The Strain Recap: Strigoi Vey

Photo: Michael Gibson/FX
The Strain
The Strain
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To quote Ice-T’s immortal words, “The tension mounts / On with the body count.” By the final frame of “Runaways,” undead armies have taken to the streets, subways, and — unfortunately for Nora and her mother, who’s so going to get infected — old-age facilities of greater New York. Whether they’ve categorized it as containable anomaly or unquenchable evil, virtually everyone agrees that this so-called virus has spread.

To Abraham, such classification is more than just semantics. “I have seen what happens when people stand by and do nothing,” he cautions Eph.  Inaction is the greatest evil.” It’s a sentiment that resonates today in the wake of arguments on either side of current warfare between Israel and Hamas, even if he’s alluding to his own experience during WWII. Likewise, Africa’s horrific Ebola outbreak uncannily echoes The Strain’s essential, medical epidemic. There have even been reports that efforts to fight Ebola have been slowed by some patients’ belief that witchcraft is to blame for their illness. And in The Strain, clinically sound Eph is having a hard time reconciling Abraham’s certainty that what’s behind this Earthly sickness is something — or some being — ancient and unstoppable.

This elusive Master they’ve unleashed can go by many names, Abraham explains to his cynical new partner. Patient Zero, if one prefers. Or as a strigoi, the Romanian mythological word for this kind of darkness-abiding bloodsucker, a monster Abe’s bubbe spun yarns about when he was a child. Eph, at first blush, is somehow still resistant, almost condescending. This, despite all he’s seen and tried to make others believe early on in the plague’s metastasis. His fledgling belief, while maddening and in fact “impractical,” as Abraham laments, is at least consistent with lover Nora’s contradictory tendencies. 

But our fearless vampire-killer doesn’t need Mr. CDC’s conviction, only his muscle. Abraham wants to build an army big enough to cremate and decapitate every narcoleptic leech this side of Houston Street. As he learned all too well (and we, in turn, amid flashbacks throughout “Runaways”) in the concentration camps circa 1944, you can’t tame or reason with indiscriminate evil. Not when it’s the kind that exists only to “instill raging thirst” that saps humanity’s warmth and preys on us in our most weakened state. Scenes of the strigoi slithering through Nazi bunks and draining its victims, including Abraham’s brother Jacob (Rhys Ward), vivify Abraham’s own unending quest, but also suggest an emotional acuity that could benefit from Eph’s fresh eyes and holistic mind. And by the time CDC boss Everett deems Eph a fugitive for allegedly killing Captain Redfern and sends out an APB on his ass, it’s pretty clear he’s in need of some cavalier aide.

Then there’s Bolivar’s manager, Ruby (a part that continues to feel ill-fit for the otherwise terrific Regina King), who might consider hitting Craigslist for a new fixer and on-call urologist. When Dr. Evanston (Tara Spencer-Nairn, weirdly the second bit-player who’s appeared in the Wishmaster franchise) shows up to examine Gabe’s decrepit member, she may as well be that day’s takeout, and winds up getting the Gary Arnot bathtub-burial treatment before Ruby can say, “Send me the bill.” In comes a fixer to clean up Gabe’s mess, and you can guess whose carotid artery gets siphoned next.

But while the artist formerly known as goth-star Bolivar gets stronger (and, thankfully, gestures more and talks less), attorney Joan Luss is feeling weaker by the hour while recouping in her posh Westchester home. Housekeeper Neeva (Kim Roberts, who knows a thing or two from stealthy cannibals after appearing in Dawn of the Dead) does her best to offer tea and comfort, only to take the requisite verbal abuse from her guarded, tough-talking employer. But the second she sees Joan’s eyes flash like corneal cameras and watches her sniff out the kids’ scents as if testing perfume, Neeva wisely grabs Audrey and Keene and heads for anywhere but there.

Hopefully that means a secret spot above ground, because as Vasiliy discovers underneath a Financial District sewer, hordes of From Dusk Till Dawn extras are gathering in those MTA tunnels, scaring off rats and realizing they’ll need to take this hunt out to the streets come evening. Vasiliy barely makes it back up that stairwell to Centre Street, but not before singeing a few baldies with daylight (although, like silver, the sun probably acts primarily as a deterrent, not a final blow).

Nearly halfway through season one, Abe’s army has its soldiers (who will presumably carry on his mission should the elderly warrior meet his demise undoing Eichorst and the Master’s plans), who are kind of like the Mystery Men (or Village People?) of vampire slayers: Eph (and Nora?); the brainy scientist(s); Vasiliy, the exterminator; small-time criminal Gus; guilt-ridden Jim; and, presumably, additions including Eldritch’s man Fitzwilliam, possibly Ruby and most assuredly Eph’s son Zack. And while monsters like Eichorst and Eldritch hide behind hackers and harvested organs, the evil they’ve abetted is in plain sight, and the battle — thank heavens — is on.

Apart from all that:

Damn, I would have really enjoyed the Serenade for the Eclipse Concert.

Ruby’s thus-far thankless role in a nutshell, when filling in promoters on Gabe’s sickness: “I don’t know if it’s this whole plane thing.”

Nice Ash Williams–worthy touch with the modified nail gun.

Reflections vibrate in a silver mirror. Duly noted.

Abraham makes mean scrambled eggs.

Oh, Vasiliy, having Lauretta give your work order to Mitch. What a card.

A couple of moments tease a fun, They Live­­–esque tactic of suspiciously sickly pedestrians shuffling about amid the city throngs. 

I liked that close-up on Abe and Eph as Ansel’s shed burned behind them.

Oh, and quick correction from last week’s recap: The Barbours’ naughty neighbor was named Trip Taylor, not Chip. And now he’s dead. So there.