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‘The Strain’ – It’s Not For Everyone

Tension brews as the series picks up steam

This week picks up right after last week, and we see Ephraim (Corey Stoll), Nora (Mía Maestro) and Jim (Sean Astin) performing an autopsy on a now very dead airline pilot who they had to off in last week’s episode.

Ephraim feels the need to perform said autopsy in secret. He and Nora discover the disease process behind the virus, as it changes human anatomy/biology in horrible ways. Jim is busy filming and generally bellyaching as to why they are doing this. After the autopsy is over, Ephraim and Nora are discussing how they are going to find other infected people when Jim decides to tip his hand and tell them the truth about what he’s done. Ephraim clocks him pretty good and he Nora leave Jim bleeding on the floor. Good.

Gus (Miguel Gomez) is around this week and back in the business of committing crimes, but also making up for his brother’s wrongdoing. He boosts a car with his old friend Felix (Pedro Miguel Arce), sells it to a gang, and then returns the mantle clock his brother stole to Setrakian’s shop (Episode 1 reference). Setrakian (David Bradley) is less than thankful, but at least they’ve met.

Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and Eichorst (Richard Sammel) are continuing their evil plans for world vampire domination. Palmer has hired a hacker named Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) to slow the Internet down to a crawl, among other tasks, so information about the virus won’t spread so fast. He also meets with the secretary of human and health services (Maria Ricossa), who is an unknowing puppet, and feeds her bogus info about the bodies on the plane. He explains that they were taken by the military, who were apparently transporting a bio-agent that was accidentally released during the doomed flight.

Later, Palmer’s liver really starts giving out, and his doctors want to replace the organ. Palmer consents, albeit reluctantly. It seems as if The Master is not going to make good and give Palmer eternal life. It seems that way, but we shall see.

Ansel (Nikolai Witschl) and Ann-Marie (Alex Paxton-Beesley) are back this week. He’s getting much worse, and Ann-Marie takes the kids to her sister’s while daddy goes on bed rest. He asks her to leave their dog in the house instead of locking it up in the shed. This is bad news for the dog.

Later, Ann-Marie returns and finds the poor dog outside, gutted and drained. She hears noises from inside the shed and finds Ansel in a much worse state than when she left him. He has much love for his wife, and has kindly restrained himself with shackles and explains that she must go far away from him while also trying to persuade her to come closer. Ann-Marie backs out of the shed, closing the door behind her when a horrible neighbor drops by and takes credit for beating the family dog. This was a reference to an earlier episode when Ann-Marie finds the shepherd wounded after it had run off. The faithful Ann-Marie decides Ansel needs a meal, offering to allow the bad neighbor to go inside the shed and teach the “dog” a few lessons. Ansel does all the teaching … and eating.

Ephraim and Nora go to the Arnot home to see if they can find Emma (Isabelle Nélisse) and her father, Gary (Steven McCarthy). They do. They also find Setrakian, who saves their lives when Emma decides she wants dinner. He then finishes off dear old daddy Arnot when he shows up with a serious thirst as well. Ephraim realizes that these people are not people anymore but monsters. Nora is not so sure. Ephraim actually listens to Setrakian and is ready to do what is necessary by burning the bodies, while Nora pushes for compassion. The stage is getting closer to being set for the inevitable battle.

This episode picked up some steam, and I am grateful. You can feel the tension brewing, and I’m starting to see a bit more beef to the story after a drama-laden couple of weeks.

The autopsy was pretty great. I love how the vampirism here is studied like a virus in which the disease process of that virus has altered the body so drastically. Humans are basically a host, and the unnecessary internal organs become necrotic while new ones are formed. That plants it partially in science while the story still has a supernatural element. It’s also appropriate that these creatures have no real charming qualities. The sole purpose of the host is to find blood. The sex organs are gone, thus no sexual qualities, no passion, just a drive for food. Also, the cloaca moment was funny and disgusting.

Ansel’s transformation and his struggle between his human side and viral vampire side was an excellent storyline. I loved how loyal Ann-Marie decided to be, feeding the neighbor to her very hungry husband. It does feel a bit strange; I mean why didn’t she call an ambulance or a doctor? However, I am willing to forgive this as it’s a great character development piece. Bonus: The dog-beating neighbor meets a pretty nasty end.

We get a bit of Setrakian this week, and he’s finally met Gus. He also shows he is a badass in separating Emma and her father from their heads. Ephraim and Setrakian seemed to reach a very quick understanding about what needs to be done (although it did seem a bit fast), and I’m glad someone is finally believing the pawnbroker. It was interesting to see Ephraim step up to the proverbial plate almost immediately.

Although moving at a better pace, it was still a little slower than expected. Gus’ story line felt out of place this week as well. It was more character development as we see how much he loves his mother, how much he wants to thrash his brother, how intimidating he can be and how he’s still willing to commit crime to make money. Otherwise, it only served to introduce Gus to Setrakian and to introduce us to a new group of criminals who are part of an auto theft ring. I hope Gus turns into a vampire slaying hero, but for now, he’s not doing much.

Although the autopsy was great, there was a bit of an eye-rolling moment for me. It seems Ephraim feels that the autopsy must be done in secret because he had to kill the pilot in self-defense. They find a place inside the hospital to do it, but no one bothers them? No one even tries to call? The hospital staff was looking for Redfern, too, and no one thought to check the basement? Also, if you were part of the CDC and discovered this horrible virus, wouldn’t you call EVERYONE? It took me out of the story a little.

No Master again this week, and this is a problem for me. His presence needs to be felt more strongly. Also, what about the other bodies? We have only seen Emma returning to her father. I’m sure at least one of the other dead/undead passengers has figured out how to get back to their loved ones and suck them dry.

One more thing. More Setrakian. Thanks.

“The Strain” is based on the novel of the same name by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. “It’s Not For Everyone” was written by Regina Corrado and directed by Keith Gordon. It stars Corey Stoll, Mía Maestro, Sean Astin, David Bradley, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Nikolai Witschl and Miguel Gomez.

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Could they be a Rut-ro! Shaggy
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