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The Strain S01E02: "The Box"

Hey guys, remember last week when I really liked the series premiere of The Strain? Those were good times. I know some of you liked it and some of you thought it was capital-L Lame, but I think there will be a lot more consistency of opinion with Episode 2, "The Box," because it was a lot like the pilot but without all the good parts. It appears that the show is already struggling to extend its story into a full 13-episode season, because "The Box" barely moved the plot forward and spent too much time on the wrong things.

I don't think that means The Strain can't recover, but it's baffling to me that the second episode of a vampire horror drama would feature so few vampires or a little horror as "The Box" did. Instead, the hour—which could've been spent splashing blood all over the place or forcing us to watch through our fingers (the reason many of us tuned in in the first place)—focused on fleshing out Eph's alcoholism, Eph's domestic problems, Matt's renovation of Ep's house, and Gus's fractured relationship with his troubled brother. Gangbangers are cool and all, but not when they're whining about their siblings' unfulfilled potential and criminal activity. 

I'm all for character development because it's the backbone of all great drama, but given that The Strain's pilot established that the dialogue will regularly run into glass doors and rely on horror clichés to pick it up, it's already been made clear The Strain isn't trying to be great. Eph's personal struggles may pay off down the line (though does anyone really think they will?), but as of right now, they're not at all compelling. If you're invested in Eph's battle for custody of his son, then you're watching The Strain for the wrong reasons. All it does is hinder the gorefest the show could—and should—be.


The only interesting aspect of "The Box" dealt with the four survivors of the plane: the Rocker, the Lawyer, the Pilot, and the Spooky Geek (and that's how I'll refer to them from now on, because that's all they are to me). As much as The Strain is a show about vampires, it's even more about an outbreak—but the feds are making it awfully hard to contain it by letting these survivors walk around as if they're perfectly healthy people, despite the fact that they look like they're halfway to becoming a ghost. This week, the Rocker banged a a few broads because that's what rocker dudes do, and he got extra kinky when he sunk his teeth into a floozie's neck, because that's what vampires do. 

We all knew that these survivors would eventually develop the taste for blood, so it was up to the writers to make their transition interesting. But it wasn't interesting. At all. Nor was it campy in a fun way. It was just there, and in the case of a threesome in which one party tries to eat another, "not interesting" should never be part of the description. The Lawyer is going to sue everyone she can—which, fine, why not? Maybe she'll end up being important and exposing a greater conspiracy. The Pilot is willing to help Eph and Nora figure out what's going on, but again, where's the tension? And the Spooky Geek has barely played a role in anything. Perhaps if one of these people looked in a mirror, they'd see what we see: They are not doing well! As a result, they all just seem a little dumb and not even concerned that 99 percent of their fellow passengers from the plane are DEAD. 


Elsewhere, things were even more boring with Eph. He dropped by his ex-wife's house and chatted with his ex-wife's old friend whose name he couldn't remember, and then he learned that his ex-wife and her new man are remodeling his old office into a game room. And then he talked to his kid about what to say the custody hearing. Snooze-a-rama, dude! What's more, Eph's visit to the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting didn't do anything but repeat what we already knew about him; it reeked of The Strain stalling to put 44 minutes of television on the screen. If we're going to learn something about Eph, how about we learn it by watching him fight vampires instead of jumping through legal hoops? And that scene with Gangbanger Gus getting mad at his brother for stealing a clock might've been even more pointless than taking a vampire to a salad bar. I wanted to murder that scene, because I just don't care about Gus's brother at all. No one should care about Gus's brother. Even Gus shouldn't care about his brother. Come to think of it, should we even care about Gus?

At the very end of the hour, our terrifying little friend Emma shot her brand-new super-tongue into her daddy's neck and made him take a facedown bath with her. FINALLY! But by that point, "The Box" had already done irreparable damage, and was lost to pointless scenes full of repetitive and unnecessary character development. You know how sometimes you get a big bag of potato chips and you get super excited to eat them and then you open the bag and realize it's mostly air inside? That was "The Box." I'm guessing The Strain is already struggling to fill out its 13-episode first season, because there's really no excuse for slowing things down this much. Such a disappointment.  


NOTES


– The new exterminator character, played by Lost's Kevin Durand, has potential. But so far, all we know about him is that he shuts down restaurants. 

– Ha, the "It's like a dead animal" line appeared in the "Previously on The Strain..." segment. I would've tried to forget that clunker.

– That dude who got his head crushed in the first episode? His name was Peter Bishop! That can't be a coincidence, can it, Fringe fans? 

– There wasn't any storybook-style narration at the beginning and the end of this episode—yay or nay? 

– It appears that we now have confirmation that Abraham's heart in a jar belongs to his old flame.


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 10/5/2014

Season 1 : Episode 13

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