Episode 6: Occulation
SUMMARY: Now a fugitive, Ephraim (Corey Stoll) tries to protect his family, and is quickly caught by the FBI, while Gus (Miguel Gomez) is once again approached by Eichorst (Richard Sammel).
REVIEW: Picking up on last week's episode, which was arguably the best since the pilot, this week's instalment follows hot on its heels with Eph (briefly) a fugitive before getting picked up by the FBI. Remember how annoying Eph's ex-wife and new boyfriend were? Sadly, they're front and center for much of the episode. It's incredible how cartoonish the boyfriend comes off, and if THE STRAIN has a failing so far, it's how bad the show fares anytime the focus wanders from the battle with the strigoi.
Yet, for every bad bit, there are a few really ones. An early scene featuring Eichorst in his full-on strigoi form as he tortures a victim before devouring them is chilling. Ditto the setpiece where Setrakian (David Bradley) clears a house of strigoi while suffering from heart palpitations, which thump on the soundtrack as he valiantly tries to fight them off. It's a really well-done couple of minutes courtesy of Peter Weller, who also helmed last week's and is showing some real chops behind the camera.
Other parts of the episode are less successful. One bit I didn't care for is Gus' confrontation with Eichorst, with him wiping off a bit of the strigoi disguise, before attacking with him with goofy MMA. It feels silly rather than foreboding. The bits with Eph being interrogated by the FBI are also just awful, with their tough-guy patter (“I don't care who you are fella!”) and them smacking Eph around rather than listening to this highly regarded doctor, whose worked for the government for years and had headed off countless plagues. It's crazy how great THE STRAIN can be one moment, only to be absolutely awful the next.
On the plus side, I'm finally starting to warm to Kevin Durand's Vasily, who cools it a bit on the tough guy posing and starts to emerge as a capable, charismatic hero. The part where he's forced to deal with the office's cute receptionist, turned strigoi is affecting, with him sadly puling the blinds to kill her with sunlight. However, for me Stoll and Durand are both only as good as the writing lets them be. Both guys are capable of being amazing, but they're often let down by the writing, which has really been a mixed bag so far. The only one who's been absolute aces from beginning to end is David Bradley. Mia Maestro's also gotten the shaft as far as character development goes, and it would be nice if she got a little more involved with the strigoi battle.
Like every week, my biggest complaint about THE STRAIN is that it seems like there's only enough solid material for a ten-episode season, with the material for the other three episodes being pure filler. About 60% of this episode is good (the Vasily parts, anything with Setrakian) while the other 40% is crap (the FBI stuff, Eph's family). Still, it's not a bad show, just – again – really, really frustrating. But, I'll keep watching, and it could still get a lot better.