The Strain Recap: Justine’s Bait-Men

L-R: Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez, Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet, Max Charles as Zack Goodweather, Corey Stoll as Ephraim Goodweather. FX
The Strain
The Strain
Episode Title
The Battle for Red Hook
Editor’s Rating

Such is the random lottery of life and death during a strigoi apocalypse that poor Captain Messina (without the aid of his presumed Co-Captain Loggins, no less) was selected by Eichhorst to ferry him, Kelly, and a bunch of vampires from Wall Street to Red Hook. After all, few things threaten the average American’s way of life more than lacking the fundamental privilege of choice and free will. Messina (actor Philip Williams, who’s done voice work for everything from Garbage Pail Kids to Babar) should be able to politely decline Eichhorst’s proposition, no matter how much money’s offered upfront or how shady the broker. He should be able to find some way out of this terrible, random predicament that’s boiled his life down to one last thankless task before abruptly ceasing to exist. But Mr. Messina has no support, no backup, and no way out, and is forced to spend his final minutes alive doing what some monster dictates.

Justine Feraldo will be damned if that’s how she and her newly adopted disciples of Red Hook are going down. After Eichhorst dispatches his first wave of walking dead upon Councilwoman Erie Basin's HQ and cuts the power for miles, she takes to the streets and stumps for citizens to rally and take the fight directly to their invaders, rather than die without trying. Shockingly, she persuades hundreds of ordinary folks to head toward the water, axes and other makeshift weaponry in tow. Meanwhile, Fet, Nora, Eph, and Zach have ventured into the Electric Substation to restore power and vanquish the hordes with UV. Nora, at last given some utility, cracks the code for restarting the transformers. Her heroics arrive not a second too late, as Feraldo’s laymen army is ultimately in over their bound-to-be-decapitated heads. But oh, what a rush Feraldo gets from their triumph. She might say all the right things about how Brooklyn banded together, but it’s clear from the episode’s closing, messianic image that she’s intoxicated with the idea of having single-handedly saved her city. She may as well be Giuliani in a soft red sweater and hoop earrings. (Not that Rudy can’t doll it up.)

There’s certainly a void where visible leadership once resided, as Mayor Lyle runs for the nearest car service to Staten Island as soon as word comes down of an impending siege. His self-preserving departure echoes Eldritch’s hasty getaway after helping the Master lay waste to financial figureheads. The only difference between them is the mayor’s desperately trying to insulate himself and his influential uptown peers from further reckoning so they can carry on as the power elite. Palmer merely shed the sheep’s clothing per his aspirations for literal immortality.

Everyone’s running and hiding from someone or something amid “The Battle for Red Hook.” Eph ditches Zach (shocker) and the gang to help Setrakian take out Eichhorst, who’s located Fet’s loft thanks to Kelly’s not entirely unproductive kidnapping mission. The virulent Nazi taunts Eph by tapping into his memories and unearthing gems about his ambivalence toward Zach, getting under his skin before attempting to infect it. On the roof and out of bullets, Eph is all but doomed until Abe fires off a few silver rounds from above, wounding Eichhorst and forcing him to scatter à la what Feraldo might liken to “roaches when the kitchen light comes on.”

Kelly, who’s still enduring growing pains as a specially anointed neophyte strigoi, doesn’t fare much better back at the Electric Substation. She’s about as precise with a gun as Feraldo is (not that women on this show can’t shoot … just these two can’t) and nearly gets choked out by Fet as Nora finds safe haven with Zach. In fairness, she turns the tables on her aggressor until Captain Frank’s crew join the party and send her bounding back up to higher ground.

Though you wouldn’t believe who’s suddenly fleeing in the other direction. Unless you watched the episode, and then you’d both know the answer and find it entirely plausible. Whatever the circumstance, Nikki’s about-face from cowardice was awfully unanticipated and, frankly, kind of a bummer. Now we’re forced to endure her and Fet making nice and patting each other on the back until she inevitably kicks it by season’s end so Vasiliy and Dutch can resume their randy affair. Or, even worse, she and Dutch hate-banging before arguing some more about what “one girl” can do to save the world. (Uh, hello, Nikki, ever hear of Mother Teresa?)

Fortunately, we’ve gotten accustomed to certain ensemble characters only appearing on alternating weeks, so next Sunday promises a lot fewer lovers’ quarrels and more ass-kicking from Quinlan and Gus. And at some point, The Strain will need to demonstrate that it can go all the way with a confrontation rather than culminate with one or both parties brushing up against death and then retreating to recoup. The more imposing questions yet unanswered for the show’s would-be heroes (and the world) are if they can reconcile the mythological and biological implications of this epidemic; recognize and fail to be seduced by ultimate power; and hold onto their decency while contending with the worst examples of human and vampire kind. In so many ways, it’s not merely a battle for Red Hook, but a war for modern times.

Apart from all that:

  • As you may know by now, the title sequence in this episode was specially commissioned just for this week.
  • When Nikki said, “You look so gay using that tool,” was she referring to Fet?
  • R.I.P., Bob and Glenn. Security-desk assignees are always the first to go.
  • I don’t know how much more I can handle of Samantha Mathis’s accent.
  • Abe might be getting that no one mission is paramount.
  • All sorts of refugee imagery comes to mind with that glimpse through Feraldo’s eyes of the vampires descending on Red Hook’s gates.
  • Richard Sammel is really just spectacular in this show.