The survivors of that fateful Regis Air flight start to transform into something not human as Ephraim comes face to face with what he’s up against in this battle….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Prior to the start of the first season of ‘The Strain’, creator Guillermo Del Toro described the vampires on the series as nothing that’s ever been done before and his creatures certainly didn’t carry the same kind of characteristics of other blood sucking genres with romantic entanglements and sexual proclivity tangled up in every bite. These monsters were focused on only a couple of things — world domination and drinking a whole lot of blood.
But through the first two episodes there were only hints of what was about to be unleashed on New York City via this vampire plague that was slowly but surely making its way into the streets. The Master vampire showed himself in the briefest of ways in the debut and last episode little Emma uncoiled the tentacle hiding beneath her tongue to kill her father and lap up every last drop of blood that seeped into her bath water. The slow burn was to ultimately set up the big reveal of how these vampires came to be, while quietly adding several nuances as the season moved forward.
This week’s episode titled ‘Gone Smooth’ gave us plenty to know about the physical makeup of these vampires while also pushing our heroes along a bit more so they could start to understand the kind of enemy they are actually battling against. By far, the strongest hour for the show yet and there was plenty of action to boot.
Ephraim Goodweather’s investigation into the multiple deaths of the Regis Air flight where 206 people expired and then spontaneously disappeared from the morgue along with the medical examiner is hitting brick wall after brick wall. He wants to dig deeper and everyone around him is saying stop digging. One thing ‘The Strain’ showcases quite brilliantly — and I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or on accident — but there’s a constant clashing between governmental departments where one hand can’t seem to tell the other hand what it’s doing. Sounds very much like the people in Congress these days.
All the CDC wants is to wash their hands of the entire ordeal, but Eph isn’t having any of it. Luckily he’s got one last living, breathing example of the damage done on that flight in the form of Captain Redfern, who is quickly dissolving under a fever and rapidly developing symptoms that no one can explain. Those little white worms are spreading like wild fire through his body, and the pilot of that fateful flight is experiencing new kinds of dread as he’s expecting to die at any moment.
Eph wants to focus on this catastrophic event, but he’s got another appointment that draws him away from the dying pilot just when it appears he’s about to expire. The custody hearing to find out what kind of time he’ll be able to spend with his son Zack is on the docket for today, but when Eph arrives and sits down in front of the judge, he gets gut punched by what happens next. Zack tells the judge that he’d like his dad to come visit him once or twice a month, but that’s it. The little boy wants his father to focus on his work and the last thing he wants to be is a distraction. Eph tries to speak up but the judge quickly silences him, and moments later he’s in a rage not understanding why his son opted for spending less time together when he’s made every effort to prove otherwise. I’ve stated for both of the first two episodes that this story line felt like the one part of the show that was just an utter distraction and didn’t really fit to the bigger backdrop of what was happening. Thankfully, this scene pulled on the appropriate heart strings because it’s clear Eph only wants to focus on work and his son is astute enough to pick up on that distraction every time his dad can be pulled away for 15 minutes to come see him. While most children crave attention, Zack felt like a burden to his father and it was tear inducing scene to witness him cut ties with Eph because that’s what he believes is in his dad’s best interest.
Back at the Stoneheart Group, Jim wants to opt out of his agreement with the shady corporation after he realizes that by letting that coffin out of quarantine, he may have single handedly given way to the black plague of the 21st century to be released in New York City. When he travels to visit the guy he knew at the company, he instead runs into Thomas Eichorst, who hides in the shadows with his perfectly quaffed hair, white smile and expertly tailored suit.
As it turns out, Eichorst has become an expert at wearing masks and not just the one where he feigns concern for Jim’s wife, who is dying of a rare form of cancer and her only hope of survival is a Stanford clinical drug trail that she was shut out of earlier this year. No, Eichorst’s masks are both psychologically and physically quite deep.
In possibly the most visually striking and scary scenes shown thus far on ‘The Strain’, Eichorst wakes every morning before sitting down at a makeup table with a suit and all the trimmings laid out on the bed for him. When his face is revealed in the mirror, Eichorst is more Voldemort than man, nose missing, teeth jagged and raw and a gaping hole in his throat with veins flowing down into his cavernous chest. Piece by piece, Eichorst puts himself together, meticulously crafting his face with glue and makeup before applying his hair and slipping on the undoubtedly expensive suit. Once he finishes brushing off any sediment that may be soiling his clothes, Eichorst smiles and revels in the day where he will no longer have to go through this façade.
It’s that plastic and rubber face that greets Jim in the office, and when the CDC examiner threatens to go to the police, Eichorst doesn’t attack or reveal his true nature. Instead, he offers up a pile of cash and a guarantee that his wife will get into that drug trial she so desperately needs to save her life. He also tells Jim he now has two bosses — one named Ephraim Goodweather and the other called Stoneheart.
