I guess you can say patience has its virtues, because here we are at episode 3 of “The Strain” and finally, I can say that I enjoyed the show! The episode in question is titled “Gone Smooth” and it’s pretty damn evident as to why it’s named that but I’ll get into that detail a bit later. Remember, before you proceed, there are SPOILERS below!
“Gone Smooth” doesn’t really fix all the issues I’ve had with the first two episodes of the series, but it is a nice change of pace and definitely what I want in a show about zombie vampire leech monsters. I mean, that’s kind of accurate, right? In this episode, “The Strain” finally delivered some creepy goodness that reminded me of the schlocky horror stuff I grew up on in the ’80s. While this is a plus, it feels like del Toro and crew are still struggling in building characters that the audience truly cares about, which, if not fixed, can ultimately damage the series as a whole. Oh, and can we have a scene at some point that finds Dr. Goodweather getting fed up and ripping off his hair piece in frustration!? That’d be cool.
The episode opens to find our lovely German vampire Mr. Eichorst putting his face on. No, literally. In the conference call I was on a few weeks ago with Guillermo del Toro, he mentioned that the vampires biologically change during the transformation, which includes appendages falling off. And here, we are finally shown what that looks like. Eichorst has no nose or hair and looks similar to other vampires in previous del Toro movies that touch on the genre. What’s worse than a Nazi vampire? One that applies his face on daily with such precision and joy. Creepy scene, people!
To stick with this theme and the episode title, we are given updates on each of the Regis Air survivors and they are not looking good. It’s funny seeing Gabriel Bolivar in full on goth rocker wig and makeup because that’s supposed to be a shocking guise until we watch him remove his wig and contact lenses. Ansel Barbour is a character we only really got a glimpse of in the pilot and we finally get to see how he’s doing. There’s a scene of him drinking raw steak blood that accumulated in a package of meat and I swear that was inspired by the ’80s Jim Carrey movie Once Bitten, but I could be wrong.
With each character, the metamorphosis they go through is the right amount of creepy and gross. The pinnacle of “Gone Smooth” (for me, anyway) is the scene in the bathroom with Bolivar. He removes his wig to find his hair falling out. He removes his makeup to find his complexion somewhat translucent. His eyes aren’t his anymore. And when he turns to urinate into the toilet, we hear a big splash and the camera pulls back as he turns around to reveal that Gabriel Bolivar now resembles Marilyn Manson from his “Mechanical Animals” days. Meaning – he’s now a smoothie! No boy parts remaining. He’s a goddamn Ken Doll! Further, he flushed his damn penis down the toilet! Holy f*ck.
You’re probably wondering what happened to our rat hunter Vasiliy. He’s here, but not for long – his only real purpose in this episode is to charm a young girl after a mean rat bit her in her sleep. After chastising her politician father, we see him in the streets of New York noticing a large rat migration out of the city. Something bad is coming and I believe he senses it. We also get a tiny bit of Abraham Setrakian in this episode. David Bradley is great in this role and gets to play up the weak old man bit while in front of a judge before being released from prison. Nora confronts him without much help but we soon see he has worked his connections and trades a PS3 for a flight manifest back at his pawn shop. He’s planning on visiting the victims’ families and I’m sure he’ll have his sword/cane with him just in case.
Taking a step away from the gross biological goings-on with the airline victims, we are once again thrown into the rather lame storyline of Dr. Goodweather’s crumbling family life. It’s plain to see that this is one of the main devices being used within the series to make us care about the lead, but so far this plan has failed. The details regarding Ephraim’s failed marriage and his losing battle at joint custody of his son truly do suck if you’ve ever been through such a thing, but compared to the infection that is spreading already through the city, it feels like pointless filler. Who knows, I could be wrong and this will all pay off in a major way down the line.
However, an interesting plot twist may just be Jim’s story. In episode one, we found that Jim was the mole that helped get the giant coffin out of customs and into the hands of The Stoneheart Group. “Gone Smooth” gives us more insight into his reasoning. In a nutshell, his wife is dying of cancer and the money he received for his services will help her get some much needed treatment. But at what cost? He’s now working both sides. Is it too soon to predict his sick wife will be turned at some point? We shall see!
We’ve heard from most of the Regis Air flight victims and the season ends with our pilot who, after earlier examinations revealed worms throughout his entire body, has gone missing. Team Canary was quickly on the case scouring the hospital grounds for the victim and it was Jim who found our man (no longer a man) in the bowels of the building guzzling down a blood packet. The fight that ensued was enthralling in its uneven, even sloppy nature, as it helped paint a picture of three people defending themselves against who the f*ck knows! The scene quickly devolved from the CDC team trying to help the victim to Dr. Goodweather bashing the vampire’s head into a rubbery contorted mess with a fire extinguisher. More scenes like this, please!
Look, the series has gotten off to a somewhat sloppy start, but I’m willing to give “The Strain” a pass if future episodes continue down the path set in episode 3. Because as we saw in the final fight in last night’s episode, it takes a little time to gain one’s footing before having the wherewithal to attack a beast in the head with a blunt object over and over until nothing decent remains. This is what I want from a Summer Schlock Series. Don’t let me down, guys. You’re on the right path!
What did you all think of “Gone Smooth”? Pluck out all your thoughts and place them gently in the comments below!
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