The Strain "Occultation" Review: Time Out New York

By Tim Surette

Aug 18, 2014

The Strain S01E06: "Occultation"

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut last week when I declared that The Strain had achieved that elusive TV trait known as consistency. "Occultation" was the series' worst episode since "The Box," thanks to its focus on momentum-killing side stories when all we really wanted was to see New York City be overtaken by a blood-draining monsters. But nooooooo, instead we were learned all about Vasiliy's daddy issues, hung out with Eph's ex-wife Kelly and her New Yawk BFF while they sipped wine and shared some girl talk, and checked our watches while Nora carted her dementia-stricken mother around. It was as if someone had called a citywide timeout just as the sheeeeit was about to hit the fan, and that zapped the energy that'd been built up in "Runaways."

I know I'm repeating myself, but The Strain's family stories just aren't working. What is this, Parenthood? If I'd just seen my coworkers shoot veiny stingers out of their faces and then fried them with sunlight, I probably wouldn't be spending much time arguing with my dad about his Ukranian architecture book and the Cornell scholarship I didn't take decades ago. I'd probably be more like, "RUNNNNNN DADDY! WE ALL GONNA DIE!" while I flipped tables in search of shotguns and hand grenades and screamed like a lunatic. Where's your sense of urgency, Vasiliy?! Meanwhile, Nora's mom feels more like an object designed to weigh Nora down than an actual family member. And I'd rather hear about Kelly's house renovations than listen her yap about whether or not she moved on too quickly. I'll give Eph some credit for spicing up the family stuff, however; when he went to see Kelly, he was genuinely panicked. That's how you're supposed to act after seeing vampires for the first time.

The Strain is currently hiding behind the somewhat ludicrous notion that the internet shutdown (and it isn't an all-out shutdown; supposedly it's just running at dial-up speeds) is wholly preventing people from spreading the news. And apparently these New Yorkers are so reliant on their smartphones that seeing something with their own eyes doesn't mean it'll register as fact, as if they're living in the Wall-E universe. Even when the medical examiner throat-sucked those two idiot FBI guys in the middle of a gridlocked Manhattan street, only the one woman who was initially attacked freaked out. Everyone else was just minding their own business. Are those eclipse glasses that dark? Maybe a guy running down the middle of the street in bloodied scrubs trying to eat people isn't that unusual for New York City, but where I'm from, that kind of behavior is reserved for St. Patrick's Day and when the Blazers win the NBA championship.

All of this followed a good table-setting sequence in "Runaways," when vampires first started appearing in public. Last week, I praised The Strain for its pacing of the outbreak, especially from a logical and scientific standpoint; this week, not so much. Remember the vampire who was in the old folks' home sucking the lifeforce out of someone's Nana, and then the unfortunate orderly who tried to intervene? What happened to that monster? Did he just decide to quit and take a nap? Do all the other people who saw him have Alzheimer's too? A whole day passed since a monster ate an old person with dozens of freaked-out witnesses, yet it seems like everyone still has clean underwear. that doesn't add up for me.

"Occultation" also raised lots of basic questions—the kind of questions that aren't excusable. Are the vampires hiding in the sewers, or are they out in the public? Regarding the vampires that are out in public, where are they coming from? How did Vasiliy's coworkers get infected? I thought the eclipse would allow the vampires to emerge from their dark hidey-holes and have a smorgasbord, but was it just the medical examiner? If it was just the medical examiner, what was the point of the eclipse? The only thing I can assume is that all the vampires that exist so far are lurking in cellars and sewers and storage closets until the Master tells them to come out, but then why are some running amok while others are not? I'm super confused, and not in the fun, mysterious way.

"Runaways" felt like the lighting of a fuse, as we saw vampires starting to cause mayhem in New York City and the onset of an eclipse. But "Occultation" never exploded—instead, it teased us with the realization that sometimes, The Strain is going to fumble with faulty fireworks. This was a filler hour that relied on ladies sipping wine and a mom and her kid watching an eclipse to fill its runtime. I still dig the show, but I'm concerned that a 13-episode order may have been too big for what's largely been an entertaining first season.


– Eph to the FBI guy: "I warned you. I'm sorry." Yeah, you dumb FBI guy!

– I still really like Corey Stoll as Eph, and I think he's giving the show his all.

– Seriously, though. Why did we need that scene where Kelly and Zach looked at the eclipse and said they love each other? Or Kelly and her friend drinking wine? Or Vasiliy talking to those other exterminators in the diner? Or Abe in the cab? Or the first scene of the noseless vampire feeding off that guy? There was lots of unnecessary fluff in this one.

– Gus dumped a body for Thomas. I guess that means he's now more connected to the larger story, but I'm still wondering how he really fits into things, at least from a standpoint of why we should care about him. And why did those cops arrest him and Felix? F THE POLICE, racist pigs!

What did you think of "Occultation"?

