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The Strain “Gone Smooth” 

Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/FX
Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/FX

We’ve all known from the beginning, actually before the Pilot ever aired, that the vampires in The Strain were not going to be like the ones we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years. These are ugly, disgusting creatures, certainly not ones you’d want to get cozy and romantic with. And, in the opening scenes of tonight’s episode, we get a glimpse of what you have to look forward to if you are infected with this virus. Of course, we’ve known about the stingers, but we also see from the fresh-out-of-bed Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) that there are also some other very unattractive (pun very much intended here!) side effects.Pretty much anything that the new vampire body does not need just simply falls off – nose, ears, and as Bolivar (Jack Kesy) finds out later in the episode, other cough cough, non-essential body parts.

This episode focuses primarily on the metamorphosis of three of the survivors – Bolivar, Captain Redfern (Jonathan Potts) and Ansel Barbour (Nikolai Witschl). In my opinion, Ansel’s transformation was the most marked and the most disturbing. He begins having severe pain in his neck and back (which we know is from all of his internal organs being reshaped), he starts to see the family dog Gertie as prey (yes, we can probably safely assume that that pooch is toast) and we see the very tip of his stinger as he desperately drinks the blood from his wife’s marinating steak. Bolivar has some similar symptoms, but some others that are just plain funny. Most of his hair has fallen out, he’s become so pale that he doesn’t even need stage make-up anymore and his genitals begin to rot (thus, the title of the episode “Gone Smooth.” Get it? ). We don’t get to see the bitch lawyer, but we assume she is going through a similar transformation.

Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/FX
Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/FX

Even though each of these characters has his own time in the spotlight, this episode focuses on Captain Redfern primarily because he’s the only survivor still in contact with the CDC Canary Team. He may be in the care of some of the best diagnosticians, but the more tests they run, the more confused they become and his condition is only getting worse. It culminates with his escaping from his isolation pod at the end of the episode, prompting a frantic search by Dr. Goodweather (Corey Stoll), Dr. Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin). Jim is the one who eventually locates him. He finds Redfern in the kitchen in the basement sucking on bags of donated blood. Jim makes the mistake of saying Redfern’s name, causing him to lunge and attack. Jim barely dodges being vampire chow when Nora shows up and tries to help. They both are about to go down for the count when Dr. Goodweather saves the day by bashing Redfern’s head in with a fire extinguisher, killing him but also releasing a whole slew of bloodworms on the floor. Ew.

For those who are into the whole monster and gore stuff, that scene was gold. It also highlighted how clumsy and uncoordinated the creatures are at the very early stages of transformation. The only reason why Dr. Goodweather survived was because Redfern wasn’t really comfortable yet with his new “appendage.” Give them time and these new vampires will be very deadly.

Just like the last episode, this one was packed with lots of action and lots of gore. However, what made this episode truly great was the character development, more specifically Jim Kent. We’ve known since the Pilot when Jim let that box leave the airport that he was into something bad. And if you are familiar with the books, you probably expected to find out that underneath that teddy-bear façade was one bad guy. In the novels, Jim has the same lapse in judgment, but the motivation is just pure greed. He had a girlfriend, Sylvia (who was also involved in the plot) and they did it solely to cash-in. This Jim Kent is totally different and it’s the one character that the writers of the television series have truly changed thus far.  While Jim’s motivation is still for the money, it’s for an admirable cause. His wife, Sylvia (Melanie Merkosky), is dying from cancer and he is desperate for money to pay for her treatments. Poor, poor Jim! And, the sick part is Eichhorst knows all of this and plays on it to force Jim to continue to work for them.

You must love your wife very much.  Violating your terms of employment and breaking the law.  I understand there is a very promising antibody trial for her form of cancer.  30,000 people applied but only 100 were accepted.  And, your Sylvia was very cruelly denied…. Our company finances the whole research program.  The decision can be reversed.  It is not too late to see Sylvia admitted to the trial – Eichhorst

And Eichhorst does pull through. When Jim gets home, he learns that Sylvia has, indeed, been admitted to the clinical trial at Stanford. Now, if this backstory doesn’t pull at your heart strings and causes you to reach for the tissues, then there is something wrong with you.

Another point to add is the scene in the novel where Jim was supposed to be infected came and went, without his not being infected at all. In the book, Redfern corners Jim in the basement and does actually succeed in draining his blood and infecting him with the virus. But, that doesn’t happen and Nora shows up just in time to save him. So, what does that mean? Does this imply that the writers have decided to spare the character? Anything is possible, but I personally doubt it. Television shows love to build up characters, make you emotionally attached to them and then, with no warning, pull the rug out from under you and kill them off. I.E. – Jim is obviously going to survive a little longer so that his character can be fully developed, but then, I anticipate him meeting the same fate. After all, does he strike you as one who would be a good vampire hunter and surviving this new world? Either way, and I think I can speak for the rest of the fans who love Sean Astin and who has already fallen in love with his character, we’ll take it for however long we get.

All in all, another great episode and by far the best one so far in the series. We got lots of good character development and plenty of action-packed scenes for the hard-core horror fans. And while there were some marked deviations from the source material, the changes I believe made for a better story.

The Strainairs on Sunday nights at 10/9c on FX.

Most memorable quotes and random thoughts

  • You have 2 bosses now, Jim Kent.  The ones you report to at the CDC – and me – Eichhorst
  • You’re here because the bodies are missing, right? – Setrakian to Dr. Martinez
  • Until you’re willing to do what needs to be done, you’re of no use to me – Setrakian
  • So why are all of the rats of NYC abandoning their habitats?  Is it because the Master is commanding them? (in old vampire mythology, they can control the creatures of the night, including bats, wolves and rats).  Or, is there some other reason?

Want some scoop on the next few episodes? The Strain cast and producers gave us all kinds of scoop at this year’s Comic-Con.

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