fire extinguisher. I guess this is his first real clue that something much weirder than a simple virus is going on.

The episode opens with a cool scene showing the Nazi vampire’s real face before he puts on his human mask. He looks a lot like Voldemort. I’m also digging Kevin Durand as the health inspector/pest exterminator who’s slowly discovering that the city has a very troubling rat infestation problem.

One thing the show has yet to do, unfortunately, is actually be scary, or even suspenseful. That’s a pretty significant failing in what is supposed to be a horror series.

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