As I watched “Occulation,” the sixth episode of The Strain, I couldn’t help but get a feeling of déjà vu. A combination of elements from the show reminded me of a story I had recently seen. The feeling first popped up when there’s a mention of some craziness in the city that we clearly hadn’t seen yet. Then, during the eclipse in “Occulation,” there were moments where huge losses of life occurred and people nearby seemed to not care at all. This implies a lack of social media that cripples the trickle of information, which would otherwise lead to citywide panic. Beyond that, there’s Eph, who comes to the house of his ex-wife to save their child, only to be stopped by her jerk of a new love interest (and then there’s the incredibly poor dialogue that follows). That’s when it hit me:
The Strain reminds me far too much of Sharknado.
The eclipse that happens in this episode was one of the primary story points in the promotional material, and it always felt like this moment would be the big moment where the vampires could rise out of the dark and attack the masses in the daylight. Well, yeah, that happens, but it’s so underwhelming that minutes later on the street, people seem to not even remember that vampires were ripping passengers out of cars, and drinking their blood. It’s so silly, especially when the show proclaims that the town has been in a panic, when it clearly hasn’t.
Most of the plots in “Occulation” are so clunky, from Eph sort of bonding with his son over the fact that they both thought to get rid of Eph’s phone so that he couldn’t be traced, to the awful new character that is Nora’s mother. “Occulation” seems to suggest that old people are terrible. Nora’s mother is constantly whining and frustrating everyone she comes in contact with, and even Setrakian has to deal with an incredibly hostile taxi driver that warns him not to die in the backseat. Why all the hostility towards the old? No idea.
The goal of this episode seems to be to get Eph and Nora to such a low point that they absolutely must rely on Setrakian, which they do by the end of it. But this is probably the third time that Nora has been told by Setrakian what needs to be done, so why exactly is this the time she’ll listen? Is it because her mother is involved now? If I were Setrakian, I’d just go it alone, running around New York and burning houses like he has successfully been doing lately.
At the very least, “Occulation” does shine more light on two of the more interesting minor characters, Fet and Gus. Fet no longer has to worry about his terrible boss and his job, since everyone at his office has been turned, and killed by him. He goes to warn his parents, which is really just an opportunity for his father to give us some background exposition about how Fet is a disappointment, and was on his way to study architecture at Cornell before becoming an exterminator.
Meanwhile Gus has a more direct correlation to the larger story at hand, since Eichorst demands that he still works for him (in part because Gus broke one of the few rules he gave him in his first job). Gus knows the evil he is working for, and—like Jim Kent—it’s either work for Eichorst and The Master, or his life and his family’s life will become a living hell. In order to keep his mother from being deported, Gus reluctantly continues to work with Eichorst.
At this point on The Strain, the vampire threat is supposed to feel very real, terrifying all of New York City. But right now, the idea the show wants to present and how it presents those ideas are complete opposites. There are moments where The Strain is so close to a Syfy movie, it’s embarrassing, which is a shame for a show that has such potential.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.