Those of you thinking FX’s vampire thriller The Strain could be a little slow should be pleased with this episode, which is almost non-stop tension and creative violence. The episode takes a break from the show’s many subplots and focuses tightly on the primary crew of Setrakian, Eph, Nora and Jim while expanding that group with a couple of new members.
It could be argued that this episode is a “bottle show.” A bottle show is a technique television shows use to save money where they focus on only one set or location. Most of this episode after the teaser does take place in one location, a besieged convenience store/gas station. On the other hand there are a huge amount of pyrotechnics and special effects on display.
We start off immediately after Eichhorst and Setrakian’s tussle on the train platform that ended last episode. Setrakian was not injured thanks to Eph’s timeliness in the showing up and shooting Eichorst in the leg departments, but Setrakian ominously says there will be consequences for the missing the opportunity to follow Eichorst back to the Master’s lair. Honestly, it wasn’t a very good plan anyway though, dude, because he moves like Spider-Man and you’d never keep up with him.
Setrakian explains to Eph, Jim and Nora how Eichorst was able to get away by leaping on a subway car and holding on with his claws even after being shot. He says the weaker strigoi we’ve seen are young and newly formed. He also says it’s hard to wound a strigoi fatally with a gun because their flesh heals rapidly, but it’s a better chance with silver because it burns them. Eichorst hasn’t been wounded like that in a long time, hinting at a past battle between the vampire and vampire hunter.
The good news? Wounding Eichorst sent the Master a message, Setrakian says, and they won’t have to wait long for his reply. Oh wait, that’s not good news, as Jim points out, saying he doesn’t like the “sound of that.”
Nora and Eph start talking about science stuff and how the vampires avoid sunlight. This leads to a eureka moment where Eph decides to simulate sunlight.
There’s a quick cut where Eichorst casually walks out of one of the subway tunnels, but he’s walking with a limp. He does a Super Mario jump to get off the tracks and onto a platform but it hurts him because of his injured leg. We see he blinks sideways now, which is gross.
The gang’s plan to make artificial sunlight is UVC light, which they steal from a medical supply store.
“Burglars, vigilantes, vampire killers, add it to the list,” Eph says when Nora questions stealing.
Guess who had the same idea? Vasiliy Fet! The world’s coolest ratcatcher finally meets the rest of the vampire hunters. It starts off with Vasily holding them at gunpoint. He’s convinced they aren’t strigoi by Jim talking. Eph also tries to convince him that they aren’t looters, but that’s no big deal for Vasiliy because he admits he’s a looter himself.
Vasiliy had planned to take all the UVC lights for himself, but he recognizes Eph as “the airplane doctor” and a dangerous criminal. They swap notes about “exterminating strigoi.” Nora bargains him into giving them six of the 12 lamps he has.
After carrying out the lamps to Vasiliy’s truck, Jim, Eph, and Nora go across the street to a gas station convenience store to get disposable phones and food. Vasiliy and Setrakian have a nice bonding moment talking about how the subway is being overrun by “thousands” of strigoi and how Vasiliy knows the tunnels.
At the store the credit card machines and ATMs aren’t working. They aren’t working because of Dutch, the hacker chick Eldritch Palmer hired to disrupt city communications, who just by huge coincidence happens to be in that store. She’s out with her girlfriend, who can’t get cash out of the ATM, so Dutch gives her cash and brags that she caused the chaos and that computers will be down for a few days.
Outside Vasiliy takes issue with calling the strigoi vampires. He argues that he don’t have any fangs and they’re more like “rat people,” which is an interesting insight into how much Vasiliy’s line of work influences his perceptions. Setrakian spots a “rat person” across the street and, as it presses its face against the convenience store window like the world’s creepiest and most demented little kid, decapitates it with Sardu’s sword in full view of everyone inside.
By the way, in addition to the vampire squad, our cast of characters inside the story includes an older bearded guy rocking out to Whitesnake as he’s stocking bread, an impatient older shopper, a clerk who appears to be of Indian or Middle Eastern descent and is in a protective glass cage, Dutch, and Dutch’s date. Can’t have a horror story without victims.
After Setrakian kills one strigoi another attacks. We hear this one listening to the Master’s voice. Setrakian takes it out with some nailgun acupuncture and his sword, then Vasiliy saves him from one that was sneaking up on him with a skullsplitting rebar strike. We see the strigoi do just fine without their brains because that one gets up and keeps coming until Vasiliy gives it some more beatdown.
To the people inside it looks like they’ve just seen several murders, but they’re surprisingly chill about it at this point.
Soon dozens of Strigoi start to swarm the store. The impatient older shopper goes outside and becomes a snack. The gang kills a few strigoi with their various weapons and Jim proves the UVC theory by using an extension cord to plug in a light and fry a vamp, but Jim is knocked down in the process. They eventually have to retreat. The strigoi are suddenly walking slowly and zombie-like and it feels a lot like The Walking Dead at this moment.
Inside, Jim has a tiny scrape on his face. He goes in the bathroom to put some hydrogen peroxide on it, and there are a lot of suspenseful shots of him staring at the wound in the mirror for the next few minutes.
And now the people in the store start freaking out. The clerk pulls a gun and says he’ll call the police, but Vasily just calls his bluff, and calls him “Apu,” which isn’t very nice. The clerk also whines about the gang stealing peroxide, food and extension cords.
