Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Strain, Season 1, Episode 11: The Third Rail

In the pawn shop we have weapon testing, Ephraim being snippy and Nora trying to help her mother who is very very confused and lost. Killing the Master is still the one and only plan and Ephraim has finally got on board (though he’s still snippy – and declares that Vasiliy and Abraham can be more kill happy because they have no loved ones to lose. Except we’ve seen Vasiliy has living parents). They leave Zach and Nora’s mother, Mariela, behind but Nora insists on coming (nice little moment of Abraham giving Nora Jim’s chosen weapon as a nice little gesture).

This leaves Zach, a boy, with a room full of sharp things and an increasingly agitated Mariela. Eventually, to try and calm her down, Zach agrees to go out and get more cigarettes. This involves a store that has been vampired and Zach hiding from looters in the dark basement. The basement with a vampire in it. Because Zach wears a pretty hefty suit of plot armour, it’s the looters that get eaten, not him.

Augustin, having escaped from police custody, goes home to find the flat unlocked – and his brother vampirised. He kills him, before having some heavy angry acting when he realises what he’s done. Gus then takes it to the next level of powerful acting and grief when he finds his mother – mid transformation.  He cannot bring himself to kill her and leaves – grabbing a fire axe and having a cathartic rampage through every vampire he finds.

In said rampage he runs into Zach, reinforcing the kid’s plot armour. Afterwards Zach takes Mariela her cigarettes and plays with the sharp things.

Meanwhile New York is collapsing into complete chaos. The hunters work their way into the tunnels under the World Trade Centre hunting the Master, following the trail of ammonia, walking through the remains of numerous human victims (which Nora finds sad, Vasiliy isn’t that moved by and Ephraim gets to be a bit more snippy). There’s also a pile of recently turned sleeping vampires to creep past which is extra creepy – but this tense moment is turned into bad Ephraim angst because he thinks one of the sleeping is Kelly, his wife.

They also have to dodge a train, mainly so Ephraim can be an arsehole to Vasiliy some more. Why doesn’t something eat Ephraim? A petty argument follows (though I think Vasiliy’s point that a pawn broker and a rat killer knowing more than Ephraim is what’s really annoying him). Abraham has no time for these childish shenanigans.

Eventually they reach a small tunnel they have to crawl through, Ephraim first. Once clear he hears Kelly in his head and ignores Abraham following behind him who tries to tell him not to fall for the blatantly obvious trap. Vasiliy and Nora are a bit awesome as rear guard.

Ephraim follows his little trap bait all the way to the Master’s coffin where he’s surrounded by a herd of vampire and the Master himself who, sadly, doesn’t just kill Ephraim like the annoying little bug he is. Curse you plot armour! Curse you! Instead the Master decides to taunt Ephraim a little, very very slowly. Abraham stops the Master killing him but the staggers back because… headache causing buzzing sound? Who knows, he just does. Alas, Ephraim still doesn’t die because Vasiliy saves the day with a UV light bomb

Damn it Vasiliy, just 5 more minutes, man (wait, judging by the length of the Master’s monologue, better make it 10).

Ephraim is saved (booo). Neither Abraham nor Vasiliy are impressed by Ephraim running into a blatant trap. Abraham’s also pissed because Vasiliy drove the Master off with the light bomb rather than letting him slaughter them all. Abraham takes out his anger on the Master’s coffin. Abraham wants to keep hunting the Master but Ephraim and Vasiliy drag him away before the huge vampire army.

Zach and Mariela are both really unnecessary characters because they’re not really characters: they’re portable containers of angst for their family. Mariela, in particular is a direct cast of an elderly and/or disabled woman as a complete burden and because Nora hasn’t really being characterised either, let alone her mother, that kind of becomes the sum total of her character. Mariela is her burden even to the child she is left with (and, y’know, not leaving behind someone to mind them was not a good idea).

The problem is their storyline (such that it is) distracts from the tension of the main storyline – which after so many episodes of doing so little – is a refreshing burst of action, tension and drama and actually focusing on the threat – the vampire trying to end the world.

Augustin’s grief is a thousand times more impactful than Ephraim’s snipping. And I’m really tired of Ephraim – his arrogance, his childishness, generally just him. The only saving grace is I actually think I’m SUPPOSED to be tired of him – I’m supposed to see him as arrogant and condescending and prone to temper tantrums and childish sniping.  I think that may be something fairly unique in the genre – the guy who is supposed to be protagonist is displaying all of these classic “I’m a brilliant straight white male protagonist, so I get to be an arsehole” traits and NOT being brilliant AND is being called out for being an arsehole (well somewhat shown to be anyway). It gives me a teeny glimmer of hope.