Jim takes the cash and squirms out of the office, still questioning his decision, but when he arrives home and his wife shares the news that she just got a call inviting her to participate in the trial, it all seems worth while. Eichorst finishes his dirty business for the day when he visits the CEO of Regis Air — and promptly forces him to put a bullet into his own brain, making it look like a suicide. It appears the vampire plan includes putting the full blame of the airline disaster on the airline itself so the investigation starts and stops with them.
Meanwhile in other parts of New York, two more of the survivors of the plane ride from hell start exhibiting some very strange symptoms. While it’s clear from little Emma’s transformation that the 206 people that died are all becoming vampires, there’s still no clear definition of why these particular four people survived and what makes them different from all the others? There has to be something behind that, right?
Ansel Barbour finds his gums bloody and an awful ringing in his ears when he wakes up while he sees scores of reporters waiting outside his house for some kind of a story. Later in the day as his eyes turn bloodshot red and his dog stops being friendly and instead growls at him like he’s a predator in disguise, Ansel decides to have a snack but when he opens the refrigerator the only thing that looks appealing is a defrosting tray of meat with a watery discharge of blood circling the bottom of the pan. Ansel picks up the dish and quickly drinks down the blood before seeing his wife staring in disgust just a few feet away. He turns and goes back upstairs as if nothing ever happened.
Meanwhile uptown, our favorite goth rocker Gabriel Bolivar can’t sing because his throat his raw and when he removes his wig, he notices his hair is falling out in chunks. A visit from his doctor, who offers him every sedative and anti-depression drug known to mankind, can’t give him any answers when he pulls back his robe and shows him what we can only imagine looks like something akin to a plate full of sausage and marinara sauce covered pasta. Later in the day, Gabriel uses the bathroom and when a giant splash is heard and not seen — this is FX after all not HBO — the rock star doesn’t look the least bit concerned and when he turns around, his entire body is exposed and he’s as anatomically correct as a Ken doll. The latest side effect of vampirism is revealed.
In other words, there’s not going to be any vampire sex happening in this show.
In another part of New York, our favorite exterminator Vasiliy Fet shows up at work only to find out that a hedge fund director with major contributions to the mayor’s office has a rat problem — namely that one showed up on his daughter’s pillow and bit her in the face. Against his best principles, Vasiliy shows up and eradicates the pest while giving her father a lesson on why the rats were there in the first place — the building’s foundation is set on an old cigar factory and he happens to really enjoy $50 a piece Cubans for a late night snack. The scent attracted the rats and bit his daughter because of it. But this isn’t the only incident it seems. Vasiliy can’t help but notice the calls for rat invasions are up all over the city and when he leaves the high rise following his latest extermination, he sees a river of rats flowing out of a drain pipe once again raising his alert levels that something isn’t right.
Following a couple of nights in jail, Abraham is let loose after convincing the judge that he’s nothing more than a harmless old man who got confused watching the story about the airline disaster on TV. Ephraim’s No. 1 gal Nora is there to meet him when he leaves the courthouse as she tries to get answers concerning his knowledge about that mysterious coffin. Abraham insists that she’s not ready to hear the truth, especially when Nora refuses to give him access to the passenger manifest. He gets his hands on it anyways thanks to a teenage hacker he pays off with a video game system. Abraham scans the list and remarks that it’s time to visit the families because those bodies that went missing weren’t taken by any government agencies — they are walking, talking and all headed home.
Ephraim gets the same idea to visit Emma’s father, but when arrives, the house is left wide open and there’s no sign of anyone inside. Even in the cold bathtub where just hours ago, little Emma was feasting on her father’s blood, there’s no trace of anything except some clumps of hair floating in the dirty water. When Eph leaves, a figure lurks in the shadows, clearly shying away from the bright light of the day.
Back at the hospital, Ephraim goes to visit Captain Redfern before he goes into emergency surgery, but there’s on problem — he’s gone missing. The team goes on a hunt for him and it’s Jim that happens across him first. Redfern isn’t hurting or confused, he’s looking for something or more specifically he’s looking for food.
Redfern attacks and luckily Nora and Eph both arrive to help Jim defend against this man turned monster. Redfern even tosses his sucking implement at Ephraim, desperate to draw blood from him, but each attack misses. Eph quickly grabs a fire extinguisher and proceeds to bash the airline captain’s brains in before resting on the ground both relieved and shocked from what he just witnessed. This wasn’t just any virus that infected the 210 people on board that plane.
It’s something much more and much scarier than Eph could have ever imagined, but who will believe his story outside of the two people that just saw what he saw before his very eyes?
Tune into the next episode of ‘The Strain’ this Sunday at 10pm ET/PT to find out!