This week’s episode of ‘The Strain’ amounts to a series of missed opportunities. I’m having a really hard time understanding the point of a lot of the show’s storylines this season.
If the series wishes to project any sense of danger or dread in its narrative, it needs to be less afraid to kill off some major characters (i.e. not just those introduced in the same episode for the sake of dying). I don’t think anyone really notable has kicked the bucket since Jim Kent (Sean Astin) in Season 1, and honestly he was a disposable character who never had much to do anyway. Episode ‘Identity’ attempts to raise the stakes a tiny amount by killing off a semi-regular. Unfortunately, the show chooses the wrong character to write out.
If anyone truly needs to die on this show, it’s whiny and irritating Zach. That kid has to go. Like, right now. The episode provides all the setup needed to off him, but refuses to follow through. What a disappointment.
Nora and Zach spend some time in the city with Councilwoman Feraldo, who has softened considerably over the last few episodes. When they’re done, Feraldo sends them home with a policeman escort. En route, they’re attacked by evil Kelly and the “Feeler” vamps, and the cop gets killed. Nora and the boy run into a church for shelter and call Setrakian for help.
It doesn’t take long for the vampires to get in. Nora tries to hide, but stupid Zach with his conveniently inconvenient asthma wheezing gives up their position. Just before Kelly can get to them, however, the cavalry arrives. Setrakian, Fet and new recruit Fitzwilliam enter the church blasting away, and kill some of the Feelers. Kelly escapes, but Fitzwilliam gets bitten by a Feeler. Knowing what this means, he asks Setrakian to not let him turn into a vampire. Setrakian swiftly decapitates the man.
So, yeah, that’s the last of Fitzwilliam. Almost immediately after being reintroduced to the series as if he’d play an important part in the story, he’s gone. Why the hell did we spend so much time watching Setrakian and Dutch recruit him on Staten Island? Beyond giving up a small amount of information about how Eldritch Palmer has been buying up real estate all over the city (no big surprise, that), the entire Fitzwilliam storyline accomplishes nothing at all.
Meanwhile, Zach lives another day. How does that make any sense? Seriously, screw that kid.
Eph in D.C.
Out and about in Washington, Eph meets up with an old friend named Rob. He tells him the whole story about what’s really been going on in New York, and explains that he needs help finding ways to “scale up” and disburse his anti-vampire contagion. Rob promises to hook him up with contacts he has in Big Pharma and the National Guard.
Now that he’s outside New York, Eph also learns for the first time that the President is on the verge of impeachment and that literal fist-fighting has broken out on the floor of Congress. I get that we’re expected to believe that Eldritch Palmer shut off all internet service in New York City, but how long ago was that in show time? At least a few weeks. Nobody’s found a way around that yet? Even if not, we’ve seen that TV news is still broadcasting in the city. Cell phones work. There are a million other ways for news to travel into the city. How is it still so cut off from contact with the outside world?
Anyway, using the fake name “Jon” something-or-other, Eph meets Rob’s Big Pharma contact, a woman named Leigh. It takes no time at all for Eph to convince her that people are turning into vampires, and get her on board with his plan to exterminate about three million of them. She just immediately believes him and makes some calls to gear up her company to manufacture the plague. That was easy.
Rob makes an excuse to slip away and let Eph and Leigh get drunk and flirt. Completely forgetting that he left a girlfriend in New York whom he supposedly loves (not to mention a vampirized ex-wife he’s barely gotten over), Eph hops right into bed with her.
The next morning, Eph and Rob have another successful meeting with a general in the National Guard who’s plenty eager to help spread the contagion and kill three million New Yorkers. Things are really looking up!
Eph and Leigh decide to celebrate with more sex, this time at Rob’s house. But oh my god, they find Rob’s dead body on the floor! An assassin steps out of the shadows and murders Leigh, then shoots Eph. He’s apparently not a very good shot when trying to kill important people, fortunately. Eph is wounded but manages to find another gun somewhere and blows away the assassin. Eph searches the body and finds a Stoneheart Group ID on him. Isn’t it the first rule of assassin training not to wear anything that can identify you?
Gus continues to patronize the Indian restaurant and pester Angel the elderly busboy. He also flirts with pretty waitress Aanya (who I previously thought was related to Angel, but now don’t think so). When her father, the restaurant owner, orders Aanya to go out on a delivery run, Gus offers to go with her for protection. Angel gets indignant and insists on going as well.
Of course, they get attacked by vampires in an apartment building. Gus kills one and Angel another, but Angel aggravates an old knee injury and has to be carried out of the building.
Why the hell are we wasting screen time on any of this? What does this have to do with anything? What a pointless diversion.
That ninja vampire who snuck into the city last week is apparently a real badass. He can walk around in daylight (how’s that possible?), and we’re told that he trained Vonn and the other ninja commandoes. (Great job with that.)
I don’t believe he’s named in the episode, but I think maybe this guy is Quinlan.
Whoever he may be, he meets with the Ancients and gives them a stern talking-to about how badly they’ve fucked up and how he’s going to have to clean up their mess. He must be important if he can talk to the powerful vampire overlords like that.
The time has come for the Master to change bodies, and Eichorst believes that he’s been chosen as the new host. He brings Gabe Bolivar along to watch his glorious transformation, but it turns out that the Master would rather use Bolivar’s body instead. He projectile vomits his evil worms all over Gabe’s face and drops dead. Eichorst cries at having been passed over. The new Bolivar-Master makes Eichorst kiss his hand and pledge his continued loyalty, no matter what form the Master may take.
Huh. Why Bolivar? He hasn’t done shit except stand around and be annoying since turning into a vampire. I expected him to get killed off soon, not become the embodiment of ultimate evil.
With all the blather that producer Carlton Cuse made about needing to recast the role of Zach because the character would take a dark turn this season, I also expected that the Master would use the kid as his new host body. (Not that it would make any logical sense, but I thought that’s where the show was going.) I guess that’s off the table now. In which case, again, what purpose does Zach serve in the show at all, except to get on viewers’ nerves?
This show is frustrating. I really want to like it, but so much of the writing is just a lazy mess.