I have not yet been very impressed by The Strain until this episode’s cold open. It began mysteriously: Several close-ups of inanimate objects and hands at work, we don’t know whose hands and we don’t know what they’re doing. Eventually, we see a vampire, noseless and earless. He begins affixing prosthetic extremities to his face, applying make-up and putting on wig. It’s Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel), the creepy guy Setrakian knows. Eichorst is making himself blend in and it’s fascinating to watch the transformation.
While I can’t say the rest of the episode kept up with this intrigue and discomfort (in a good way), this episode was probably the best to date. It was pretty concise, focussing on the early stages of the virus and its transformative effects. We see the “survivors” from the plane slowly deteriorating and coming to terms with their new states of being. While we still get to see some moments from Eph’s (Corey Stoll) personal life, they’re much more insignificant to the main plotline, and I hope it stays this way throughout the series because I did not sign up for an emotional drama.
Although I enjoyed the focus and attention to detail in this episode, I also love that we are beginning to see the start of a new layer to the mystery. Last episode, we were introduced to Vasiliy Fet (Keamy! Or to non-Losties, Kevin Durand), a rat exterminator. While we aren’t sure of his place in the main narrative yet, he’s beginning to uncover a massive rat infestation in the city, the cause of which he nor the viewers are aware. Because it wasn’t crucial to the primary storyline, it isn’t something that we need answered right away and gives the writers of the show an opportunity to flesh out a more complex mystery.
There were a lot of great moments in this episode where we followed characters through shadowy hallways, unaware of what was in store for them. With some of the initial set-up out of the way, we’re getting the chance to see more of Guillermo del Toro’s stylistic decisions, playing with light, colour and tones. It helps that it’s currently winter, so everything outdoors is grey and bleak, while everything indoors is warm, rich and red (like blood). It’s still not on par with GDT’s other work, but it’s obvious that The Strain is much more of a team production so it’s still nice to see his signature style peeking through.
As for my personal three strike rule, this episode has brought the series into the clear for me. I’m still wary of what the rest of the season holds, but I’m very hopeful.