The Strain season 3 episode 2 review: Bad White

Episode 2 of The Strain's new season is nasty, intense, and a vast improvement on last week’s slow-moving premiere...

This review contains spoilers.

3.2 Bad White

I’m happy to inform you, my fellow gorehounds, that the second episode of the third season of The Strain is a vast improvement on last week’s instalment. While last week wasn’t terrible by any means, it also didn’t move the story at all and devolved into a bit of a parody of a survival horror saga complete with a third person shooter riff that wasn’t exciting or clever. Hello, 1994 would like its Doom reference back. Anyway, this week refocuses the series as it narrows its focus onto the exploration of a few key cast members rather than present the whole Strain tapestry at once.

First, let’s take a look at poor Ephraim Goodweather. Eph must decide whether to take the Master up on his offer and steal the Occido Lumen from his pal Setrakian in exchange for Eph’s son Zach’s life. Of course, Eph would do anything to keep his son safe, but he is not into stealing from his Strigoi hunting pals. In Eph’s defense, Team Human doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere with the Lumen and Eph is not buying into the book’s supposed magical powers. I guess this is where Eph’s constant struggle between magic and science comes in. Eph can’t see what good the Lumen is doing because he doesn’t believe the quasi-religious text has value, so why not take it to save his son from the Master?

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But Setrakian does believe in the Lumen and continues to obsessively study the tome in order to find the Master’s weakness. Thankfully, Setrakian does a bit more this week than just study his book like a prospective lawyer before the bar exam. But before we get to what Setrakian does this week, let’s look into Eldritch Palmer.

Palmer makes his Season 3 debut this week. When last we saw the evil version of Mr. Drummond, he just lost the love of his life Coco because he betrayed the Master. Now, Palmer is back to being a slave to the White. If you’ll remember, the White is the Master’s healing blood that can keep a body young and vital. Even Setrakian uses Strigoi White to keep his vim and vigour up. But Palmer does not like to be beholden to the Master or to the world’s nastiest Nazi, Thomas Eichhorst. So Mr Palmer is taking it upon himself to fund centres where his scientists are using dementia patients and infecting the poor souls with Strigoi blood in order to synthesize the White. In fact, the show’s opening features a particularly potent bit of medical horror as Palmer’s scientists perform all sorts of horrific experiments on innocent victims infected with the Strigoi virus. This bit of nasty business established the tone for the episode, which stayed potently intense throughout.

We also got to see how Zach is doing this week and the answer is ‘not very well’. Zach is still being held by Eph’s Strigoi ex-wife — and Zach’s mum — Kelly. Kelly made the Master’s offer to Eph last week — the Lumen for the kid — but this week, Kelly’s Strigoi nature is getting the better of her. Every time she sees her son, Kelly can only focus on the rush of his blood through his veins. Zach even manages to escape at one point and sees his mum feeding on some dying kid. Now Zach sees her for what she really is, a parasitical monster. I would feel bad for Zach if he didn’t cause the death of Nora Martinez last season. And let me tell you, Nora’s death is still felt on this series. Without Nora, there is now only one strong female lead and the show was suffering for it.

I say was because this week thankfully checked in with Dutch Velders, the most kickass computer hacker outside the cast of Mr Robot (can you imagine how Elliot from Mr Robot would fare against the Strigoi? He’d probably just pop Adderall until they turned to puppies or something). When last we saw Dutch, she left the safe arms of Vasiliy Fet to take her chances with her ex-girlfriend. Well, her ex rejected Dutch and now she’s stuck ransacking condos for food with some of her old pals. Of course, these old pals leave Dutch to die the second they see a Strigoi so Dutch has to go it alone. This was a really dumb move by these hipsters because Dutch cuts through the Strigoi and even tracks these friends that abandoned her back to their pad in order to tell them to piss off. In a nice bit of catharsis, Dutch sees that the lead hipster has been infected by a bite and cuts his face in half. No more artisan pickles for that guy.

The episode ends with three different cliffhangers. One, the Master feeds Zach some of the White so the kid doesn’t die from an asthma attack. It is a very effective moment when Zach sees his mother for the monster she is, very Coraline, but I just can’t feel bad for Zach because he is directly responsible for the death of Nora. He chose his evil mother over Nora and now Nora is gone. The week’s second cliffhanger deals with Palmer making a deal with Setrakian that if the Strigoi hunter supplies him with the White, he’ll abandon the Master so the Strigoi doesn’t have the benefit of Palmer’s billions. This would be bad for the vamps because Palmer is bankrolling feeding centres across the five boroughs. If Palmer is out of the picture, how will the Strigoi feed once New York falls? And the final cliffhanger saw the Strigoi with a heart of gold, Quinlan, cutting a deal with Eph to use the Lumen as bait to lure the Master into a death trap. So it looks like Eph and Quinlan will soon become partners, but this still can lead to the Master getting his hands on the Lumen.

I know, we covered a lot, but the episode is pretty loaded with white slimy goodness. Lots of intriguing storylines begin this week after last episode’s non-committal opening, so let’s hope next week’s episode sees the series keep its momentum from this week. And let’s hope we get to see Dutch kick a lot more ass because with Nora gone, The Strain needs a lady’s touch to keep things balanced. 

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Read Marc’s review of the previous episode, New York Strong, here.