With a couple of big CGI sequences, I suspect that this week’s episode of ‘The Strain’ may have burned through the show’s visual effects budget for the season. Too bad a little more of that money couldn’t have been paid toward hiring some good writers instead.
That’s not entirely fair. Episode ‘Occultation’ is actually fairly decent, as far as this series goes. However, the scripting is still filled with numerous inconsistencies and illogical plot turns that could have been easily fixed with a good rewrite or two. For one thing, Eph’s friend the dipshit Medical Examiner makes a return appearance, now vampirized and running around attacking people in the streets. Yet the last time we saw him, he was being torn apart and eaten by literally hundreds of vampire zombies. Somehow, he’s more or less intact now, aside from being a monster. I was bothered previously when the little French girl’s father and Ansel’s neighbor both returned as vampires after we’d assumed that they were used for food, but this one stands out as more improbable and is harder to suspend disbelief over.
Also annoying is that vampires are killing people out in the open in front of hordes of witnesses, yet news of this hasn’t traveled anywhere and people in the city outside view of the attacks have no idea that anything is wrong. I realize that the show tried to address this by saying that the hacker girl turned off the internet (which was ridiculous enough) and the eclipse is messing with cell phone reception, but is literally no form of communication working? We see people using landline phones. How about police radios? I can’t believe that the two FBI agents wouldn’t have any idea what’s happening. The news media certainly hasn’t had any problem putting Eph’s face on TV screens to announce that he’s a fugitive from the law.
As far as that last point goes, Eph is arrested by the FBI for allegedly murdering Captain Redfern, but escapes when the agents are killed on the street by the former coroner. He makes his way to Setrakian’s pawn shop to regroup, and finds Nora and her mother already there.
At least somewhat addressing one of my ongoing complaints (that the show isn’t actually scary), this episode includes two very suspenseful set-pieces. In the first, Setrakian breaks into a house to kill a vampire and is almost overrun by a whole turned family. He suffers some sort of heart or angina attack and barely escapes. Later, Vasiliy goes to his office and is attacked by his vampirized boss. Rather gruesomely, he discovers that sunlight will kill a vampire. Moments later, he finds that the secretary he’d been flirting with has turned as well. He doesn’t hesitate in killing her too. Vasiliy seems like a rather pragmatic guy. He sees a problem and takes action.
Gang-banger Gus is back, this time with a storyline that isn’t totally irrelevant and pointless. Well, then again, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. First, he’s summoned by Eichorst and, despite trying to turn him down, is ordered to steal and dispose of Redfern’s corpse. Presumably, this is to eliminate evidence of the real nature of the vampire plague. However, by the time this happens, vampires are already out and about killing people in plain sight. So what’s the point of hiding Redfern’s body? And would Jim (who’s forced to help Gus and his buddy steal the body) really let them dump an infected corpse in the river? I know he’s not a doctor, but I’d expect anyone who works for the CDC to be a little smarter than that.
Like the others before it, this episode is a real mixed bag. It has some very promising moments, but nothing about this show feels fully thought-through. I understand that FX has renewed the series for a second season. I hope that the hiatus between seasons gives the writers some time to put more effort into their plotting.