The Strain 1.05: “Runaways”

This week’s episode, “The Runaways”, opens with a house call that doesn’t end well. A urologist arrives at Bolivar’s loft to tend to the rock star’s unusual “problem”. A problem that includes looking like death warmed over; pretty sure there are corpses in funeral homes that look better than Gabe. While manager Ruby is downstairs making her own beauty appointment, a crash and scream suggests that the examination isn’t going too well for the good Dr. Evanston.

And when Ruby rushes upstairs to find Bolivar feeding on the doctor with a definitely inhuman tentacle tongue, there doesn’t seem to be much more she can do but run—injuring her ankle in the process; this is exactly while ladies in survival scenarios need to be thinking about practical footwear—and call someone to come clean up the “mess”.

I know the rich and famous have enough money to get away with just about anything, but this is absolutely taking it to the limit.

Meanwhile, back at the Arnot residence, Abraham and Eph are bonding over the night’s experiences and a wholesome breakfast. It’s a surreal scene that highlights just how off-kilter the world has become: after “killing” an infected family, our heroes are being practical and helping themselves to some eggs and toast.

Nothing wrong with that, really. It’s not as if the Arnots have any need for such things any more. It would be a shame to let the food go to waste.

Abraham also takes the opportunity to enlighten Eph on the full scope of the situation. Pandering to his medical background, Abraham describes the Master as “Patient Zero”, and offers his own hypothesis for why four “survived” the attack on the plane.

While there’s always a degree of suspension of belief required when it comes to stories about monsters, and I’m hardly one of those pedantic viewers that demands a rational explanation for things like magic and the supernatural, it is satisfying seeing how much Guillermo del Toro and Co. developed the medical side of this story.

The concept of vampires as parasites that go through stages of infection and transformation is refreshing. It’s a new twist on an ancient story and it grounds the horror in the familiar. Comparing this vampiric plague to something like the flu makes us connect to the victims on a visceral level—it invites us to imagine how terrible it would feel to slowly transform into one of these creatures. We’ve all gone through bad sicknesses before, after all, where we almost wished we were dead. Imagine if that had actually happened…

Speaking of things that actually happened… We’re shown just how Abraham first came to know the truth about the strigoi: when he and his family are shipped to a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Because where else would a parasitic evil be more at home than at a place where man’s inhumanity to man was in full force?

Back in present-day Bronx, Joan Luss’s nanny, Neeva, is starting to suspect something is seriously wrong with her employer. When a woman starts to stare hungrily at her kids’ necks, it may be time to update your resume and find a new job.

Abraham and Eph set out for the Barbour's. While Abraham hopes to begin building an army of survivors to thwart the spreading of the plague, Eph is determined to get enough documented proof to take back to the CDC in order to have a city-wide quarantine put in effect. Along the way Eph can’t help but be poetical about his beloved truck Esther. “So you’re romantic and impractical,” Abraham laments. “Wonderful.”

Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet.

Vasiliy Fet is getting suspicious. New York’s rats are acting contrary to their nature. He’s sure something must be driving them out of the sewers. A bigger predator, perhaps. So off he goes to investigate.

Nora’s still reeling from the night’s revelations when she gets an awkward phone call. Her mother has once again slipped out of her care facility. Confused and unhappy, she insists that Nora take her home. Because the poor woman doesn’t have enough on her plate already with a vampiric plague racing through the city: now she has to worry about her senile mother, too.

At the Barbour’s, Eph and Abraham find Ann-Marie hanging in the stairwell. Seems her faith wasn’t enough in the face of her despair. And in the shed are the now the fully-monstrous Ansel and his first victim, the asshole neighbor. While Eph repulses Ansel with a silver-loaded nail gun, Abraham does his executioner bit and sets to work immolating the evidence. With his video proof in hand, Eph and Abraham part ways—one still believing he can get an institution to back him and the other knowing there’s only one person he can completely trust to get things done: himself.

A “handyman” arrives at Bolivar’s townhouse to dispose of the rock star’s evidence, only to end up on the menu, too. Which just proves that cleaning up celebrities’ messes isn’t worth it.

Neeva’s suspicions prove correct when she sees Joan blink a second set of eyelids. Now is definitely the time to get good with the going. The responsible nanny does the right thing and bustles the kids into the van for an impromptu trip away from mom.

Down in the sewers, Vasiliy comes face to face with what’s been driving the rats aboveground. Luckily for him he decided to go exploring during the day: the newly turned vampires are repulsed by the sunlight and the exterminator makes good his escape.

Of course, once night falls all bets are off, as Nora realizes at the elder care facility. Walking her mother back to her room, she instead sees another vampire attacking a patient and orderly. Nora’s mother finally gets her wish to go home granted as the pair flee into the city.

Not far away, Eph is confronting his boss at the CDC with his video proof. He even tries to appeal to Everett’s vanity: “If you handle this, they’ll compare you to Pasteur. It’s that big.” But of course, it’s too much to hope that the people in power will handle this. When Eph realizes Everett isn’t going to help, he tries to escape—only to find that his card’s already been locked. He’s as good as trapped in the CDC building.

Good thing Jim wants to make amends for his past treason: with Samwise’s help, the doctor sets off to find some way to fight this disease. We can only hope this has given him a healthy distrust of bigwigs—in a situation like this, it’s clearly better to put your faith in old Jewish men with silver sword canes.

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. Lauren Scheier

    I was hoping that we would get to see flashbacks of Abraham’s past! I hope we get to see more as the show progresses.

    Also, practical nanny’s for the win! I was so pleased when Neeva had the common sense to hightail the kids out of there.

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