The Strain S2E01 “BK, NY” REVIEW

The Strain S2E01 “BK, NY” REVIEW

The_Strain_2.01_BY_NY_main

stars 3.5

Airing in the UK on Watch, Wednesdays, 10pm

Writers: Carlton Cuse, Chuck Hogan
Directors: Gregory Hoblit, Guillermo del Toro (prologue only)

Essential Plot Points:

  • Setrakian makes a deal with the Ancients to track down the Master for them, but not kill him
  • Eph and Nora decide to create some biological weapon that will kill the vampires rather than finding a cure for the infection
  • Eldritch Palmer hires a pretty young assistant, Coco Marchand
  • The Master commands Eichhorst to create a new breed of vampires – the Feelers – from a coachload of blind schoolchildren
  • Eichhorst gives Eph’s ex-wife, Kelly, command of the Feelers so that she can bring her son, Zach, to the Master (he clearly holds a grudge against Eph)
  • Zach sulks a lot

The_Strain_2.01_BY_NY_prologue

Review:

Season one of The Strain largely rested its case for being weekly appointment viewing on its inventive, full-on gore and little else. With a couple of notable exceptions the heroes were a bland bunch, and the soap surrounding central scientist Ephraim Goodweather’s marital problems sucked the life out of early episodes. The vampires were great, though, and there were plenty of elaborate blood baths and queasy images to savour. It was a show of two halves.

All of which makes season two’s opening volley a pleasant surprise. Sure, the gore moments remain the highlights – the images that live on long after the episode has finished – but for a season premiere it’s all rather low-key, relying more on mood, and set-up, and nuanced interaction. There are some very long dialogue-heavy scenes, with some very long pregnant pauses in places (especially during the meeting between Eichhorst and Palmer); it’s like True Blood in season one. When it was still good.

The core team of heroes, battered and bruised after failing to kill the Master, oddly feel more like a team now, even if Setrakian appears to have aged 10 years and can barely get to the end of a sentence without needing an oxygen mask. Fet and Dutch get some great lines and their scenes with and Nora are even managing to humanise them.

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This page reveals how alcohol gives vampires brewer’s droop

There’s room for all these pleasing character beats because, let’s face it, not an awful lot happens, especially for an extended episode. The lengthy prologue, directed by Guillermo del Toro, looks great and opens the season with style but if it hadn’t been included then it wouldn’t have made a jot of difference to the plot that half a line of dialogue couldn’t have fixed. Setrakian makes his deal with the Ancients, Eichhorst vampirises a bus full of blind kids, Palmer starts feeling something in his loins he hasn’t felt for a while and Eph acquires a handy couple of test subjects for his new “vampire plague” scheme. It’s not an episode that grabs you by the scruff of the neck but it does tease and intrigue.

It’s not all good news. Apart from the missteps listed below, Eph’s sudden reversion to drinking again is handled with as much delicacy as Boris Johnson combing his hair. You can just tell this is going to be a MAJOR PLOT ARC this year. Nora remains worryingly light on personality (you try describing her character without making reference to her job). The vampire big wigs are annoyingly vague about their plans and slow at putting them into action. And it’s still difficult to get a feel for how far the public outside of our core characters are aware of what’s going on (surely the world’s media would be descending on New York by now?).

While the episode feels a little like it’s treading water, there’s a renewed commitment to the characters here that bodes well after the overwought action of the final episodes of season one. And the gore? That’s as dependable as ever.

 

The Good:

  • This is a show that like to make you go yuck and it does it a number of time this episode in creatively icky ways; from the old Master vomiting worms over the Master-elect’s face in the prologue to the Ancients waking up for breakfast (though it did look a little like “death by interpretive dance”).
  • The_Strain_2.01_BY_NY_dance
  • The sexual frisson between Eldritch Palmer and Coco Marchand is creepy but surprisingly well conveyed. Coco greets Eichhorst like she hasn’t even noticed him because she’s been so busy hero worshipping Palmer. Eichhorst’s testy interruption of their flirting is a joy to watch.
  • Eph and Nora actually come across like scientists trying to sort out a problem.
  • There plenty of enjoyable banter between the main characters, that feels more natural and less forced than the “down time” moments last season. We’re especially loving the Fet/Setrakian bromance.

The Bad:

  • The new kid playing Zach is awful. He’s barely in it but just sulks and shouts a lot in a way you fear is going to get worse and very irritating.
  • The actor playing the old Master in the prologue may have spent hours in the make-up chair having the latest in latex tech applied to him but he still looks like Gollum in a saggy leotard.
  • The_Strain_2.01_BY_NY_saggy_leotard
  • The Occido Lumen already sounds like one of those familiar plot devices so overused in supernatural shows: “Turn to page 65 for a way to defeat your enemy that’ll only be partly effective… see next season.”

And The Random:

  • Max Charles, who replaces Ben Hyland, played the young Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
  • Did anybody else think the prologue was like some bizarre twisted, inverted version of A Christmas Carol?
  • Many of the show’s fans who had read the books assumed that the hooded Strigoi vampire played by Stephen McHattie was one of the key characters from the novels, Quinlan. So it’s a surprise when he reveals himself to be called Vaun in this episode. This was a deliberate bit of retconning by writers. Vaun was intended to be Quinlan when he was introduced in season one, but then Chuck Hogan, Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro realised they had “missed a trick” as regards introducing the Quinlan character. Luckily Vaun had never been named on screen so they made sure he called himself by another name on screen here, leaving them to pull off their Quinlan trick… whatever that might be.
  • The_Strain_2.01_BY_NY_fan_fave

 

 

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