[This is a review of The Strain season 2, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
In the world of The Strain, the uncontrollable vampire outbreak may seem like an epidemic of colossal proportions already, but after 18 episodes, the plague has still yet to move out of a few supremely unlucky neighborhoods on Staten Island. For most of the show's fictional New York residents, the whole situation is only something they see on the news. But to our main characters living and dealing with the ugly face of the pandemic up close and personal, the threat of it spreading outside of NYC is very present and very real.
Of course, as the epicenter of the outbreak expands, things will only get worse for those main players; and from a narrative standpoint, things are bound to become much more complex. As more characters and story threads are introduced, will The Strain be able to successfully weave those threads back together into a cohesive narrative piece? This is a question that begins to arise as Eph (Corey Stoll) jumps on a train to Washington, D.C. with his biological anti-vamp weapon in tow in 'Quick and Painless.'
As the episode plods along, several intriguing developments surface, and progress is certainly made in many of the arcs The Strain currently has cooking. The most significant of those is undoubtedly the one involving Eph and Nora's (Mia Maestro) laboratory mixture, which could be the solution the two scientists have been looking for. So, it makes logical sense that this arc would receive the most attention, as Eph leaves NYC for the first time since the plague's initial event to get more - preferably important - decision makers to buy into his and Nora's plan to "infect the infected."
Besides the large amount of disbelief the audience is asked to suspend that Eph is somehow not spotted before boarding the train (it seems losing that ridiculous hairpiece was a good decision for both the character and the actor playing him), his arrival in D.C. is an exciting development for this main storyline, as it will surely bring some new players into the game. However, his departure will also likely cause a strain (sorry) on the players he's left behind, and we can't help but worry that the show might be leaving those distinct story threads behind for the time being as well (although, we wouldn't be too saddened to get a break from Zack's generally bratty disposition for a couple of episodes).
Perhaps even more interesting and exciting though is what's happening back on Staten Island, as Nora and Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) begin to educate Councilwoman Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) and the soldiers of her New York Safe Street Initiative on best practices for diagnosing and handling the infected - information that's valuable enough to exchange for Fet's (Kevin Durand) freedom. The new partnership that's forming between our band of survivors and city leaders not only brings more allies onto Team Goodweather, but it could also set up a heated public discourse between Eph's side and the majority of New Yorkers who are still ignorant as to just how serious this vampire plague is.
However, with all the positive strides the series is making with its main arcs, there are still other threads that seem to be only inching along, with one in particular being sidelined entirely this week. After spending much of last week's episode introducing the mysterious vampire-slaying luchador Angel (Joaquin Cosio), he and Gus (Miguel Gomez) are noticeably absent. While it's not that uncommon for some characters and storylines to get a week off on a show like this, it only further demonstrates that The Strain might have too many balls in the air at the moment.
Another thread that seems relegated to second (or even third or fourth) fiddle is Abraham's (David Bradley) pursuit of the Occido Lumen, which this week, takes him to shady criminal Alonso (Jamie Hector), who then quickly refers the old man elsewhere, causing us to wonder if the scenes they shared were simply a waste of time, or if this is setting up something else. The one development we do get out of this thread comes from Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), who, in a conversation with a cardinal and his new
squeeze assistant Coco (Lizzie Brocheré), reveals he may be a step (or two) closer to recovering the ancient text than Abraham is.
At the end of the episode, we are introduced to yet another mysterious strigoi character who touches down on a private jet in New Jersey. Is he part of The Master's effort to continue to spread the vampire plague outside of New York, or is he associated with Vaun's (Stephen McHattie) battle against the The Master? Hopefully, we'll learn more next week.
All in all, 'Quick and Painless' adds to the season's intrigue by introducing more characters and elements of the story, but also presents the possibility of the season losing its way and its focus as its storylines become more fractured. There are a lot of good-looking pieces on the table right now, let's just hope the larger puzzle starts to come together in a satisfying manner when The Strain's sophomore season wraps up.
The Strain season 2 continues next Sunday with 'Identity' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Michael Gibson/FX