Sunday, August 31, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - The Group is Trapped in a Convenience Store by the Strigoi in 'Creatures of the Night'

FX's The Strain - Episode 1.08 "Creatures of the Night"

After discovering the potency of ultraviolet light against the strigoi, Setrakian gains a new and unlikely disciple. A quick trip to a Brooklyn convenience store turns into a deadly all-night siege.

For so much of The Strain's first season, I've wanted the show to just embrace the campiness a bit more and just have more fun while fighting vampires. The stakes can still be life and death. It just needed to bring the narrative forward in a big and more active way. "Creatures of the Night" is just a great setup for an episode. It's an hour the show definitely needed during the midpoint of its season. In fact, it probably should have happened a bit early in the year. It finally brings Fet into the main group and that promises to be lots of fun. Even more importantly, it keeps the action at a centralized location - a convenience store. So often, the show has wanted to go big in its scope and juggle many characters over the course of its narrative. Making the plot much more small and intimate benefits the series greatly. We aren't wondering what's going on with Palmer, Eichhorst, Gabriel or the other group of survivors from last week's episode. All we're really concerned about in "Creatures of the Night" is how this growing collection of people will escape from this convenience store alive. The answer to which is a pretty rewarding moment.

It's in the height of this conflict where the group has to make the decision on what to do with Jim after he's been infected by the strigoi. All it takes is a small scrape to get the transformative worms into his bloodstream. Eph and Nora work valiantly to get the first one out as quickly as possible. But it's all for naught. The strain has spread and he will soon turn. This conflict highlights that Eph always wants to be the savior. He's still operating under the believe that they can battle this disease without killing people. And yet, the true humane option would be to kill Jim now so he wouldn't have to deal with the suffering to come. That's what Jim wants and what Setrakian and Fet ultimately carry out. And yes, that is hard for Eph to accept. But I also understood that emotional journey for him to the point that I understood watching him kill the man whose truck they stole to get out of the area. It was out of mercy.

But largely "Creatures of the Night" was a lot of fun. It's a type of episode The Strain needed to be able to produce. And the show does a respectable job at it. It's not the best version of this type of structure. But it's vital to the arc of the season. Do I wish the show could have condensed down earlier and gotten to this point faster? Of course I do! But I'm glad it did work its why to this point. It's not exactly a game-changing episode. It has the one pivotal death which was a little unexpected. And yet, it doesn't suddenly turn the tides in this battle against the strigoi. Eph and company now have ultraviolet lights and their small little army is growing. It's an improvement which is all I could ask of the show right now. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Creatures of the Night" was written by Chuck Hogan and directed by Guy Ferland.
  • It's no surprise that the three best episodes of the series so far have been written or co-written by Chuck Hogan. He just has a much better grasp of this material than anyone else.
  • There were just a few moments that I thought were a bit awkwardly directed. Having the strigoi only able to operate at night is great on the budget so they don't have to keep maintaining Toronto as New York City. But it also can be a little bit of a hindrance in the action choreography.
  • Also joining the team this week is Dutch Velders - aka the girl who was hired by the bad guys to shut down the internet and phone towers in New York City. Yeah, that will be important later on when the rest of the group finds out what she did. Although she should lead them to Palmer quite easily.
  • So is the group just going to leave Fet's six ultraviolet lights in his vehicle or will they go pick them up once the sun comes up again?
  • I'm really looking forward to more Setrakian and Fet bonding. Both characters are so odd and distinct that they just inherently make a fascinating odd couple pairing.
  • But the store worker who chose to stay in the store instead of running was just dumb.