The Strain, Season 2, Episodes 1-3
Created by Guillermo Del Toro, Chuck Hugan
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on FX
Danger escalates within season two’s first three episodes as inter-state highways are closed off and travel becomes heavily regulated. The constant sound of sirens and gunfire mixed with panicked voices in the background serves as a relentless reminder of how quickly humans are succumbing to The Master’s plan. In Manhattan, the newly-strigoi-ed Palmer uses his wealth to open a food bank for NYC’s remaining humanity. The purpose of the “Freedom Center” is not yet clear. Gathering so many humans together makes it easy to turn a large population of remaining New Yorkers into strigoi and also help The Master find a new host for his dying body. Luckily, the Freedom Center (and Palmer) is on the radar of our team.
Abraham continues to be the series’ most complex character. Flashbacks reveal bits and pieces of significant moments in what’s been a lifetime of tenacity in pursuit of The Master. In the present day, the elderly man boils parasitic strigoi worms into an eyedrop solution for vitality. Abraham will literally not allow himself to die until he’s taken down his foe. David Bradley’s performance as Abraham is consistently stellar—the best acting on the show. The reserved look of awe on his face as he peers into the microscope and the tension with which he hesitates before dropping the solution into his eyes are both subtle, but Bradley’s mastery of Abraham’s character keeps the viewer engaged in a scene with no dialogue.
Abraham’s past reveals his single-mindedness as his biggest flaw. Several times throughout his career, he’s failed to listen the concerns of his loved ones and allies whenever hints of The Master’s location have come his way. The unquestioning way in which he chases after clues has caused him to easily fall into traps and put others in danger. The promise of new resources (including the Occido Lumen) from his alliance with Vaun has him to lying to and isolating himself from his closest allies. Aid from the society of strigoi who serve The Ancients arrives just in time for Abraham. The finale of season one left him doubtful and helpless. Vaun’s offer of a mutually beneficial alliance has given Abraham back his drive and a new sense of direction.
The time the series has spent on Abraham has left other characters feeling flat in their development. Dutch helps Fet carry out his plan to keep Brooklyn safe from outbreak, but in following his lead, she hasn’t had the opportunity to exhibit more of her hacker skills. The romance between her and Fet feels like it exists to titillate the viewer with a woman who, immediately after she’s helped exterminate numerous creatures or had her integrity viciously attacked while already vulnerable, is down for sexytimes. However her quest to find her ex-girlfriend, Nikki, is beginning to sketch out her less-than-noble past self, creating room for character growth. On another positive note, Palmer’s hubris contrasts with the pleasure Eichorst takes in being The Master’s right-hand man. Palmer has armed his office with UV lights that couldn’t have been intended for Vaun’s band of strigoi while Eichorst delights in murdering an entire class of blind school children.
Through the series’ flashbacks, it’s established that The Master is unrelenting in how he strikes. His newest move is strengthening his brood by granting autonomy (in a sense) to yet another of his agents: Kelly. Although she’s been given a voice and a mind of her own, Kelly still operates differently than Eichorst, Palmer, and Bolivar, all of whom have been granted the same thing. While the manner in which they carry themselves is generally indistinguishable from humans, Kelly remains less like her old self and more like the common street vampires that are rapidly infesting the city. Still, her character is moving beyond being used as The Master’s special pawn to give Ephraim woman-in-fridge-style pain. By granting Kelly agency (again, in a sense) and control over the newly-formed and terribly chilling “feelers”, The Master is able to fully exploit her. The Master’s knowledge that the remnants of the human Kelly’s love for her son could be used to his own benefit, by giving her power to use the feelers to find him, is incredibly tactful. By revealing to Zach at the end of season one that his mother is not dead, but a vampire, The Master paved the way for an easy trap for his adversaries. If Kelly finds Zach, The Master finds Abraham’s entire base of operations.
The ending of the third episode leaves Gus’s character arc up in the air. Will he be on his own for the first time in the series or will he cross paths with one of Abraham’s team? The skills of his that were valued by Eichorst and Vaun make him a desirable ally for anybody wanting to exterminate strigoi. Corey Stoll delivers his best performance as a buzzed Ephraim threatens The Master through his test subject, but his cockiness is premature as Kelly and the feelers will likely be showing up in the next episode. In Staten Island, Councilwoman Feraldo flexes her muscles by displaying decapitated strigoi on the ferry docks, which gets the mayor’s attention, but Palmer’s tendency to rub elbows with NYC government officials could put Feraldo at high risk. Hubris may be Palmer’s downfall: his opposition to being monitored by Bolivar hints that he wants the perks of immortality without being part of a collective that serves a higher power.
Though only a few have been getting the spotlight, each character in The Strain has conflicts and challenges to take on as the season plays out, ensuring that every episode will be engaging. Hopefully we’ll soon see a scene that tops the level of disgusting that was the torrential worm-vomit that turned Sardu into a host for The Master!