The Strain 1.04: “It’s Not for Everyone”

In Episode 4, “It’s Not For Everyone”, we pick up right where we left off: with Eph and Co. standing over the body of what was Captain Doyle Redfern. Everyone’s understandably shaken, but Eph shows that he has a level head in a crisis and mobilizes the others to perform an emergency—and illegal—autopsy on the body.

“Well, I just wanna go on record,” Jim complains. “That I do not think this is a good idea.”

“A monster just tried to murder us. There are no records,” Eph replies.

Finally. They’re starting to get it.

As they prepare for the autopsy, Eph reassures Nora that if she needs time she can take it. But she insists on helping, hoping that finding answers will make Redfern’s death meaningful. It’s a noble thought, but we’re quickly reaching the point where nobility will have very little to do with what unfolds. It’s becoming obvious that decisive, pragmatic action is what’s most needed.

Sometimes to cure the plague you have to kill the carriers.

Speaking of carriers: sickly Ansel proves he’s the smartest of the “survivors” by sending his children off to their aunt. When his wife suggests putting the dog in the shed, he cuts her off. It’s clear he’s beginning to feel the hunger. Looks like poor Gertie is going to be the sacrifice that keeps Ansel’s family safe.

Miguel Gomez as Gus.

At Gus’s apartment, old friend Felix is ready with breakfast and a job offer. He’s gotten word of a guy who’ll take boosted cars for quick cash; and while Gus desperately wants to make good for his mother’s sake, he also needs cash to keep up with the rent. He’s truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

On a personal note, I love watching Gus interact with his mother, who seems incredibly sweet if pretty clueless. It’s clear they love each other. And it’s also nice to see characters interact in their own languages—too often on American TV everyone constantly speaks English, regardless of their backgrounds. I appreciate that this show is willing to subtitle rather than make things “easier” for American audiences. Del Toro has always been a big proponent of multicultural casts in his stories; it’s great to see this show holding true to that.

Herr Eichhorst (it’s a real struggle not to refer to him as Herr Creepster) and Eldritch Palmer have an important meeting with a mysterious internet hacker. Seems the Stoneheart Group needs the information superhighway brought to a crawl, to the point where people can’t even load videos or post pictures. The hacker is astute enough to know there’s something shady going down—“It’s much harder to hide evil shit these days, isn’t it?”—but greed wins out over morality and she agrees to do the job in exchange for plenty of money.


Back at the hospital, the most disturbing autopsy in history is going down. Disgusted Jim is given the job of cinematographer as Eph and Nora begin dissecting what used to be Redfern. The team discovers some shocking physiological changes. Redfern’s man bits have disappeared, his digestive system fusing into a single track more reptilian than human. His lungs have shriveled and died, replaced by brand new organs. And his tongue-like “stinger” stretches over six feet, as Eph discovers when he rips the entire appendage from the body.

Ew. This show has really set the bar for disgusting body horror. When Jim starts to freak out, we’re all 100% with him in the grossed-out category.

Gus’s super knocks on the front door to complain about the recycling left in the hallway and the month’s missing rent. It’s pretty clear baby brother Crispin “misplaced” the money; and it’s also clear that the quickest way to get on Gus’s bad side is to disrespect his mother.

Anne-Marie returns home after dropping off the kids to find the house empty. She takes a few pills—seems a lot of people in this series are struggling with one health problem or another—and then takes a moment to pray with her rosary. One can only hope that her faith will give her some comfort and the strength to face what’s to come…

Because when she steps into the backyard it’s to find Gertie’s collar lying in the snow, broken and bloody. She rounds the shed, follows the trail, and finds the family pet gutted and frozen almost solid. And then comes a clatter from inside the shed…

The grief-stricken Anne-Marie opens the door and finds husband Ansel visibly more monster than man, tethered by a long chain and bloody-mouthed. Fighting against his new master’s orders, he tells Anne-Marie to run, lock the door, and never come back. Which makes Ansel the most responsible person in the show thus far: he knew he was becoming dangerous and took steps to protect his family. You’ve really got to feel for the guy.

Gus arrives at Knickerbocker Pawn just as Abraham is preparing to set out on some unusual house calls. It’s a passing encounter, the briefest of exchanges, but we know it’ll come back in a bigger way later. This can’t be the last time Eichhorst’s errand boy and longtime nemesis cross paths.

