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‘The Strain’ – The Box

Pace slows, but FX series maintains promise

 

I was pretty amped after watching the pilot episode of “The Strain” last Sunday. It was a good start, and I have high hopes for the coming season.

After a much too busy weekend, I finally got a chance to sit down last night and watch Episode 2, “The Box.” The pace was slower, but still frenetic in some places, and we got a heavy amount of character development.

“The Box” picks up right on the heels of “Night Zero.” Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro) are still on the hunt for the truth about the virus; although, there is solid disinformation that there was a gas leak on the plane. Goodweather knows this is a lie, but the four survivors are released by his boss, Dr. Everett Barnes (Daniel Kash), after lawyer/survivor Joan Luss (Leslie Hope) makes a phone call to someone with a higher pay grade. The survivors are not all right, of course, and are starting to show symptoms. Goodweather also attends an important meeting, allowing us to see a different side of the good doctor.

Gang guy Gus (Miguel Gomez) has safely delivered the box to the other side of the river, and he and his brother Crispin (Francis Capra) get a bit more fleshed out through some family drama and exposition. Gus’ story line will be crossing with Setrakian’s (David Bradley) soon based on the incidents of this week.

On the other side of the fence, Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) finally gets to meet The Master (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes and played by Robert Maillet), much to his caretaker Mr. Fitzwilliam’s (Roger R. Cross) dismay; although, it remains to be seen if he gets his wish. Eichorst (Richard Sammel) pays a visit to Setrakian who is still behind bars after the airport incident.

We are also introduced to Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), a city health inspector who has a definite problem with vermin. He promises to be a fun character if this week’s episode was any indication.

WHAT WORKED
Although the pace was much slower, we did get background on some of the characters. This works for and against (see WHAT DIDN’T WORK). We need some info dumping and family drama for the future so we have an understanding of the motivation behind what these characters are going to do.

We get a bit more of Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy), the rock star, who has a bad night with some lady friends as the virus takes hold. Capt. Redfern (Jonathan Potts), the pilot of the doomed jet, is also having a very bad day. I’m sorry about that because he is a very likable character. Emma (Isabelle Nélisse) has a fun scene toward the end, showing her doting father that she’s not hungry for regular food. She is not to be trifled with.

The scene between Setrakian and Eichorst was excellent. It gave the proper amount of background without overdoing it and was quite chilling. They have some good chemistry, and I want to see them square off again.

Durand’s addition to the cast can only mean good things. He brings a certain insanity to his roles that I truly enjoy. I look forward to more of him in the coming weeks.

There’s a nice bit of special effects work after the police and CDC folks find the body of the missing airport employee. There are also some cool worms (in the petri dish and under the skin) and the aforementioned little girl, Emma, showing off her new skills. We get glimpses of The Master again, but not until the end.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The slower pace and heavy characterization also worked against this week’s episode. I was waiting for more to happen, but there wasn’t much in the way of “ooh” moments until the end.

There are a few characters I already don’t have much feeling for who could be trimmed. I like the lawyer, Luss, but she needs more to do, and Astin’s character felt like an afterthought this week. I realize all characters can’t have time in the sun, but he’s one of the primary members of the show.

A few more dead, yet not dead, family members showing up at home (like Emma has) would have been great. That should have already happened. Cutting a bit of characterization and allowing it to progress more naturally through future episodes would have worked better and would have allowed more time for some passengers to find their way to their loved ones, thus spreading the virus.

There is one more nit to pick. The scene at the coroner’s office needed to be reworked. I’m trying not to spoil it, but I would have a difficult time believing that someone did not get there to check things out before Drs. Goodweather and Martinez got there. An ME’s office, especially in a city like New York, is always busy. Staff not answering the phone for several hours would have resulted in police doing a welfare check. Also, there would have been other dead bodies brought in after the trouble, and someone should have noticed. It would have been better to have Goodweather notified by NYPD that there was a major problem there instead of letting us feel like he is the only one actually working. I know, some will say I’m being too critical, but details like this can take a viewer out of the story and into “rolling the eyes” territory.

There’s a lot of promise here, and I’m sticking with it. I hope the hammer starts to fall soon, and I’m prepared for a fun ride.

GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“The Strain” is based on the book of the same name by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. “The Box” was written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson. It was directed by David Semel. The series stars Corey Stoll, Mía Maestro, Sean Astin, David Bradley, Jonathan Hyde and Richard Sammel.

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