The Strain - Season 2, Episode 1: "BK, NY" TV Episode Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Directed by Gregory Hoblit and Guillermo del Toro
Written by Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan
2015, 61 minutes, Rated TV-MA
Episode premiered on July 12th, 2015
Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather
David Bradley as Abraham Setrakian
Mía Maestro as Dr. Nora Martinez
Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet
Jonathan Hyde as Eldritch Palmer
Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichorst
Robin Atkin Downes as The Master (voice)
Warning! There are spoilers in this recap.
The Strain is back on FX and already heads are rolling! The first episode of season two sets the stage for what is now being called a "vampire apocalypse" (as Dutch tells Zach) in New York City. But before the saga of Setrakian, Ephraim, and the rest of the cohorts continue where season one left off, we are graced with a prologue directed by Guillermo del Toro himself.
A flashback to 1932 Romania depicts a young Abraham Setrakian and his grandmother having supper. He is eager to hear a tale about Sardu, though she is reluctant to tell due to its explicit nature. She concedes, and through her narrative we begin to learn the origins of the Master. Hopefully the backstory is continued through at least part of the season, along with further exploration into the mythology and lore of the strigoi. Bubbe, as young Abe calls her, introduces Jusef Sardu, a man with gigantism who was "aware of the fragility of life." He uses a cane (the one Setrakian presently uses to chop strigoi heads off), throws candy like confetti to the village children, and is known as a gentle giant. While hunting with his brother and other villagers, Jusef is left alone as they follow what they believe to be a wolf into a cave. Jusef finds their dead bodies and encounters the Master, not as we know him, but in a decrepitly decaying average-sized body. He transferred his being into the new host with a gigantic stature by infecting him through a mass maggot vomiting. This is an interesting and desirable sequence by del Toro, which segues into Eph and Setrakian fighting the Master in present day Tribeca.
I hate trailers of any sort and try to stray as far away as I can, so I have no idea what to expect for season two. After the initial episode, I do find it particularly appealing. The first season is mostly about the initial outbreak and introduces the characters and concepts. It seems like season two is going to explore the mythos of the strigoi and, with anticipation, a young Setrakian and his encounters with the strigoi. This is the substance behind the story of The Strain and should be symbiotic to what is presently going on in vampire-infected New York. Learning the mystery behind these unique creatures is what keeps this from being vampire-cliché crapola.
Aside from what I want to be a focus of season two, let's look at what the first episode sets up. At a warehouse in Redhook, Brooklyn, Ephraim, Nora, Vasiliy, Dutch, and Zach are awaiting to hear from a missing Setrakian. The warehouse is vamp-proofed, but I have a feeling they'll eventually make their way in somehow. While pursuing the Master, Setrakian is brought to the "ancients" by the hooded strigoi, Vaun. Gus is working for them, and they strike a deal to ally against The Master, who is one of the seven ancient strigoi. He returns to the warehouse in Redhook, but does not disclose his interaction with the ancients, Vaun and Gus.
There are several plotlines being introduced in this episode, as expected from a season premiere. Eph and Nora are trying to figure out a scientific way out of the vampire apocalypse and take over a lab in Carroll Gardens (which is walking distance from Redhook – I'm a Brooklyn native), but not before killing three strigoi lab technicians. The plan is to create a virus that battles the strigoi virus. On a positive note, the relationship between Eph and Nora is on the backburner for now. We already know about it, we don't need it. Also, Eph's son Zach is portrayed by a different actor this season, but is still hard-headed and loaded with pre-teen angst. Either way, he is still angry with poppa Eph for shooting his vamp-mom and scaring her off.
On the side of evil, the Master and Eichorst have two major proceedings going on: get a new host, as his body is dying, and get "the children." The Master is planning on taking over the body of Bolivar, the rock-star-turned-strigoi. "The children" pertains to the children of a school for the blind, who were kidnapped by Eichorst. Off-screen, the children were infected and buried to become, what I am to guess, the vamp-children of Kelly, Eph's ex-wife and Zach's mother. She was handpicked by Eichorst and the Master to "regain his thoughts and voice," but mostly to be a pawn in the cat-and-mouse game they all are playing. On the contrary, a chipper Eldritch Palmer is enjoying his youth and feeling it in his loins. He is on the pursuit of a youthful and sexy realtor, Coco Marchand, who he offers to pay triple her salary to work directly for him. He has to be at least fifty years her senior, yet she is in full on flirt mode herself. I couldn't help but laugh at these scenes, but they don't hurt the show in any bit.
In the conclusion, the group goes to a storage facility where Setrakian has weapons to battle the strigoi. They discover a middle-aged husband and wife hiding out in one of the containers. After a moment of dialogue, an onslaught of vamps ensues. Several decapitations later, we see the couple has been infected. Eph stops Vasiliy from killing them, as they can be used to experiment on creating an anti-virus. The episode ends with the image of Kelly standing amongst the children rising from a vat of dirt. The Strain never lacks excellent imagery and effects, especially in the gore department.
All in all, the new season is promising and the 75-minute episode flew by, seven commercial breaks and all. Even though some of its subplot drags, the episode is effective, building the foundation for season two. What more can you ask for? If you haven't seen season one yet, do yourself a favor, have a marathon this week and feed the infection Sunday night.