Mon
Jul 21 2014 11:00am

The Strain 1.02: “The Box”

We pick up only hours from where we left off last week in Episode 2 “The Box”. A well-built exterminator is prepping his gear for the day like a warrior preparing for battle. As we’ve already est ablished that the vampires of The Strain are caused by parasitic worms, this is a dead giveaway that Vasiliy Fet (played by genre favorite and hulking Canadian Kevin Durand) is going to join our roster of heroes, soon to stand alongside Dr. Eph in the good fight—

Sorry. Kevin Durand started speaking Russian and my brain just sort of short-circuited.

Moving on, we watch as errand boy Gus delivers Mr. Master’s Coffin O’ Dirt to a conveniently underground, dimly lit garage. At least Gus has more common sense than your typical horror movie character: as soon as the coffin starts to shake and yowling shrieks fill the air, he promptly peaces out.

Meanwhile, Eph, Nora, and Jim are taken to the scene of the air controller’s murder. They quickly ascertain that this latest death is connected to whatever happened on the plane when a few UV lights reveal the same “biological discharge” they’ve already discovered.

Eph explains the closest analog in nature would be bat guano, which is just another lovely nail in the coffin of the romantic, attractive vampire. Don’t think I’d be up for immortality if the price was—ahem—constantly relieving myself while eating. Must make for a helluva dry cleaning bill. And nixes the thought of ever eating out at nice restaurants again.

The phone rings and it’s—surprise!—not good news. Seems the four survivors have been released from quarantine and the disinformation campaign has already begun. The Stoneheart Group has started a cover-up painting the slaughter on the plane as a simple case of mechanical malfunction that led to mass carbon monoxide poisoning.

Because carbon monoxide routinely punctures peoples’ carotid arteries and fills their bodies with worms. Right.

At the local lock-up, Abraham is summoned to speak to his “lawyer”. He’s none too pleased to see Herr Creepster, Eichhorst, waiting for him by the phone with a mannequin grin. The unfolding scene is unnerving as Eichhorst taunts Abraham with his past losses and failures, simultaneously crowing over his own victories.

I’m sure Richard Sammel is a wonderful, pleasant man in real life. He probably frolics with puppies on the weekends and enjoys quiet walks on the beach. But damn if he isn’t perfectly cast as an utterly malevolent Nazi. When he presses a single finger to the glass partition with a faint and ominous crackling sound, my skin fairly crawls.

After a long night of transporting giant coffins, Gus returns home to find his loving mother preparing for Mass. It’s a sweet moment, highlighting Gus’s motivations: he sincerely wants to turn over a new leaf and go clean for his mother’s sake. Too bad the “one last job” he took will undoubtedly come back to bite him in the behind. And when he confronts his brother on the stolen clock, the wheels start turning—it’s only a matter of time now before Gus crosses paths with Abraham and learns the truth about his latest employer.

While the cover-up continues to unfold, Eph and Nora stop at a bar to speak with Captain Redfern. The guilt-stricken pilot shares their determination to get to the bottom of what really happened. “Everyone’s first priority is covering their asses. And no one gives a shit about the truth,” he laments, which is a perfect summation for how apocalyptic scenarios always come about in these stories.

It seems everyone in a position of power is too selfish, too greedy, too scared, or too stupid to do what needs to be done before things escalate out of control. Because in this sort of narrative, the world doesn’t end with a bang or even a whimper: it ends with back-biting and arguing just when action is needed most.

Speaking of selfishness and greed: survivors Joan Less and Gabe Bolivar are commiserating over their release from quarantine. The fact that they’re beginning to look like the walking dead with their extremely bloodshot eyes, translucent skin, and bleeding gums doesn’t seem to phase them much. Personally, if I was hearing a ringing in my ears that I thought sounded like a disembodied voice, I’d be making straight for the emergency room.

Brunch is interrupted when Vasiliy exits the kitchen with dead rat in tow, making him officially my favorite character. I love a guy who doesn’t hesitate to swing vermin about to make his point.

Just in case it wasn’t already abundantly obvious that the Stoneheart Group is Evil with a capital ‘E’, we hear Palmer’s devoted assistant Reginald Fitzwilliam (Roger Cross) discuss plans to “obtain” a South American laborer in order to harvest his liver for the ailing Palmer. Because it’s not enough for the dude to set the apocalypse in motion; he’s still got to prey upon some disenfranchised people, too.

Eph stops by the old homestead to keep his promise to son Zack and I’m rather pleased with how the show (thus far, anyway) is handling the dissolution of Eph’s marriage. Rather than paint estranged wife Kelly as an evil, one-dimensional shrew and her new boyfriend as a complete asshole, we’re shown that most of the blame for the divorce truly lies on Eph’s shoulders.

He may mean well. He may be a great doctor and good at his job. And he may love his son. But he’s still distant and unavailable. His people skills are definitely lacking, too, and, as he admits in his A.A. meeting, he’s aggressively passive aggressive. He may be the protagonist, but he’s still definitely flawed and human, which makes him a lot more interesting.

As Eph’s talking about his alcohol addiction, hard-partying rock star Gabe Bolivar is discovering an altogether new craving. His fun with three groupies comes to an end when he bites one hard enough to draw quite a bit of blood. The girls run out while Gabe drops to his knees to lick the blood from the floor in a scene reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s first film, Cronos.

No doubt this little interlude will have virulent repercussions. Talk about STDs you never want to catch…

On the topic of disease: poor Captain Redfern isn’t doing too well. Eph and Co. realize he shares the same puncture wound as the bodies sent to the morgue—his wound just healed so quickly it wasn’t noticeable. Not only that, but he’s got those wonderful worms crawling about under his skin.

Let’s all take a moment to rub our arms and feel properly grossed out.

Rushing to the morgue in the hopes of finally getting some answers, Eph and Nora instead find more questions. The entire building is deserted. Chairs are overturned, phones are ringing off the hook, and 206 body bags are empty.

It’s unnerving to say the least. A sign of what’s to come: namely, more empty buildings and missing people.

Palmer finally meets the mysterious Master. And for all that he was eagerly anticipating the meeting, we get the sense that he’s more than a little disturbed when he sees what he’s paid for.

Caveat emptor, baby.

And continuing in the vein of last week’s premiere, we end on the most haunting moment of the entire episode: back with the vampiric child and her clueless father. Sitting in the bathtub, visible only from the nose up, little Emma is not looking too good. Ignoring her obviously unnatural eyes and the fact that huge clumps of her hair are beginning to fall out, dear papa is eager to help her out and give her dinner.

Unfortunately for him, he turns out to be on the menu. Lunging forward, the girl’s vampiric tentacle tongue latches onto his neck. He slumps into the soapy water, dead eyes staring into nothing, while his daughter slurps down a ribbon of blood.

And people ask me why I don’t want to have children.


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.

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1 comment
1. Becca
Distracted by Kevin Durand. A life story.
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