The Strain‘s second outing was a surprise: after the show’s first episode ‘Night Zero’, ‘The Box’ chose to focus more on its characters and the thriller-like investigation into the mysterious outbreak. As a result, there were just a few real horror moments, a far cry from the series’ first entry, an episode that was all about setting up The Strain‘ vampire threat. The few horror scenes we did get were wonderfully embedded in the episode’s overall narrative though, and as a result ‘The Box’ moved briskly while also making us care more about its characters, especially in the case of Eph, a man who came off as an effective but bland character type last week. During ‘The Box’ Corey Stoll got a whole lot more to do with his character, showing some of the anger, pain and sadness during an AA meeting, and showing that he’s also willing to step up and act like an adult in a scene with his son and his soon-to-be ex-wife’s boyfriend. These moments made Eph a more well-rounded and sympathetic character, which will help viewers get invested in his arc in the future.
Because the episode’s focus was firmly set on Eph this time around, David Bradley’s Abraham Setrakian had much less to do this week. That being said, his one scene with Richard Sammel’s Thomas Eichhorst was one of the episode’s best: the talk between these two characters was ripe with tension, hatred and a twisted sort of mutual respect. It was made clear that Eichhorst had been the Nazi commandant of the extermination camp Setrakian had been a prisoner in during World War II, and that these men have been at odds with each other for a long time now. To put it more bluntly: these two want each other dead out of spite and vengeance, and if this scene was anything to go by, their future interactions will be a joy to watch. Who we will also be seeing more of is Kevin Durand’s exterminator Vasiliy Fet; while his brief moments were played for laughs this week, his imposing physique and knowledge of pest control will undoubtedly come in handy in the future, and the fact that the wonderful Durand portrays the character clearly points to the fact his screen time will be upped soon. Another character who’s clearly destined for greater and, in this case, more nefarious things is Gabriel Bolivar; his newfound bloodlust saw him bite a woman’s neck and then lick up the bloody trail she left on the floor.
The most effective horror moment this week was the episode’s final scene, though. The camera lingered on the little girl who had returned home during ‘Night Zero’ while she was having bath and telling her father that she was hungry. From that moment on we knew what was going to happen, but ‘The Box’ cleverly delayed the inevitable, a very effective decision that resulted in the fact you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen. When she finally attacked her father and sucked him dry in the most grotesque of ways, it was brutally direct and impressive, as were the little trails of blood he left in the bath water after he had died. It was a great note to end the episode on, a gory gross-out horror moment to show viewers how real this threat is and to really make you feel like Eph and company need to step up their game to find out what’s going on because, otherwise, they’ll be too late. One wonders what exactly the Master’s goal is and how exactly the vampire hierarchy works, but that’s undoubtedly something The Strain will explore in its future installments. So far, like Eph, we have a lot of questions, but those really make you want to come back for more.
The Strain‘s second episode, despite its very different balance, was as solid as the show’s first outing: a lot of much-needed character development scenes interspersed with a few very effective horror moments. 8/10