The Strain: Runaways Review

In this week of The Strain, we see the origins of evil, as well as what happens when Chief Brody meets Dr. Loomis.

I just realized that The Strain is pretty much what would happen if Chief Brody from Jaws teamed up with Dr. Loomis from Halloween, and they hunted Nazi vampires together. Yeah, it really is that good. Tonight’s breakneck-paced episode was penned by Gennifer Hutchison, who also wrote five count them five episodes of Breaking Bad. As if the bar of cool wasn’t high enough on this show, “Runaways” was directed by the OG RoboCop himself, Peter Weller. Now that’s some nerd cred.

So this week, Weller began the proceedings with a check in on Goth rocker and smooth crotched Gabriel Bolivar. When last we saw old Gabe, he flushed his schwantz down a toilet and seemed comfortable with his new found hunger for human blood. This week, old Gabe chowed down on the urologist that came to check out his sudden lack of cockitude.  Gabe’s poor manager couldn’t even get to her mani pedi as she had to find a way to hide the fact that her meal ticket just ate a urologist. She did what any good celebrity wrangler would do; she hired a Winston Wolfe like problem solver to hide the body.

He didn’t last long either. I dig how in the world of The Strain, the music industry is alive and well as this gothic rocker still seems to be able to make millions. I don’t know if selling out a two hundred-seat venue would lead to such opulence, but hey listen, rock n’ roll can never die, but urologists can.

Back to the Loomis/Brody analogy. Like Brody, Eph fights for his family and for what’s right for his community even though the powers that be want to shout him down, and like Loomis, Setrakian has seen the true face of evil and is cursed with forever trying to stop it.  Ephraim Goodweather is a kind family man, completely dedicated to his job above all things. He is a man of science and instinct, and lives in a world of observation and analysis. Abraham Setrakian is the Loomis, also intelligent like Eph, but a man who believes in unadulterated evil because he has seen it. This episode, we got to see what Setrakian has witnessed, and believe me, it was some of the creepiest, most profoundly claustrophobic imagery to come down the horror pipe in a long time.

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This episode, so deftly showed us Setrakian’s past , from his harrowing train ride to a Nazi prison camp in Poland, to being violently ripped from his mother, to being forced to work for the Reich to survive, to having to watch as night after night, a figure cloaked in filthy rags feeds on his fellow prisoners. This is Setrakian’s first encounter with a vampire and as the nightmare scurried among the camp, finding its nightly victim, Setrakian was forced to watch. Seriously, this was some scary shit, made more profound by the setting: a place that was already Hell on Earth that had attracted a literal demon. As the creature fed on Setrakian’s brother, we now understood the depth of the survivor’s hatred for the vampire race and his dedication to eradicating it. Seriously, the thought of that thing darting from bed to bed and choosing its next victim is going to be burned into my forebrain for a long time.

Yeah, I’m going to continue to pour love on this show, but this week contained the first story beat that I found to be disappointing. A few episodes back, we were introduced to one Ann-Marie Barbour, wife of newly born vampire Ansel Barbour. As you all surely remember, Ann-Marie used her newly transformed husband to kill a neighbor who abused her dog. It seemed we were to be treated to a story arc involving an average housewife turned murderess. A surreally empowering tale of depravity, yet, this week, Ann-Marie was revealed to have hanged herself because she couldn’t go on living without dear Ansel. There was more there to Ann-Marie, but I guess, at the rapid pace the show is moving, some story elements had to be jettisoned along the way. Ansel, still stuck in the shed, did serve a plot purpose this week as Eph and Abe dispatched the vamp while the poor guy was still chained to the wall. Eph recorded the entire thing, hoping to show his bosses at CDC that this plague was real.

Sadly, the vamps got to the CDC first, releasing video of Eph stalking the airline pilot who Eph concaved a few weeks back. Now, it seemed that Eph murdered the man in coldblood, a fact that cut him off from any resources the CDC may offer. Abe and Eph not only had to kill a group of vampires, but they also did so while dismantling their corporate machine that can control any aspect of modern life from the distribution of media and information to the Internet itself.

Help is one the way it seemed though, as exterminator extraordinaire Vasiliy Fet stumbled upon a nest of vamps while trying to find out why New York suddenly had undergone a rat exodus. As we have seen, Fet does not suffer vermin to live, and I think some ass-kicking is coming.

Help may not be on the way from Nora. Nora had left Eph’s side and this week, we found out she has a mother suffering from dementia. Nora visited her mom in the hospital and we got to witness her heartbreaking relationship with mama. It was a powerful and typical family drama of a daughter forced to watch her mother deteriorate, but it all got shot out of the airlock when a vampire attacked the rest home. Let’s see if Nora refuses to fight against this plague with her mom in the line of fire.

With the pilot and Ansel gone, we are left with only two plane survivors, Bolivar and the lawyer Joan Luss. We haven’t seen Luss in a bit, as she has not fully transformed yet like the other three. But it’s getting close and her kids are in terrible danger. Good thing we were also introduced to the loyal housekeeper Neeva who seemed dedicated to keeping the kids safe despite the danger to herself. That’s what is so cool about this show, heroism from strange and unexpected places, such as an overweight housekeeper, a gangbanger, an exterminator, an octogenarian Van Helsing, and two brave scientists.

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Will they be enough to bring down the growing hordes of undead festering in New York? They better be, because as the WWII flashback into Setrakian’s past reminded us, the alternative is too terrible to imagine.

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4 out of 5