The Strain, Season 2, Episode 13, “Night Train”
Written by Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Aired Sundays at 10pm (ET) on FX
Vincenzo Natali, who directed last week’s episode, returns as director for the finale. The penultimate episode of season two had some seriously eerie settings, bringing much-needed horror to the series and this week, Natali presents the best-looking episode of the series so far. The majority of scenes make use of two complimentary colors of lighting, blue and orange, to define two settings: underground and above ground. In the cathedral where the bidding war between Abraham and Eichorst takes place, warm light reflects off of skin and is enhanced by the church’s crimson and golden décor. In the train station, Kelly stands in the foreground saturated in blue light against a neon green background. While Palmer’s penthouse walls are cream-colored and warm-toned olive and his furniture is gold, he and Coco stand dressed in rich cool-toned colors. It’s clear, from the visuals in the finale, that Natali has a mind for color theory which he uses to create an episode that’s not short on pretty visuals.
Two character deaths, however, besmirch the finale. Doctor Nora Martinez, co-creator of the bio weapon that has the potential to save the world, and Coco Marchand, personal assistant and beau to Eldritch Palmer, both perish by strigoi. Both suffer deaths that are saddening while at the same time, problematic. If you are unfamiliar with the trope of Women in Refrigerators, you can read up on it here. Coco’s death is a punishment for Palmer, for allowing Coco to influence him to demand respect from The Master. Her death is a punishment that Palmer is forced to watch as he struggles to try and stop it, and as Coco looks into his eyes (and the eyes of the viewer) through the camera lens. For all her education and way with words—which got her hired to be the personal assistant to the CEO and founder of an influential corporation—Coco’s role in the series ultimately adds up to providing Palmer’s narrative with an emotionally-driven catalyst for change. Her death is painful, not only because of what it means for Palmer, but also because of her wasted potential. She could have been so much more than a love interest.
Nora’s death, at least, has a practical purpose. Had she not killed herself, The Master could have easily used her to get to Ephraim like he’s been using Kelly to get to Zach. Yet there’s something about the spectacle of her death that doesn’t sit right. Had it been Ephraim instead of Nora who was turned while protecting Zach, would the death still have been presented in such an artistic way? There’s no way of telling; any male characters who have died have had short lifespans within the series—not nearly long enough for emotional attachment on the same level as Nora or Coco. It could be argued that Natali’s aesthetic is striking enough to come through in all scenes. While he does have a strong presence as a director, it doesn’t cancel out the fact that both Nora and Coco’s deaths carry the trend in film and television of women’s deaths being made into spectacles. Nor does it excuse that now two of four women who have a strong presence in The Strain are dead and the other two, Dutch and Feraldo, are not present, nor are they mentioned, in this finale.
It’s clear by the end of the episode that Manhattan is in a pretty bad spot: as the camera zooms out of the East River, we see a metropolis with flaming buildings and no working electricity. The Master is also able to gather enough strigoi to interrupt the train out of the city (aside: The people on the train must know that they’re under attack by monsters. Why are they leaving the train?). The Master is also aware that Abraham now has the Lumen, so although the city is in chaos, between the strigoi, the living humans denied a seat on the train—along with Eichorst’s menacing processing plant—and the flaming buildings, his presence in the finale is at least a sign that he feels threatened.
Lest We Forget…
- Seriously, where is Dutch Velders? She’s been a staple since season one. Does she not even deserve one scene in the season two finale?
- Where is Feraldo? She’s done so much for the people of New York and for the team this season, but I guess she’s not important enough to be in the finale?
- I can’t get over the colors in the lighting. They’re seriously beautiful and I hope that Natali returns as a director in season three.
- How did Ephraim and Nora sneak weapons past security? How did the mystery-man-clutching-a-briefcase-on-the-train sneak a briefcase loaded with money onto the train? Given his demeanor while holding it, he’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing. Who are you, mystery man?!