At the hospital, Eph laments the loss of the coffin. “We should’ve listened to that old man. Taken that cabinet and destroyed it,” he says, repeating the obvious in a way that forces Jim to confess his sins. It’s painful seeing Samwise reveal his traitorous actions—but in the plus column we get to see Sean Astin bust his acting chops this episode. And when Eph winds back and punches him a good one straight to the kisser, it’s pretty satisfying to watch him go down.

You had it coming, Jim.

Reeling from Jim’s betrayal, Eph and Nora decide to head back to the Arnot residence to find Emma and bring her in for testing. The car has some trouble turning over, which is shorthand we horror fans recognize all too well: that car is going to be a problem later, no doubt when our heroes have to make a quick getaway.

Poor Anne-Marie is giving Gertie a heart-felt funeral when an asshole neighbor intrudes to complain about the noise in the shed and the press camped out front. Further endearing himself to everyone, he makes it clear that he’s “disciplined” the Barbour’s dog before. And, well, Anne-Marie is already in a negative and emotional place. No one could blame her for shoving the douchebag into the shed, locking the door, and stumbling away as blood spills through the cracks…

Let’s be real: we all know somebody we wouldn’t mind doing the same to.

While Gus and Felix make some new business acquaintances, Palmer meets with a high-ranking politico. Continuing the disinformation campaign, he spins a plausible story of the military testing a new biological weapon on the passengers of the Regis flight. No sooner does he get her pledge of support before he passes out—when he comes to its to find that Eichhorst isn’t answering his calls and his new liver has arrived.

Eph’s calls for Mr. Arnot also go unanswered. But an extremely unsettling nursery rhyme is echoing from the basement. Eph and Nora descend to find little Emma barely recognizable, covered in blood and fully lethal. The pair recoils in horror as she springs to attack. Good thing Abraham is there with his handy sword cane. With a badass stream of German, he deftly beheads the child vampire. And when Emma’s father appears, he handles him just as skillfully.

New rule #1 in surviving an undead apocalypse: stick close to the elderly Jewish man with a sword cane. Words to truly live by.

Nora is understandably distraught. She’s still clinging to her beliefs as a doctor, misguidedly convinced that they could have treated and cured the Arnots. Abraham has no patience for such merciful thinking—and it seems Eph shares his pragmatic philosophy. The Hippocratic Oath doesn’t count for much when the dead rise up again with a murderous thirst.

Eph tries to reason with his partner. As pitiful as the victims of this parasitic plague are, they’re too dangerous to simply be treated as patients. When Nora laments how young Emma was, that she was sick, Eph’s response is true and succinct: “No. She was gone. That was something inside her shell. That was a body controlled by virus.” These aren’t people, not patients. Not anymore. Now they’re just worms with legs, going out into the night to kill and infect other innocents.

These two get it.

But Nora refuses to see that. “I’d rather die from whatever this epidemic is than kill people.” Whoa, wait a minute, honey: don’t say something like that. You are just begging for narrative fate to be cruel to you. Can’t you see that dying from “whatever this epidemic is” will, in fact, make you kill people?

“This,” Abraham says placidly. “It’s not for everyone.” And damn if that isn’t the truth.

So we leave Abraham with his new protégé Eph as they prepare to destroy the bodies. And I, for one, am very excited to see what next week brings. This episode definitely delivered the goods, fulfilling a few promises set up so carefully in the preceding installments. It feels like The Strain is finally hitting its stride.

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 under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.


  1. Karen Terry

    I love The Strain. It is the best. I haven’t missed an episode. It is gross, scary and good. A different kind of vamprie show and turns the vamprie legend on it’s head.

  2. Lauren Scheier

    This shows continues to enthrall me week after week. It’s so much fun!

    The prosthetics for Captain Doyle’s corpse were AMAZING. It pleased this gorehound so much to see the work that went into creating entirely new organs and that fantastic stinger.

    I really love Gus’ relationship with his mother as well. He obviously has some issues he needs to work out, but you can tell that he genuinly cares about her and wants to do right by here.

    The show committed the ultimate evil in this episode. THEY KILLED THE DOG. When it comes to horror in general I really don’t care what happens to the human characters, but leave the innocent animals out of it! 🙁

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