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  • KeyserSoze Aug 24, 2014

    Showing Nora's mom and picturing her as a burden, is a clever move. You don't see it now but you'll see in upcoming episodes what's her role

  • Edupinn Aug 23, 2014

    I thought the same thing about the eclipse. I really believed that during the eclipse all those vampires in the sewer would go out and have a great party in NY, but no... just the medical examiner, simple as that.
    Another thing that's been bothering me is the pace of the infection. For example, that lawyer woman from the airplane is still "fine", she can still get some sunlight, whereas some other people turned MUCH faster.

  • mhc121 Aug 21, 2014

    Eph's ex makes the worst decisions. I don't understand how she gained full custody of their son. From her choice of an idiot bf. To letting that idiot bf live in the house with her & her son. To her annoying "New Yawk" bff. To her stupid & unnecessary indecision to leave town for a while. I mean even if Eph is completely wrong & crazy, what's the harm in taking her son out of town for a few days? It's not a life changing decision. I really hope the vamps chomp on her & her idiot bf so Eph can have his son back.

  • woz22 Aug 21, 2014

    Agree with tim review above it what somewhat a mixed episode I did expect once the eclipse happened it would be like 30 days and nights vampires running amok but no ? Fat medical Examiner looking for a takeaway dumb quite frankly .
    I am interested in Vasily character although I did think his dad might of knew about the origins of the vamps like Abraham but alas no "daddy issues ". The Strain has to careful if they delve too much on the cliche character backstories and less on the action then it will turn boring like Penny Dreadful. Arbraham needs help how do expect a OAP version of Blade to exterminate 200 vamps on dodgy ticker ? hope next week we get back to more excitement !

  • Draconax Aug 20, 2014

    I'm not sure why there is this talk about just the ME. Was I the only one actually listening? You clearly hear on the radio of attacks all over the city. We see people at Eph's wife's bf's (whatever-the-fuck-his-name-is) work get attacked by other vamps. The eclipse allowed many other people to be infected.

  • woz22 Aug 21, 2014

    You did'nt see the scale of the attacks ?

  • pekapa Aug 20, 2014

    For me it wasn't nearly as bad as "The Box".
    Yes, it was not great, they should have exploited more the eclipse and all the emerging creatures and yes, Kelly is mostly useless to the show but some character backstories are helping us understand how they are going to fight those things!

    Oh, I think the police arrested Gus and Felix for killing that medical examiner...

  • KateSullivan Aug 19, 2014

    So, because I spoiled myself a bit, I kind of watched that scene at Kelly and Zach with a sense of dread (like I figure I know the next events in that and with Gus which led me to wait something is going to happen....).

    Again, as with the Box, I didn't hate this episode. If to take your analogy, yes, Runaways lit the fuse, but the fuse has to burn before the bomb explodes. I didn't necessarily get real deadline sense during the episode other than with Kelly with the oncoming eclipse.

  • Gofromiel0 Aug 19, 2014

    You're right Tim, worst episode so far. I suffered horrendous boredom during that "filler" episode. Awful.

  • Mate Aug 19, 2014

    It was all right. But it seems like it regressed a bit.

  • Sam20 Aug 19, 2014

    Eh, it was pretty bad. Funny how the mouth tentacles always hit the minor characters perfectly, but always miss the main characters. Even funnier is when these things encounter a supposed main character, they don't try to bite them, they just throw them around. They are dangerous when the plot demands it. Honestly, they seem like lesser versions of the Reapers from Blade II.

  • Mate Aug 19, 2014

    Of course that is what Del Toro is going for with the vampires. Blade 2 was good, far better than the third and a lot darker.

    But as for the characters go. At least in this instance you could chalk it up to they just have better reflexes and would be able to avoid them. It is better than sheer luck or convenience that so many other shows put forth rather than write their characters with any semblance of intelligence especially consistent intelligence. This show has a few seasons before it gets desperate and has Daryl open and door with obvious Zombies behind it.

    The ones that are frustration me the most are the female doc, who went from intelligent colleague of Eph in the pilot to a Loriesque moron who is now his love interest. And Vasily, he has survived twice now, not knowing what he is dealing with and he still hasn't busted out his UV lights that we saw when he was prepping for work. What the hell happened to them. When are they going to act and resemble scientists and figure out the problem and such.

    This show still seems like it is designed for 2 hour blocks instead of 1 hour.

    oh and some advice. I was on holiday and didn't catch this weeks episode of True Blood. Is it worth watching or not?

  • Sam20 Aug 19, 2014

    Funny how the most intelligent character so far has been that nanny for the infected lawyer lady. Don't get too caught up in the science part, because hardly any show gets that right.

    As far as True Blood, I recommend you read Lily's review and all my comments on that review, but you don't have to watch the episode, it wasn't good as usual. Even Lily didn't like this one. 75 - 80% of it was Jason/Jessica/Hoyt/Bridget shenanigans.

  • songokou77 Aug 19, 2014

    I got awesome 'Disaster Movie' vibes from this episode and hopefully it will just get better and better the deeper and darker the apocalypse gets.

    Loving the show 100%, even the small flaws. It's not the greatest thing ever, but I haven't seen many shows of this disaster movie kind. It's even better that it's a sort of Vampire/Disastermovie than Sex/Love/Trublood stuff.

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