The Strain, Season 1, Episode 6, “Occultation”
Written by Justin Brit-Gibson
Directed by Peter Weller
Airs Sundays at 10pm EST on FX
This is a flip-flop show. One week it leaves us questioning what went wrong, the next we see its potential all over again. This week is more of the latter as, for lack of a better phrase, the shit hits the fan. Or rather, an eclipse hits New York City and the freaks come out to play. The threat of the coming eclipse adds further tension to the rest of the episode, as we start to wonder who will find safety before the darkness arrives. No one really does.
To be fair, the episode starts off in a typically boring manner as Eph’s wife very predictably and conventionally reacts to Eph’s newfound hero bad boy, fugitive-from-the-law persona by second-guessing her relationship with New Boyfriend (the show has made very little effort to get us to remember his name) and quickly switching her allegiance over to Eph. Yawn.
After that, we’re off. Setrakian has a hilarious exchange with a cab driver, who undoubtedly notices how ancient and exhausted Setrakian is and requests that he doesn’t “die in my cab”. Setrakian replies, “Thank you for your concern,” delivered perfectly by David Bradley. Bradley and Kevin Durand are obviously this show’s MVPs, and Durand (as Fet) had perhaps his best episode yet. He’s just a delight, even when he’s being forced to kill his co-workers with sunlight (which is perhaps the most terrifying thing this show has shown us yet).
This episode also features the return of Gus, but thankfully he becomes more of an active member by continuing his work for Eichorst (who we see for what he is – a powerful demon, or whatever). In fact, practically the entire cast is more active than they ever have been as they all collectively react to the vampires going on a rampage during the eclipse. This is a major step forward for the show, giving every character something significant to contribute (for they are reactive, but also active), so the hope is that they can keep it up in the weeks to come. We are now approaching the halfway point of the season, so it’s about time things were put into gear.
It has been easy in the past few episodes to take note of certain moments that feel like the show finally kicking things off and building momentum (the penis loss, Eph joining with Setrakian), but each time we have been proven wrong. This seems different. With the vampires hitting the streets and Setrakian ending the episode by saying, “I have a new plan,” it looks like there’s no going back. The war is here.
So the episode succeeds overall, but it also does so on a smaller scale, with many little moments being pulled off. For example, Fet’s visit to his father is emotional and revealing (he denied a graduate scholarship in architecture from Cornell to be a rat exterminator). Setrakian catching his breath for a long time after escaping the vampires downstairs. The look between Gus and Jim after dropping the body in the water, a look that says, “How are we both messed up in this?”
The main point of concern continues to be the show’s treatment of Nora. After inexplicably walking away from the whole ordeal, as a committed scientist who should want to help people, she has spent two episodes now taking care of her mother, until both of them end up at Setrakian’s by the end of the episode, reuniting with Eph. But is she actually “ready”? What has been the point of this diversion for her character, other than to sideline her from the main action and color her character unfavorably (she also tells her MOTHER WITH ALZHEIMER’S that she wishes she could forget like her – yeesh).
At any rate, this is the most well-rounded episode yet and with the threat now crawling all over New York City, we’re ready for things to really get started.