Namely: “This is bullshit. Why you got me runnin’ around like an asshole?” It’s a valid question that pretty much every character on The Strain deserves to ask of the show.
“Fort Defiance” is full of inexplicable decisions on both sides of the camera, and I, having made my peace that this show is a semi-vampiric train wreck, was enthralled by its ineptitude. Before I get to the recap, let’s take a moment to try and figure out exactly where the vampire apocalypse stands. Here’s the things we learned in last night’s episode:
• People seem to know New York City is full of vampires. Despite this fact and the constant threat of being murdered, virtually no one seems to have left the city.
• In fact, it appears no one in NYC has thought to tell anyone outside of NYC that it’s full of goddamned vampires.
• Certainly no one has left NYC and informed people about the vampires, as neither the state nor the national government have stepped in to do anything.
• As we should never forget, The Strain’s explanation for this utterly baffling mass failure for people to communicate basic but extremely important information is that “Dutch broke the internet.”
The Strain obviously wants to portray a vampire apocalypse, but for some reason wants to keep the breakdown of civilization on an exceedingly slow burn—maybe so there are plenty of victims for vampires to munch on? Or so Eph and the gang have people to save?—which means that the show has forced the general population of NYC to be imbeciles in order to get them on-site, even as they complain about those darned vampires roaming the streets at night and murdering people with their tentacle tongues. This is awful, but hilariously so.
But nothing, and I mean nothing, shows this utterly insane plotting decision like my new favorite character, Staten Island councilwoman Justine Feraldo, who has somehow managed to clear the vampires out of the entirety of her district. She holds a press conference about this achievement—which news reporters attend, which makes the NYC inhabitants’ nonchalance about the vampire plague and the nation’s utter refusal to do anything for one of its most populous cities even more baffling—and somehow that’s not the best part.
The best part is when she rips a sheet of what appears to be a monument of some kind, but is actually a small piece of chain link fence that vampire corpses and their severed heads are attached haphazardly to.
This is @#$%ing insane on about 10 different levels, and I love it. First of all, she is a politician who has strung up a bunch of corpses and unveiled them at a press conference. A press conference! Even Nazis didn’t have press conference when they killed people. Second, remember, no one is concerned enough about the vampires to leave the city, so the fact that she’s displaying these bodies is even more incongruous since everybody there seems pretty chill. It seems almost like The Strain wants to address this specifically, as someone in the crowd yells “Murderer!”—as you might do if you were a dum-dum who didn’t really comprehend vampires stalk the streets at night and your local councilwoman just unveiled a bunch of desecrated bodies like she was cutting a ribbon for the opening of a new supermarket, but third, when the councilwoman specifically calls them vampires, the crowd starts clapping! For her! Killing vampires! And them making a public sign out of them! Which leads me to the fifth most amazing thing about this scene is that Feraldo says she’s made a public shrine covered in dead vampires as a sign for them not to try to come to Staten Island.
A sign to tell the @#$%ing vampires with mouth tentacles stay away. The vampires who, as far as literally anyone but Eph and is gang know, consist solely of utterly mindless killers. Yes, Councilwoman Feraldo, I’m sure they’ll all be very impressed with your little public declaration.
Now, let’s talk assholes, because boy, there are a bunch of them this episode. Setrakian is our first offender, as he secrets himself away to do science with some vampire worms. As it turns out, he boils them and makes them into a liquid that he drops into his eyes, which is how he’s kept himself so spry for a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor (and kudos to The Strain for finally answering this particular question). Of course, Setrakian doesn’t tell anybody about any of this, and his worm-eye-drops kill him, and only Nora chancing to check on the professor allows her to resuscitate him. Needlessly not trusting his gang of mediocre vampire hunters? Nearly dying, and leaving The Master loose, for no real reason? Asshole.
