Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Strain, Season 1, Episode 5: Runaways

Bolivar’s doctor has got him the discrete urologist he asked for – and she makes a house call, speaking to his manager, Ruby who is very focused on the next night’s performance. Gabriel, now all vampiric, grabs and feeds on the urologist – Ruby sees this and, very sensibly, runs for it and seems to get away despite wearing very impractical shoes that twist her ankle (she should study with Urban Fantasy protagonists, they can fight any kind of monster in heels).  She hobbles away and calls someone who says they can take care of things.

Jack Noon arrives, a professional “cleaner” to make the mess go away. Bolivar is still in the building – and attacks. Jack shoots him which doesn’t do a great deal – and Bolivar eats him.

Ephraim is now with the crotchety Abraham who has no time for guilt, doubt or the police. He also introduces the concept of the Master – that this is a disease with an intelligence, a plan and a cunning strategy including both a scapegoat in the CEO of the airline and a distraction – the four “survivors” to draw attention away from the 200 re-animated dead. And yes, he’s a vampire (or strigoi), but dump all of the romanticism of it – he’s a leech, a predator. Abraham knows this from both the stories his mother told him and his own experience; which leads to the first flashback to young Abraham being taken, with his family, to a concentration camp in World War 2.

Time for another survivor story – Joan, the awful lawyer with her kids and servant (inevitably a WOC) who she’s pretty unpleasant too as well. I could say it’s because she’s feeling awful but I get the impression she’s always pretty unpleasant. She tries to be nice to the kids, but she also kind of wants to eat them.

As Joan gets worse, the servant notices something badly wrong (especially since she sees the nictitating membrane) and decides it’s a good idea to get out with the kids.

Back to Ephraim and Abraham – Abraham has a not great plan (albeit with few options), go down the list person by person, killing them and anyone they’ve infected and hope along the way he runs into enough witnesses that he can convince to help him to build a small army to take them all down. Ephraim’s plan is to get footage of the survivors so he can get the CDC to throw their power behind the hunt. Abraham also shares that vampires are weakened by silver (and has a nifty silver nail gun). He also makes it clear that whatever Ephraim may think, this was his fight first and foremost and that should Ephraim get infected, Abraham will behead him. I don’t think Ephraim takes him seriously enough.

They drive off in Ephraim’s car which comes with a history of a previous assignment of his – Ephraim tells the whole story (including another hint to why his marriage broke up since he put the work first) and Abraham concludes “you’re a romantic and impractical.” Abraham Setrakian is not impressed. He does ask about Ephraim and Nora’s relationship – not to be fuzzy, but because turned vampires go after their loved ones first.

We have another concentration camp flashback in which Abraham saw the Master feeding on prisoners in the camp then breaking their necks so they didn’t rise. He tries to tell his friend but he has more human monsters to focus on – not wanting to make plans to steal silver to fight a vampire.

Abraham and Ephraim work their way down the kill list, going to Anselm’s home. There they find Annie’s body – she has hanged herself. While Ephraim wants to cut her down, Ephraim merely checks to see if she’s a strigoi (a silver backed mirror is a good test) and, since she’s not, moves on. He has other priorities.

In the shed they find Anselm where he chained himself for his family’s sake. They kill him while Ephraim gets it all on camera – but in the corner they find Anselm’s cowering neighbour, sick and also changing. Abraham doesn’t even hesitate- just cuts him down. He sets fire to the shed.

There’s another concentration camp flashback, and in the present Abraham refuses to stand by while Ephraim starts quarantine procedures (he has seen what happens when men “do nothing”). He will keep hunting.

Ephraim tries to convince his boss – and does an awful job of it. I can’t imagine anyone, no matter how conscientious, listening to Ephraim’s ramble. Worse, they think he’s killing people  - Jim gives him the heads up and uses his security card when Ephraim’s is switched off. He also gives Ephraim a new sim card for his phone so he can’t be traced

Nora, meanwhile, has a personal drama to deal with – her confused mother who has just been brought back from wandering off. She thinks Nora is still in medical school – and she wants to go home, wherever that is. While Nora has to convince the care home owner to keep her mother despite them being ill-equipped to deal with someone who is becoming this confused. Nora is torn with guilt which is really well shown.

As she leads her mother back to her room there’s a fight in the corridor – there’s a vampire in the home attacking several people and feeding on their blood. She runs with her mother, taking her out of the home.

To team Evil – Palmer has had his liver transplant, apparently one of many transplants he’s had. But also his last, his body cannot take another.

And to the side characters – Vasily is still hunting rats of which there are far far more than there should be. He hunts them underground, using his UV light to find their urine – and sees lots and lots of vampire guano. He runs into a nest of vampires hiding under the city – he runs from them back into the daylight which burns the strigoi and forces them to stay under ground.

I kind of love Abraham. Tough as old wood and focused like a laser. He has a mission, destroy the vampires. That’s it. If you turn, he’ll kill you. When he talks he’s telling you how to kill them. He has no time for your doubts or morals or guilt or drama. The vampires are here. The vampires must die. He doesn’t even hesitate, he strikes them down even when they’re cowering. Even when they still look human. And if someone isn’t a vampire? He doesn’t care. That is his terrifying focus (and, in a real way, it’s also impractical because he doesn’t give other people chance to get on board his mission and settled before charging forwards – hence his interactions with Nora). Anything else is a distraction and he has little respect for it – his reaction to Ephraim’s story of his truck is a perfect example.

This episode may also need the title “when WOC realise something is going on and get the hell out.” Of course, that could be because the rich, wealthy survivors both have WOC entourage.

Nora and her mother is a very powerful scene – the guilt, the conflict, the desperation of trying to find the best option for her mother when there just aren’t any good ones, certainly none that will make her happy is such a very hard one and one that so many people have to face. Yet, while I love the scene, there’s an element of Ephraim and his divorce hearing in it – will it be that vital to the plot? Especially since Nora’s own ethical conflict has separated her from the action (while Abraham makes comments about inaction being the greatest evil. Now we have a situation where Nora ran from the vampires and, if she deals with them, it will be because they came to her rather than her actively hunting like Abraham and Ephraim

I think we also need to poke the pacing. Everything is finally happening! The story is beginning, let’s get this started… started? It’s episode FIVE?! I should be somewhere in the early middle by now!