The Strain: Occultation review

How big is the story of The Strain going to get? Global. Here's Marc's review of "Occultation."

The latest episode of The Strain, written by newcomer Justin Britt-Gibson and once again directed by Robocop hisownself Peter Weller, began with a shot of Earth right before an eclipse. The image of the planet was then juxtaposed with radio transmissions that served to inform the viewer that the world is growing aware of the insanity bubbling up in New York City. This imagery showed just how big the story of The Strain has the potential to be. Contrasting this opening, the episode proceeded to tell very small, personal tales of those deeply involved in the spreading vampire plague.

These intimate tales allowed viewers to see just how catastrophic the events of the show are by showing how they affected individuals on the most personal of levels. Take Vasiliy Fet, exterminator extraordinaire, for example. This week, we got to witness the human side of Fet. We learned that he is a genius level intellect whose father believes he is wasting his talents by being a “rat catcher.” We learned that there is a great deal of pain in Fet’s life, a great deal of regret and familial drama. There is a very gentle heart that beats under those coveralls, a dedicated professional who could be doing something way more glamorous in life than killing vermin, but Fet has a calling.

And thank goodness for that calling, because this week, as the vampiric outbreak began in earnest, Fet came face to face with real vampires. Unlike Eph, unlike Nora, Fet did not hesitate in the least even though the vamps were formerly his boss and a co-worker who was totally crushing on him. Fet fights back and does what he does best, he finds a way to destroy vermin. In this case he, without blinking, exposes the two recently undead to sunlight, roasting his former colleagues where they stood. Fet is now an indoctrinated vampire killer, and it couldn’t have come sooner because Setrakian needed some help.

Setrakian is so kick ass, it’s very easy to forget he is a very old man- a very old man, with a very old man’s issues, such as heart problems. With Eph on a mission of his own, Setrakian was alone as he continued to clean out vamp nests. And he kicked ass. Of course he did, but the strain (pun kind of intended) got to him and the elderly Van Helsing stand-in was overwhelmed by a particularly loaded vamp’s nest. It became clear that Setrakian could not do this alone; he would need Eph or anyone to help him. It seems Fet is one his way, but what of Eph and Nora?

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Eph’s concern as always was his family, and this week, his wife’s boyfriend may have become the man most desired to become vamp food on television. Stupid Matt, the world’s dumbest Sears manager, ratted Eph out to the FBI and probably put his girlfriend and Eph’s ex-wife Kelly in ridiculous amounts of danger. He already took Eph’s family, his office, his house, and most of his dignity, but now stupid Matt put the city in danger. I hope his stupid Sears is ground zero for the infestation.

So thanks to douche nozzle Matt, Eph was arrested, beaten by some overzealous feds, and is unable to help his family, Setrakian, or the city. Luckily for Eph, and very unluckily for the feds, on their way to check out Eph’s claim of a vampire corpse at the hospital, they were attacked and both feds were eaten. It was pretty badass to see Eph harden to the point where his only reaction to seeing the feds get vampire tentacle tongued was a cold “I warned you.” 

As for Nora, she could no longer try to run from the vamp plague as she is now forced to protect her dementia patient mother. Nora is a reluctant warrior, but now that she has seen the truth, we can see the woman Eph fell for. She is brave and a born protector even if it has taken awhile for her to embrace that side of herself.

What’s with this show and mothers anyway? Nora is driven to heroism because of her mom, while gang banger Gus is totally motivated by helping his mom. This week, Gus was offered by Eichorst, well not offered, told in no uncertain terms on threat of a harrowing death, a new job. This time, Gus had to remove the vampire corpse Eph had hidden in the hospital. So Gus teams with his fat buddy and Jim to steal the corpse, which they succeed at but not before Gus sees exactly it is what they stole while his poor fat friend got infected.

Now, like Fet, Gus is face to face with the truth and must come to the realization that human extermination is classless, that gangbangers and penthouse owners alike are threatened. Whose side will Gus take? I’m guessing he will oppose anyone that threatens his mama, which means Gus might have to put on a white hat.

So by episode’s end, we have Nora, Eph, and Setrakian back together, we have Fet gaining an understanding that sunlight and vampires get along about as well as 1,000,000 Moms with RuPaul fans, we have Gus seeing the truth of who he is working for, and we have Eichorst, in all his Max Schreck glory, performing some kind of terrifying ritual in a padded cell involving a length of chain, a crank, and a victim.

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With the coming of the eclipse, the vampire threat is no longer a threat, it is a reality, a real contagion that is affecting everything and let me tell you, watching this episode after reading about the potential Ebola scare made me pee a little. The Strain continued to tell a story on a global scale but one that we get to view from the microcosm of everyday New Yorkers. The Strain delivers the goods even in episodes where nobody’s penis falls off.

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4 out of 5