Zach, a.k.a. Carl’s Jr. Holy shit, Carl makes Zach of The Walking Dead look like Daryl from The Walking Dead. All Carl wouldn’t do is stay in the goddamn house. Zach, knowing full well that there are tentacle vampires on the loose, decides to take a bus ride at night. At night! Not even during the day! Eph catches him at the last second and brings him back, at which point Zach has a temper tantrum and starts smashing all the stuff in Eph and Nora’s lab—even though he knows that they’re working on a way to stop the vampires. Carl’s Jr. is the worst.
Meanwhile, Dutch sees a “Missing” flier for her friends from the gas station midway in the first season, and decides to go see if the girl’s mom put it up. She did, and she says Dutch was a worse vampire than the tentacle-mouth vampires are. Admittedly, Dutch isn’t really an asshole here, but certainly the writers of The Strain are assholes for thinking any of this little excursion was interesting in the tiniest degree.
Shockingly, Eph is almost entirely asshole-free this episode. Sure, after Carl’s Jr. has his conniption fit he drags him down to the test vampire to show him what they’re fighting, but the kid is an idiot, and only some seriously tough love is going to keep him alive. Admittedly, Eph also drunkenly taunts The Master through the eyes of the test subject, but compared to these other people he’s a saint.
Oh, and The Strain killed off the entire Spec Ops Ninja Vampire Squad.
I know, you’d think that The Strain completely offing their most interesting characters would get more of a reaction from me, seeing as their five or so minutes of screentime was pretty much the only good part of season one. Well, after all that build-up, and after a brief training montage where Gus utters the immortal line mentioned above, they go on a mission to kidnap Eldritch Palmer. Disguised as an elevator repairman, Gus gets them to Palmer’s penthouse, where Palmer kicks on a ton of UV lights and herds the Squad into a pit, where they die, having accomplished literally nothing in one and a half seasons.
Congratulations, The Strain! You have taken your most fascinating aspect—perhaps your only fascinating aspect—and destroyed it in them most anticlimactic way possible. And dear readers, if you’re wondering why I’m not spending more time ranting about this, well, it’s like when my cat is hungry and lets me know by pushing my drink off a table. I feed him, but a bit later, so I don’t reward him for bad behavior. Bad The Strain! Bad ridiculous vampire show!
All my hopes are pinned on Councilwoman Feraldoo now. May her reign be long and full of small sections of fence with corpses tied to them.
• In the show’s open, Bolivar is dragging a roller suitcase full of The Master’s dirt down the street. Some cops arrest him, which is a completely inexplicable decision. If they thought he was a vampire they should have shot him, and if they didn’t think he was a vampire he wasn’t doing anything illegal. The Strain in microcosm, everybody!
• I’m not a scientist, Eph, but maybe instead of touching the giant pustule with your finger next time and popping it you could, you know, use any one of the thousand science implements you have laying around.
• Fet wants to blow up the nearby subway station to keep vampires from coming out. I thought this was pretty reasonable until Fet and Dutch do a little recon, and it turns out that the station is not only functional but people are still totally using it, despite the fact that last season revealed its full of @#$% vampires. What the hell is with this show?
• Fitzwilliam, Eldritch’s previous assistant, goes to visit his brother who lives in Staten Island. His brother is Kevin Hanchard, a.k.a. Art from Orphan Black, which is a much better show than The Strain. Literally nothing of importance happens in this plot thread.
• The Spec Ops Ninja Vampire Squad tells Gus they’ve recruited him because they need a member who can go out during the day… and then they all go out during the day to Palmer Tech or whatever the hell his office building is called. Seriously, you can see them go from the truck to the building in what looks like a pleasant afternoon. Sigh.
• Coco, Eldritch’s new assistant, used to be a model, and met a lot of bad men; as such, she developed a sort of sixth sense about bad people. Shockingly, the impeccable dressed man with the German accent and the albino Goth with the inhuman eyes, both of whom only talk in menacing, sinister tones about obliquely threatening subjects seem to be setting off her alarms. GOOD CALL, WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE.
• Is it just me, or are the vampires starting to gad about a little?
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