When last we left our intrepid vampire hunters, The Strain failed to stick a landing on the otherwise awesome season one. Instead of giving fans a send off worthy of the classy gore-fest, fans got an episode filled with heroic characters standing around, mouths agape, as the Master and his minions all escaped. It was a strangely paced illogical bit of head-scratching melodrama to cap off a fantastic season.
Thankfully, season two of the coolest vampire show on TV (and these days, its only competition is the Vampire Dairies, oh Twilight, what hast thou wrought?) starts off on the right foot to give returning fans a profoundly entertain hour plus of gory, heart stopping vampire action. Things start off classy with an always-welcome Setrakian flashback. Last season, the best parts of the series were the flashbacks to Abraham Setrakian’s youth. From the Nazi death camps to happier times, fans got a full look into the boy that would grow to become the badass octogenarian vampire killer.
This week, fans got to see an even younger Setrakian hear The tale of Sardu, a kind noble inflicted with gigantism, from his old nana. Sardu’s sad tale eventually saw him transformed into the Master in a stunning sequence that was directed by Guillermo Del Toro his own damn self. It was probably the most Del Toro thing this avid Del Toro fan has ever seen and it gave a really unique and cool origin to the show’s main protagonist. The whole thing had this really cool Brian Lumley/Robert McCammon vibe. But most of all, it showed that the Master and Setrakian have been barreling toward a collision for almost a decade and that even the Master’s story has an air of tragedy and humanity to it.
Onto the present, where Setrakian, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, Vasily Fet, Dutch Velders, and little Zach Goodweather have fortified themselves to plan their next move against the vamps. The show does a really subtle job of allowing the viewer to experience the chaos of a vampire-infested NYC as every scene has some kind of background siren or other audible bits of chaos that serve as a reminder to just how far the Big Apple has been penetrated.
One moment of significance happened when Setrakian was abducted by that third party group of vamps. You remember-the street gang like vamps who took Gus Elizalde into the fold last season. Sadly, Gus just kind of stood around looking menacing this week, but we did get to learn the origins of this other group of vampires as they offered Setrakian their services. But lest we forget that these vampires are not in any way on the side of the angels, we got to witness the elders feed on some poor hapless schmuck. Yeah, they may not be bent on world domination like The Master but these ain’t the sparkly kind of vampire either.
As for Eph and the gang, Eph seems to be hitting the bottle hard (might be celebrating the coming Ant-Man premiere because this is indeed the week of Corey Stoll) but is still able to work with Nora in finding a scientific way to stop the spread of the vampire contagion. The series has always struck a great balance between science and folklore, myth and practicality as each member of Setrakian’s crew brings either a classical way to combat the vampires or a very modern way. For Eph and Nora, it is science, and despite Eph’s drinking, the two are still working on a way to take down the vamps from a cellular level. Fet is still banking on a solid piece of rebar though.
As for some stuff that wasn’t as effective we had the inevitable clash between father and son as little Zach was having a very difficult time accepting his mom had turned. If you want to know what these scenes were like, check out the few episodes of The Walking Dead after Carl kills Lori, rinse, repeat. More effective character work was the bonding session between Dutch and Zach.
But what about the bad guys you ask? Well, The Master is dying and has a plan in place to replace the giant Sardu body with a new form to control. Thomas Eichorst is still the smarmiest, most vile big bad on TV, and Eldritch Palmer got even more creepy (if that’s possible) as he has fallen for the newly introduced real estate femme fatale character- Coco Marchand. Eichorst’s advances and job proposal to Marchand were slimier than any of the vamp killing scenes in this week’s episode. Also, believe it or not, The Master and Eichorst hatched their most vile plan yet. For some reason, The Master dispatched his Nazi flunky to kidnap a bus load of blind children. By episode’s end, Eichorst gives the children to Kelly Goodweather, Eph’s transformed wife. The poor blind kids had been transformed into something-other. “Feelers,” Eichorst called them and yeah, YEESH!
Grue fans need look no further than the Ancients’ feeding ritual and a heart in throat, video game like chase through a storage facility. The acting was top notch especially by David Bradley, whose Setrakian continued to strike a balance between elderly weariness and profound inner strength. The Strain might have ended in a disappointing fashion last year, but this week’s episode reminded gore hounds why this series is one of the most proudly horrific shows on TV.