‘The Strain’ Episode 2 Review: “The Box”

By July 21, 2014
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Here we are at episode 2 of FX’s new horror series “The Strain,” and I’m really conflicted as to how I should even begin this review. Before sitting down to watch the pilot (which I viewed twice), my excitement for the vampire series was quite palpable. Based on the book trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, “The Strain” began last week with a unique look and feel that stands out from nearly everything on television right now. That’s pretty damn cool until a few minutes go by and the silly story and awful dialogue begin unfolding on screen.

Still, my review of the pilot was pretty positive as “The Strain” is looking to be a fun summer series. After watching last night’s episode, though, future viewings may require some sort of libation to get me through the ridiculousness. Oh, and before I go on, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.

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Episode 2 begins with an introduction to the rather silly looking rat catcher Vasiliy Fet (played by Kevin Durand). With Durand’s size and Fet’s Ukranian background, you best believe I wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with this man. Alas, he’s on the good side and his only real purpose in this episode is to dangle dead rats in public places.

One thing I didn’t mention last week was The Stoneheart Group. From what I’ve gathered so far, this company is a shell corporation of sorts that wields some major power. So far, it seems that Eldritch Palmer (played by Jonathan Hyde) is the man behind the company and he’s in cahoots with the German vampire Thomas Eichhorst (played by Richard Sammel). They are the reason why the giant beast vampire known simply as “The Master” was brought to New York on that dead plane in the first place!

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An interesting tidbit is that Eichhorst and Abraham Setrakian (the old Jew with the sword) have some history together. When the vampire shows up to the jail where Setrakian is being held, we are given a slight hint at a backstory that implies this battle has gone on for quite some time. What’s more, it seems that Eichhorst was the Nazi that gave Abraham his number tattoo in Auschwitz during The Holocaust. (Trivia: Auschwitz was the only concentration camp that tattooed number IDs on the prisoners.)

Of course, just when things started getting intriguing, we jump back to Ephraim and his distracting hair piece. From the discovery of the smashed up body from “Night Zero,” Goodweather and team proceed slowly with their investigation. And no sooner do they try to get a handle on the possible viral outbreak then they are shut down by the higher-ups as a bigger ploy by Stoneheart to get the remaining four sickly survivors onto the street.

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Dr. Goodweather takes some time to visit his son and soon-to-be ex-wife and while I know this is a story line in the books, it’s really not playing out well on screen. However, it’s worth noting that the books put more emphasis on his relationship with his son as his character is introduced already divorced. Still, this and the discovery that Ephraim is a recovering alcoholic really don’t seem to play yet into the bigger picture of the story, and del Toro and Hogan have failed at making me care thus far. Watching that scene in AA made me wonder if Guillermo saw “House of Cards” and the drunken train-wreck of a congressman Stoll played and thought, “That’s our guy!”

Anyway, Ephraim’s team gets help by the infected pilot of the plane, who seems to immediately get worse. They throw him into the hospital while we find both goth rocker Gabriel Bolivar (played by Jack Kesey) and powerful attorney Joan Luss (played by Leslie Hope) stone cold kickin’ it at a cool looking Manhattan restaurant. But this place isn’t winning any Michelin stars because Vasiliy Fet is downstairs shutting it down by swinging around another dead rat!

It’s very obvious both Luss and Bolivar are sick. You can see it in Joan’s blood tinted eyes and Gabriel’s extra pale complexion. They both hear ringing in their ears and after Luss sees a few drops of blood in her glass of wine, she opts to go home. Little gothy fufu, on the other hand, goes and attempts a drug induced sexy threesome with some groupies but ruins everything when he decides to try and eat one of his bed pal’s necks. Upon her disgusted exit, she spilled A LOT of blood onto the floor – like TOO much blood for it to just be a flesh wound and survivable. But she just sauntered out like it ain’t no thang and we are left to find Marilyn Manson here lapping at the blood trail on the floor. It’s just another ordinary Tuesday night in the Bolivar Boudoir!

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Last week’s episode left off with the little French gal everyone thought was dead returning home to her grieving father. In the mythos created by del Toro and Hogan, these vampires are apparently driven by love since their hearts are empty…or something. Whatever the case, this is the episode where Ephraim’s team discovers something has gone awry with his morgue attendant pal. There’s also a rather gruesome and predictable scene between the French girl and her unfortunate father in their upstairs bathtub.

Overall, I felt episode 2 was a bit of a letdown. There were some interesting moments throughout, but it just didn’t really deliver for me. Maybe it’s one of those bottle episodes that is setting up something amazing. We shall see! Summer schlock or not, FX’s “The Strain” is starting to remind me of what horror television was like in the ’90s (“Langoliers” anyone?). Do we really need to go back to that style? Still, there seem to be enough fun elements weaved throughout that will lead me to continue giving the series a chance. That being said, I may be going into episode 3 flat out drunk. You’ve been warned!

What were your thoughts on episode 2 of “The Strain”? Slap me with your thoughts in the comments below!

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.