‘Creatures of the Night’
The Strain has gone from strength to strength in recent weeks, and tonight’s episode had no intention of slowing down the action. By bringing more characters together, the writers have shed some of the baggage that was holding the plot back – the solo missions and monotonous family drama – and intertwined the fates of the series’ heroes. Now they don’t just have themselves to look after, they have each other.
After last week’s exciting subway chase, Eichorst is making his way back to The Master with a silver bullet lodged in his leg. It’s gratifying to see him hobbling along the train line in pain, because it shows that he’s not so indestructible after all. He, and others of his kind, can be slowed down and wounded, which bodes well for Setrakian and the gang. Viewers don’t want to watch a series about vampires if there’s no hope for humanity, and moments like this one reveal the Strigois’ vulnerability as a weakness that humankind can exploit.
Knowing that Eichorst will be reporting back to The Master, Setrakian, Eph, Nora and Jim go in search of UV lights to detract the Strigoi when night falls. The gang encounter Vasily, who has the same idea and is stockpiling UV lights. Being the decent fellow that he is, Vasily shares the lights but ends up sticking with the group when he realises that he’s better off with Setrakian, who knows the ins and outs of the spreading virus. There’s safety in numbers after all – and that’s really the message of this entire episode.
With Vasily tagging along for the ride, they go to a convenience store for supplies. It quickly goes downhill when they become trapped in the store by a horde of Strigoi sent by The Master. Also stuck inside the store, and thus joining the group’s ranks, is Dutch Velders, the British hacker who brought down the Internet and halted communication. Dutch doesn’t come across so well in this episode; she’s less of the feisty brainbox who silenced Eichorst and more the grumbling token Brit. Here’s hoping she recovers her sass next week, or she might become dispensable.
During a scuffle with the Strigoi, Jim gets scratched and instantly becomes infected. Despite his assurances that he’s fine, Eph and Nora spot a parasite crawling under Jim’s skin. They cut it out, only to realize that there are a hundred more weaving their way around his body. Jim begs Eph and Nora to kill him before he turns, but they can’t fathom the idea of murdering their friend, infected or not. Vasily, on the other hand, has no emotional ties to Jim and takes one for the team by shooting him in the head. There’s a touch of The Walking Dead martyrdom and sacrifice about this whole scene, which is probably why it works so well.
The escape after Jim’s death is tense and well orchestrated, as the gang fend off the Strigoi horde and blow up the store, before fleeing to safety in a getaway van. Luckily the human body count remains the same but there’s an undeniable bitter taste swirling at the end. Will we miss Jim after all? I have to admit that watching him stutter and panic as his inevitable end drew ever closer was strangely affecting. More importantly though, how will Eph and Nora fare without their wishy-washy sidekick? Knowing how quickly these characters move on from death, it probably won’t make much difference.
As usual, the stand out performance of the episode came from Kevin Durand, who outshone the rest of the cast with his character’s deadpan humour and matter of fact attitude. When he assumes that the Indian shop worker’s name is Apu, it’s a subtle little nod to The Simpsons but also a moment of light relief from the terror and blind panic felt by the other characters. Vasily is a man made for the apocalypse and if I were Setrakian, I’d be mighty pleased to have him on my side.
So the gang lost one member – RIP Jim – but gained two new ones, which in The Strain terms is a pretty good day all round. Next week there’s more drama in the Goodweather household and we finally get to see how Eichorst went from man to monster.