Nora and Eph start charging the UVC lights. Vasiliy and Setrakian recon the store and have another bromance moment as Setrakian explains the rules for killing the vamps. They are:
- Destroy the brain stem or sever it from the spinal cord.
- Lead bullets can only maim them if they strike bone.
- Flesh wounds heal without pain.
- Only silver truly hurts them, and they fear it.
- Also, Setrakian bought his nailgun at Home Depot.
Dutch is a bit freaked out that her actions are going to get her killed by vampires, but her date is going nuts. The date takes advantage of an argument to get by the gang, bolts through the door and makes a run for it. She actually gets away. “She ditched me,” Dutch says in disbelief.
It becomes clear to the gang that the strigoi are targeting them and are being directed by the Master. Emboldened by this realization the hacker and the metalhead bread guy make a run for the bread guy’s bread truck. Setrakain tries to stop them by making a big speech about how the Strigoi feed on fear but they are unimpressed.
The bread guy hilariously runs with his handtruck in front of him, which slows him down. I guess the bread guy looks tastier than Dutch’s girlfriend because they almost immediately catch him and he’s speared by multiple stingers. They nearly eat the hacker, but fortunately she was too scared to get far from the convenience store door, so Eph saves her with a UVC light and she runs back inside.
Setrakian explains that the Master sees through every Strigoi eye. And also that they won’t last an hour. Nice pep talk.
We cut to a bit later when the gang has obviously been waiting for a while and is getting bored. Vasiliy buys lottery scratch-off tickets from “Apu,” who gets pissed and tells him his name is Hassan. “My luck can only get better,” Vasiliy explains as he pays for the tickets.
Just when it seems like things are really at their darkest, they get worse. Nora notices Jim’s wound and inspects it with a UVC light. There is a vampire worm crawling under his skin. He is infected.
Eph immediately starts gathering items to do some convenience store surgery, but Setrakian and Vasiliy are clearly considering just offing him right away.
The gruesome surgery involves getting Jim liqoured up and going after him with a boxcutter to try to dig out the worm. Eph warns him it’ll hurt and it looks like it does. Adding to the tension, the strigoi are trying to break in at various points. They successfully pull the worm out and kill it with a UVC light.
There’s a bit of a heartwarming moment as Jim says “You two saved my life. My soul,” but it’s cut short as the strigoi start breaking in the store. They are becoming smarter and less bestial. One strigoi distracts the gang by smashing in the glass of the door with the bread guy’s handtruck, giving another a chance to climb a power pole and destroy a transformer, cutting the power. Setrakian tries to shoot him down first, but he’s apparently not that great of a shot.
And now the gang is in the dark as the strigoi try to break in the garage. Only the partially charged UVC lights seem to be keeping them at bay.
Setrakian says the bread truck is their only hope. Jim points out that it didn’t work out so well for the bread truck driver and he also has the keys. Jim is a master of the obvious.
“Fine, we’ll put it to a vote. Who wants to stay and die?” Setrakian says, which is the best hardboiled line of the episode. Setrakian entrust Vasiliy with coming up a plan to get out.
As the gang is gathering materials for this plan, and the vamps are trying rip off the HVAC unit and come in through the roof, Setrakian and Eph talk about how the strigoi are becoming more lucid. Setrakian says that in one month they will be fully mature, but that they won’t be like Eichorst. Eichorst is one of a few to whom the Master grants greater power. Those chosen vamps retain parts of their former selves.
Apu, I mean Hassan, won’t come along. He asks who pays for all the stuff that was stolen and Vasiliy gives him a $250 winner from the tickets he bought earlier.
Dutch was tasked with emptying 40-ounce beers. She’s doing that partially by dumping them in the toilet and partially by drinking them. She asks Eph what happened and he says “There’s no short answer.”
Jim tries to apologize for all of the crappy things that are completely his fault so far and talks about going forward. That’s a cue for another worm to show on his face. They look at his back and he’s full of them. Convenience store surgery is rarely effective.
Eph says they’ll take Jim to the hospital and try to treat him. But Setrakian tells him he’ll go after “the ones you love” when he turns.
“I’d rather be dead than turn into one of them,” Jim says, worried he will kill Sylvia and his parents. There’s a raging argument about what to do, but Vasiliy settles it by abruptly shooting Jim in the head.
Eph is mad with anger and grief and attacks Vasiliy, but Vasiliy says they need to be moving and he backs off. Nora cries and says she’s sorry and Setrakian says a prayer.
And then the strigoi break through the roof. Vasiliy shouts to Hassan for one last chance to escape, but he’s too scared to leave his glass box. The gang walks out in a tight formation with the UVC lights in front of them forming a shield. Eph tells Vasiliy if he gets stung he won’t hesitate to return the favor.
“That’s the spirit doc,” Vasiliy says.
Vasily’s escape plan involves throwing some molotov cocktails and then getting to the gas pumps. Vasiliy has no credit card, so he borrows Nora’s card to buy gas. There’s a funny moment where he has to choose a grade and shrugs and goes for Premium. They fill buckets with gas as Eph gets dead bread metalhead’s keys. He’s started to turn so Eph reluctantly finishes him.
They dump the gas from the buckets and run for the bread truck. Vasily throws a final molotov that lights the vamps and eventually makes the poured gas and the whole station go up in an explosion and fire as they drive away. Sorry Hassan, guess you’ll never get to cash in that ticket. End of episode.