Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Strain, Season 4, Episode 2: The Blood Tax

This is another episode of catching up where everyone is. All the while Partnership propaganda plays about how wonderful the new world is. Desai, one of the men Eichorst recruited, is starring in them.

The theme of this episode is, I think, collaborators. Either active participants or people just trying to keep their head down and live and easy life. Abe even paraphrases the “triumph of evil line”: talking about how we assume progress is safe, lower our guard and don’t stop the evil creeping back in and dragging us back.

Dutch and Abraham were together, trading with Gus (Augustin) who is now running what looks like a Black market, allied with Creem (the pair have put aside their differences somewhat in the aftermath. And, as Abraham points out, all of the wealth he’d acquired meant anything in Strigoi controlled world).

In one of their trips they return to find their home being raided - and on fire. Fearful of the Lumen burning Dutch manages to grab it and hide it somewhere it won’t burn - but both she and Abe are captured and taken to a prison camp: where families are separated

To Abe, holocaust survivor, that’s a stark reminder and he has to resist, even if futilely. They’re separated and Dutch, along with other women with B+ blood is moved into a facility. At every stage we see human collaborators, from the guards at the camp, to the nurses at the facility

And it is a medical facility for B+ women - to artificially inseminate them and have them pop out babies. Women who prove to be infertile disappear (they’re told to a better place but everyone knows what a lie that is). Of course Dutch plots to escape - but is frustrated by some of the women in there just being happy to go along with things or at least endure them - because it is better in there than it is outside. Not wanting things to be worse breaks defiance and rebellion as so many people passively accept their circumstances.

We also have the secondary theme - resistance without thought is equally useless. A woman losing her temper and ranting at the nurses and guards doesn’t achieve anything and Dutch quickly defuses the situation because she’s just going to get herself killed.

It does draw her to the attention of Desai who runs the facility. He wants to recruit her - and he’s a mess of conflict. You can see his guilt, his desperate justifications for how he’s totally making things better by working in the system (oh how often have we heard that before?) and resisting the system is just selfish rather than working to make it better (ignoring the inherent corruption and predation of the system). Oh he carries so many awesome messages and cautionary tales in one rant. All the excuses colluders tell themselves are there. Dutch, naturally tells him where to go.

She has her own plot to escape which ends up going wrong because both the guy she’s blackmailing is cowardly and inept - and she changes her plans half way through to rescue someone else rather than herself

Perhaps messages about practicality and ruthlessness can be teased from this? Or equally the danger or involving people in your resistance who aren’t that invested in it.

Over to Gus and we see similar messages here. There’s conflict between him and Creen because Creen is, again, treating everything entirely as a business while Gus likes to maintain rules.

He uses his contact - a cousin, Raol, to get them access to one of the Partnership storage facilities so they can steal lots of goodies (food, including fresh fruit and veg which are grown under UV light so are rare now). Is it to sell? Is it to help people? Both.  Gus uses a whole lot of guilt to get them into the facility but while stocking up security guard Eddie appears

Eddie isn’t evil - but he has a family and he needs this job and, yes, it’s another strand in the collusion theme: people trying to get by, people trying to keep their families safe. Creen wants to kill him, Gus objects because Eddie isn’t evil and he thinks he can talk him down - and Eddie ends up tripping the alarms

Another message on ruthlessness perhaps

They escape but Raol can’t return to his work any more since he’s been identified as the one who helped them. Creen decides they’re not running a charity and wants to kick him out - Gus isn’t having that for his cousin. I know I’m kind of harping on here, but I like how the messages build and bounce off each other - the problem with not being ruthless meets ruthlessness taken to ridiculous degrees

Which brings us to Ephraim, Alex and her brother. Ephraim is still playing jaded, not wanting to be involved in the war, just wanting to keep his head down and survive, pretending he’s helping only for supplies. And we see another aspect of a passive collusion: apathy, defeat, the belief you cannot fix anything so you stop trying. Ephraim shows Alex some obvious competence, especially when they learn one of their group is turned into a vampire so the strigoi can then read his mind and know where their safehouses are (it’s rare for the strigoi to turn people now - preferring to kidnap them)

Ephraim leads them to his own safe place, after using the explosives to kill the raiding strigoi - and shooting any survivors in the head. He turns to leave again but Alex stops him, trying to recruit him (and stomping on his “the war took my kid from me” but pointing out the war took her kid and many others from them as well, doesn’t mean you stop fighting. Well said Alex)

And, yes, it’s another message - again Alex pushes down the idea she shouldn’t bomb buses because it may kill people: because in this kind of war collateral damage is inevitable. The need for ruthlessness. Ephraim doesn’t disagree - but the bombing isn’t inspiring people or damaging the Partnership in any significant way - it’s not achieving anything. Instead he points to the apartment buildings he saw the blood being piped into the water supply: they should do something intelligent and useful like poisoning that instead

Alex’s response “great, let’s do that.”

Which is another lesson - effective resistance, not just noise and fury

I don’t think this episode necessarily advance the plot per se, nor really updated the characters but it did really lay out the nature of the Resistance and what they need to do to actually fight against the Strigoi. From the barriers they face, the multiple faces of human collusion and the balance they need to strike between ruthlessness, effectiveness, passion, apathy, compassion, personal safety all combine to make it an episode with several great points to make.