Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Strain, Season 2, Episode 12: Fallen Light

It is now the penultimate episode of the season. For the love of all that is sensible, please move the story ON. Really “vampires are taking over New York, the good guys can’t stop them” has been the state of play since the very first episode. So far this entire season is almost skippable.

The show mocks me by recapping all the mini plots that didn’t go anywhere. Why do you taunt me show? I also may scream if Abraham doesn’t get that fecking book. I’m not even going to bother remember it’s name now. It’s going to be The Fecking Book from now on.

So we start moving the plot along with a flashback to before the whole vampire invasion

I’m just going to weep quietly in a corner.

It’s Ephraim and Nora at the CDC discussing plague and Ephraim and Nora having sexual tension back when Nora had ideas and opinions and a point rather than being a babysitter. And yes I mention sexual tension because no soon have her qualifications been raised than they’re quickly shoved to the back burner to talk about how hot she is. And how good Ephraim and Nora are as a couple.

In the present we now learn that Zack’s grandparents (Kelley’s parents) are alive. Because we care. Honest. Ephraim is concerned because he wants to focus on stopping the end of the world rather than the boring side plot that is Zack, while Nora is, again, in babysitter mode. Oh if only she were a CDC scientist dedicated to saving mankind from a deadly scourge and not a childminder.

Blah blah emotion, grandmother, kid-no-one-cares-about-who-needs-to-be-eaten. Family angst, blah. In the end Ephraim decides to get Zach out the city to his grandparents

Dutch is deeply traumatised after her experiences last episode and Vasiliy kind of needs to give her space. But he doesn’t and now she feels guilty because he’s so amazingly wonderful and she was terribad awful and had the temerity to be attracted to someone else (who, recall, she has a terribad awful relationship with unlike the awesomeness of Vasiliy). She has chosen to live with Nikki, she wants a real relationship with her (I don’t hold my breath because she’s just spent 3 episodes saying how awesome Vasiliy is and has little good to say about Nikki).

When Dutch goes to see Nikki it seems Nikki is just leaving with her mother (while her mother provides a narrative of contempt). Dutch tries to convince Nikki how they will have happy families, but Nikki decides that the whole saving the world from vampires is totally not her fight and leaves after a goodbye kiss. I am totally unshocked

Justine and the mayor argue over her plan to tax the rich to pay the people to defend them rather than have the poor people just line up and die for their wealthy betters as is their clear moral duty. He demands she resign or he will have her arrested, and the council seems willing to agree. Justine has the police in hand and is willing to use them to push the mayor out

Yes, city hall is going to argue about money because the mayor I the epitome of awful, rather than fight the vampires.

But it’s all solved/complicated by the mayor getting murdered. Of course Justine is now suspected of being a murderer – yet the detective is still willing to leave her alone with the mayor’s corpse (who needs untainted evidence!) She thinks her chief minion, Frank, may be behind the murder.

Eldritch goes to see Justine and decides he wants her to be leader – and has used his money and power to elevate her to a position of power. I love how Justine does not even for a second believe his smary bullshit, and happily calls out all of his nasty Halliburton-style war profiteering. He dispenses with bullshit with her and agrees – he’ll make lots of money but they will win.

In an attempt to actually be topical and interesting, while Vasiliy is impressed by Justine, Abraham is duly suspicious by anyone in politics using highly patriotic nationalistic language to inspire people. Anyway they’re off to see the fence, Cream, who has The Fecking Book and a whole lot of black gangster stereotypes (the church blaring loud hip-hop is a special touch). Abraham wants the book but so does Palmer and Cream is actually making a whole lot of money out of the apocalypse. Of course, Abraham rants that this is the failing of humanity – and offers to outbid Palmer. In gold.

So Abraham goes to Quinlan and the Ancients for some bank roll – though they fear Abraham using the book against them. Abraham promised to give them the book.

Nora and Ephraim go to see Justine to try and get a pass to get Zach out of the city (having to push past anti-fascist, anti-Justine protestors) just to hear the vote that empowers Justine’s super special powers (despite vocal opposition). Justine has a classic “no freedom, more security” speech

Palmer and Coco are impressed – but Eichorst is concerned about controlling her. He’s also not going to let Palmer go to the auction for The Fecking Book – though Palmer, cheered on by Coco, is clear that Eichorst isn’t spending his money (Eichorst calls her an “ungrateful whore” for this. Absolutely no-one is surprised that the Nazi is a bigot). This finally inspires Eldritch to challenge him but he crumbles at when he learns that the “white” goo they’re getting to keep them alive isn’t permanent – and he now allows the dismissal of Coco.  Though when Eichorst is gone he seems to think he has a master plan.

Nora and Ephraim do get to see Justine and tell her about their bioweapon. They also get tickets out of the city for Zach.

Gus and Angel are doing stuff (are you allowed to do stuff on The Strain?). They’re going to break some people out of prison – a prison which has a whole lot of vampires. Gus does find a sadistic guard who has hidden in a prison cell – and leaves him there because he’s not taking orders from the arsehole any more. He also lets out a lot of his old contacts. He dishes out Quinlan’s silver-ammo’d weapons. They’re willing to fight for Quinlan because Quinlan doesn’t care about shinies so they can loot to their heart’s content. They also brutally murder the nasty prison guard – making noise which wakes up all the vampires.

Angel also has to kill one of them to convince them to actually come fighting rather than just run off with the weapons.

Gus goes to Quinlan who reveals a double cross – his job is to kill Abraham and take the Fecking Book.

If it weren’t far too damn late in the season to properly develop a theme, I really think The Strain could have run with the idea that humanity can’t get out of it’s own way and save itself. Eldritch is too obsessed with his own power and Coco. The rich on Mahattan island are too entitled and in love with their own wealth to pay for decent defence. The mayor and his need to play politics. The released prisoners and their desire for loot and vengeance. Ephraim and his family ties. Even Quinlan and his drive for revenge above all else. All could be woven into the story of how humanity can’t get past its own petty problems enough to stop a real threat.

But it doesn’t. The mayor is just a terrible person (and a disposable one). Despite Abraham’s vague attempt at a grand speech, Cream is more of a greedy stereotype than anything else (and it’s notable that we have 2 POC being the most prominent displays of short-sighted greed, even Palmer has rather long-sighted cunning selfishness rather than self-destructive carelessness). None of the other plot lines – like Ephraim – are really developed enough to draw out these themes. Instead of feeling like humanity’s distractions getting in the way of saving the world, it feels like lots of mini-plotettes getting in the way of an actual storyline. Not in the least because absolutely no-one seems to be actually doing anything or be motivated by actually fighting the vampires

Also got to question how Ephraim can say “let’s drop an untested bioweapon New York” and absolutely no-one hesitates

And at the end of this episode… uh… has anything happened? Oh yes, Coco was demeaned, the Black mayor died and Dutch’s same-sex romance collapsed and Nora was presented as even more as a love interest. Don’t even try to raise Gus’s army – he has 20 men against a whole city of vampires.