Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet.
Photo: Michael Gibson/FX
As season two of The Strain commences, we flash back to young Abraham (Sammy Silver) dutifully devouring soup with a wooden spoon at the behest of his bubbe (The Affair’s Kathleen Chalfant), who’s spinning him a carefully chosen yarn about a benevolent giant whose body is claimed by an insatiable but ailing vampire. “Evil takes many forms,” his grandmother warns. “True dat,” Abe all but tacitly replies with a look suggesting both fear and curiosity. He knows these stories have a source but still accepts them as parabolic hearsay. Only years later, after enduring Nazi encampment and encountering the Master, does he discover what even Bubbe may not have realized: The bogeyman is real, and it currently takes the form of a seven-foot-plus immortal bloodsucker with a yen for converting humans into its kind and conquering the planet forthwith.
But after present-day Abe slashed and burned the Master, reducing him to a scarred and charred reduction of his formidable self, he proclaims to Eichhorst that it’s time for a new host. First and foremost, however, he dispatches his sadistic sidekick to rustle up the newly rejuvenated Eldritch Palmer and purchase a liberally zoned piece of empty factory space in the Bronx. The plan, as we’d soon find out, is twofold: entomb a school bus full of blind kids in his mystical loam until they emerge as extra-sensory vamps (or “feelers”), and use its sophisticated drainage system as an easy way to keep the bloodletting going and flowing.
The funniest bits in “BK, N.Y.” come therein, as Palmer, mistaking himself for a corporate-magnate answer to Austin Powers, puts the mack on real-estate agent Coco Marchand (American Horror Story: Asylum’s Lizzie Brocheré). All Eichhorst can do is roll his undead eyes as Eldritch flirts with this foxy young thing, whom he eventually hires away as his personal assistant. Palmer’s on quite a roll, in fact. He helps maintain a credible face by offering an open line of credit to the city and thus inspiring the typically adversarial mayor (Ron Canada) to sing his praises during a press conference. Granted, he’s also hopelessly unaware that he’s an ultimately disposable cog in the Master’s plan. That is, after all, a weary Eichhorst’s only consolation.
So what helps comfort poor Eph at night? He’s lost his wife and is all but losing his son to a justifiably accelerated case of teen angst, and has to reconcile that. As he puts it to Fet, “As a vampire hunter, I’m total shit.” Good thing there’s plenty of vodka on hand. After failing to slay the Master, Eph’s back off the wagon in earnest, meaning Dutch has a drinking partner and Nora (not to mention we) gets a version of Dr. Goodweather that is, by her own admission, more affable. But it turns out Eph was being a touch dramatic. When forced to take up arms against wily vamps at the Brooklyn pathology lab and, later, the storage space where Abe stashed his homemade explosives (silver grenades!), he handled himself quite capably. Maybe, unlike Palmer, our protagonist doesn’t need evil spirits (in every sense of the term) to get his groove back.
Still, for the time being, Eph and Nora are mostly content to busy themselves formulating ways to combat the strigoi. Vaccines and outright cures are all but impractical, they reason, before the aha epiphany that they need to essentially infect the infected, non-turned humans with a combative strain and, in their own words (not to mention Fleetwood Mac’s), break the chain. Easier said than done, since a scant percent of victims get away with a scrape or a scratch and live to tell for minutes or hours. Most get their circulatory systems siphoned in short order by a vampire’s fanged protuberance. Good thing, then, that a middle-aged couple hiding out in the aforementioned storage facility got nicked but survived, making them the perfect test cases.
Dutch and Vasiliy laid relatively low this episode, tinkering with ways to “vampire-proof” their Red Hook safe house and, in Dutch’s case, hard-wire some kind of gizmo that a tipsy Eph gazes on curiously but without a clue. Not that we’re any the wiser, which is how Ms. Elders prefers it. It’s around this point that Fet and the others begin to wonder just where Abe’s been all this time. Out retracing his steps after failing to vanquish the Master, Setrakian appeared to be playing fast and loose with the impending dusk. As it happened, he’d been snatched by Vaun and taken underground, where he was reunited with Gus (small world!) and introduced to the Ancients. Vaun breaks it down that the Ancients and Master are more or less brothers, but the Master’s a black sheep who broke away from the pack and tries to disrupt their unified thought patterns to aid his hunger for general mischief. Abe, Vaun proposes, must forge an unholy alliance with this enslaved sextet of telepathic vamps in order to best find and foil their wayward kin. The old man’s skeptical at first, but after watching them torture and devour a human sacrifice (a game Josh Horvath), Cenobite-style, he figures it best to play nice. Besides, he’s gotta focus on finding the Occido Lumen, The Strain’s iteration of a token sacred text that can decrypt the mystery of how this menace came to befall us and can be stopped. Provided Eph and Nora’s experiments don’t crack the code first, or that Kelly — now gifted with speech and thought and put in charge of the sentient child vamps — doesn’t single-handedly undo their collective quest.
As can be gleaned, The Strain has plenty on its plate in the weeks ahead, and we still haven’t seen Bolivar or met future key players like Samantha Mathis’s Councilwoman Faraldo or Tom Kemp’s Cardinal MacNamara. But it should be noted with great optimism that the Master we saw feasting in that opening flashback was a thing of ugly beauty, with its repellant gizzard neck, lurching movement, and terrifying taunts. If the special effects continue taking steps forward and canned banter keeps giving way to cutthroat badassery, FX could have a legitimate Sunday-night contender, even if its Toronto sets will never quite pass as an authentic New York.
Apart from all that:
- Glad to see Robert Maillet get some screen time sans creature makeup.
- Didn’t they speak English in all Romanian villages circa 1932?
- So the Ancients are kind of like Samantha Morton in Minority Report.
- Re: Coco Marchand, I guess Revenge already claimed Margaux LeMarchal.
- The feelers are very Village of the Damned.
- Very eager to see who the Master will next embody.
- Oh, and sorry to see Ben Hyalnd go as Zack, but welcome to the newly profane Neighbors alum Max Charles in his stead.