[This is a review of The Strain season 1, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Remember everything I complained about last week on The Strain? Episode 6, ‘Occultation,’ gets it all right. There’s a good deal of strong action and gore, but what gives this episode so much momentum are the heated, engrossing conversations paired with a powerful foreboding tone.
The idea of an occultation is just genius. The writers easily could have jumped right into the vampire takeover, but instead, they up the suspense tenfold by essentially teasing the death and devastation to come. And not only does this buildup make the idea of the plague feel fresh and like an even greater threat, but it also gives us time to see our main characters react, further developing them in the process.
‘Occultation’ has some spot-on dialogue. It does seem a bit odd and too convenient that Eph just happens to walk up to Kelly’s house instead of driving the moment the Feds get there, but once he’s inside, the conversation feels strikingly genuine in the midst of this outrageous situation.
It makes you think, what else is there for Eph to do besides just come right out and demand that Kelly and Zach get out of town fast? They’ll think he’s crazy, but he’s got to do it.
And the same goes for Kelly, too. When you know what’s coming, it’s only natural to want to scream at the TV when Kelly isn’t taking Eph seriously. But rather than make a split-second decision, the show lets the moment breathe and then bleed into subsequent scenes, a decision that winds up justifying Kelly’s choice, as frustrating as it may be, because it makes you part of her decision-making process.
Vasiliy finds himself in a similar situation and, yet again, it plays beautifully. We’ve never even met Vasiliy’s father before, but because Kevin Durand manages to sell the fact that, despite their differences, Vasiliy still cares deeply for his parents, it’s only natural for the viewer to start caring about his father’s safety as well.
Nobody dies, there’s no action and there isn’t even any screaming or yelling; it’s just a simple, heartfelt conversation and it’s as riveting as anything because of great acting and the structure of the episode.
Gus also makes some big moves in ‘Occultation.’ To start, it’s simply nice seeing him doing something he enjoys. And the same goes for a few other characters in episode 6 as well. Gus boxes, Vasiliy has his breakfast and Abraham hops in a cab.
This is an out-of-this-world thing going down here; you need grounded, relatable moments like these every now and then. Plus, they wind up making the crazier stuff even more profound. Take Gus for example.
Gus begins the episode boxing, but then he’s called in for a meeting with Eichorst. Now, of course, Eichorst has some supernatural qualities to him, but Gus’ predicament is still surprisingly grounded; he wants out, but he’s up against a guy who’s far more powerful than him. Who can’t relate to that?
By the end of the episode, the poor guy has dumped a body in a river, fought off a vampire and got arrested. That’s one heck of an extreme day right there, but it works because it’s all connected.
In fact, almost everything in The Strain is coming together exceedingly well right now. Eph and Nora are back together, Vasiliy and Gus are bound to get their hands even dirtier soon, Kelly and Zach are getting closer to becoming multidimensional characters, and even Matt gets something to do of value by the end of the episode. On top of all that, we’re left with the thrill of the impending apocalypse, too.
Every time one episode of The Strain comes to a close, I’m always looking forward to the next, but this is the first time I would have done anything to have access to the next episode the moment this one ended. Bring on Setrakian’s new plan!
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘For Services Rendered’ at @ 10pm on FX.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.