The end of The Strain’s second season brought with it a lot of changes. When we last saw these characters, they had finally recovered the Occido Lumen, which apparently holds the secret to stopping the Master. And one of the show’s main characters, Nora, had died protecting Zach.
While these big moments don’t actually do much for The Strain that much in its first episode back, “New York Strong,” it does show that even incrementally, the show seems ready to evolve. “New York Strong” shows The Strain already mixing action and plot in a much more natural way, while making the strigoi threat actually feel like—well, a threat.
With the whole world now crumbling from the strigoi threat and our team more fractured than ever before, let’s take a look at the five best moments from The Strain’s season premiere, “New York Strong.”
As “New York Strong” starts, it reminds us in an exposition-filled intro that only 23 days have passed in this series. Already the episode feels like a restart for the show, a place for a new audience to find the show and hop on with no problems. When The Strain began, it presented our main characters as outsiders aware of the threat coming, ready to do what they can to fight back against the strigoi threat at hand.
Now with the world actively falling apart, these outsiders are starting to become the leaders. Since they’ve always been the ones ahead of the curve and trying to help those in power with their knowledge, it makes perfect sense for the government to utilize these people and their strengths, especially considering they rarely have any good ideas on their own.
Thanks to Councilwoman Feraldo, both Eph and Fet are deep inside the plans to fight off the strigoi. When Eph isn’t drunkenly waiting for his son Zach to return home, he’s helping mass produce his bio-weapon to fight off the strigoi for Feraldo. What originally seemed like a sure strigoi-killing weapon now is only 75% effective against the threat. Fet is also continuing to take the fight to the streets, but now with Navy SEALs following his direction, as they try to take out huge hives of strigoi in an effort to track down The Master.
The premiere’s smartest move is positioning this team at the forefront of the fight, with the government literally begging them to play a more active role in the fight.
Meanwhile, when we last left The Strain, Setrakian finally had the Occido Lumen—the book that will show exactly how to kill The Master. In an effort to gain as much manpower and knowledge as possible, Setrakian teamed up with Quinlan in order to take out The Master and the mass destruction of the world.
Considering Eph and Fet’s positions now and the fact that Setrakian finally owns the book he’s been searching for, it seems like our characters are for once in a position of power. Watching Fet interact with Quinlan, we can already see how uneasy this alliance is. Fet makes his opinion known—he doesn’t like working with strigoi in order to take down strigoi—even if they have the same general goals as he does.
Quinlan was by far the most interesting character introduced last year and if the teaser for the rest of the season is any indication, we’re, thankfully, going to be getting a lot more of him this season. But with the weapons weakening, the team splintered and a potential turn from Eph (more of that later), it seems like Quinlan and Setrakian could be facing resistance not only from the strigoi, but from their own team as well.
The Strain has almost always had a problem with its action sequences. The stakes are rarely high and there’s hardly any threat to our main characters. For this reason, it’s surprising that “New York Stronger” actually starts this season off with some intriguing action moments that are fun, regardless of the relatively low stakes.
Eph’s fight against some strigoi in a garage, as he tries to siphon gas, is actually sort of thrilling, especially when he concludes the battle by driving a strigoi right into the sunlight. Far too often, The Strain forgets to have fun with its stories and fight sequences, so this—the first of two two successful battles this episode—is a good start.
There’s also Eph’s desperation for resources, which shows New York City in a dire crisis. Yes, throughout this season, we’ve been hearing about how terribly in trouble NYC is, with low supplies and not enough men to fight the oncoming threat, but we’ve rarely seen it. Even when armies of strigoi were freely killing people on the streets, everything in NYC still felt like business as usual. We were being told one thing and seeing a completely opposing truth. But with such a simple detail, like Eph having to steal gas, “New York Strong” presents us with the type of strigoi-infested world we should’ve been seeing for awhile now.
It’s impressive that the premiere actually gives us two successful action sequences in one episode! Like Eph’s fight in the garage, the search for The Master helps to bring out more of the actual story. The Strain has a history of either committing to action or plot—rarely mixing the two—but this plot actually gives a glimpse into what’s coming up.
For example, we see how close the SEALs get to the Master, as an attack on a hive of strigoi leads to the return of Eichorst. But more importantly, the SEALs also announce that if the Master isn’t found in two days, New York will be written off completely. For Fet, that means trying to protect his city becomes much more urgent. It’s also proof that the SEALs probably should take Fet along, since he’s as good in the field as he is doing recon and clearly would’ve been an asset in the fight that the SEALs easily lose.
If Eph was smart, he’d just let his strigoi-wife Kelly keep his dumbass son Zach and the show would be much better for it. But of course he can’t, so we’re still stuck with Eph trying to get his family back, in some way.
At the end of last season, Kelly convinced Zach to come with her and now Eph drinks his nights away, hoping that the two of them will return. On one of these nights however, Kelly does return to speak to Eph and presents an offer: trade the Lumen for his son. I say, keep the book and move on.
But with the group already seemingly splintered, it will be interesting to see how Eph’s goal to get the book from his (sort of) partners will split them apart even more. Also…photocopies? Why can’t Eph and Setrakian just photocopy the book, give it to Kelly and let it be done? Surely there is a poorly guarded Kinko’s in Red Hook that can be ransacked!
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can find more of his writing at RossBonaime.com and follow him on Twitter.