The Strain episode 6 review: Occultation

Review Billy Grifter
19 Aug 2014 - 07:32

Has The Strain dug itself into a creative hole? Here's Billy's review of Occultation...

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Occultation

It’s a cliché of the horror drama that solid advice given honestly is inherently ignored. But then part of me started telling myself to walk away from this clunker after the second episode, and yet here I still am, rolling with the punches. Except these aren’t the sort of punches that send you reeling. They are body blows as the show chooses to have soapy moments that really don’t contribute to the overall narrative, other than to embedded it deeper in a creative morass.

The first scene we’re given where Thomas has a snack didn’t show anything we didn’t already know about him or the vampires. But that was electrifying compared with what came afterwards with Ephraim’s ex-wife and her perfect family life in Queens. It’s like we’re being bludgeoned by the creators shouting ‘care about these characters!’, when it’s beyond doubt that there is no connection. I hate her, I hate her boyfriend, I hate her friend. If she chooses to stay in New York after a CDC official she knows tells her to leave, then she deserves what comes next. 

What is it we’re supposed to like about her, I’m lost? That she and everyone around the character (including her son) have been massively unsympathetic characters from the outset is now set in stone. So suddenly expecting the viewers to care about them now is wholly unrealistic, if not a little sadistic.

Yet a big chunk of this episode goes to them, and a couple of idiots that Vasily meets in the diner, and two FBI morons, and Vasily’s permanently disappointed father. These diversions all contribute very little, other than to blow valuable running time. In fact if you boil it down to events that actually seem to have significance, then you might get ten minutes out of this at a pinch.

Oddly the eclipse wasn’t one of these things. Because I didn’t see anything happen of significance during this time, and it only (as eclipses do) lasted a few minutes. But that’s long enough for the medical examiner to run amok in the street, kill a couple of stupid FBI guys, and infect Felix. I liked Felix, but the worms sought out his chubby little arm like guided missiles.

That makes the eclipse look like a coincidence, where I’m sure in the book it actually has a greater significance. The person who did the shadow effect needs to know that the umbra travels at over 1,000 miles an hour, and so would cross the width of Manhattan in under two seconds, and not the leisurely stroll it takes in the show. And, the last total solar eclipse with ‘totality’ in New York was in 1925, and there isn’t another one due in the next thousand years or more. So it would have been somewhat more special an event than the show makes out. The longest totality can last is about seven and a half minutes, though partial coverage lasts a couple of hours. Maybe with sun-block the vampires can move around some more next week?

If one event was probably significant it was the dumping of the body in the river, because why didn’t they burn it if they wanted to dispose of it? I’m going to assume it is another means to dispense the worms, because to think otherwise would be depressing.

That Vasily and Gus haven’t been bound into the larger plotline yet is also massively frustrating, as we’re about to hit the half-way point of the season. The final line of the episode delivered by Abraham revealed something that’s been obvious from the outset: that the plan he had was utterly rubbish and wasn’t going to work. In a week he’s managed to recruit two adults and a dementia sufferer, where there are probably thousands of infected roaming the city attacking people too dumb to take their eclipse glasses off. The Strain’s progress is exponential, where Abraham’s is barely linear. That he’s getting too old isn’t the critical factor in why they need a ‘new plan’, even if that is how it is presented. My guess, based on Vasily’s work is that the plan involves very bright light, but equally it might involve opening a chain of all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants and puffer fish venom.

The Strain needs to stop digging, because the creative hole here is surely deep enough now.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, Runaways, here.

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