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The Strain continues to impede the few positive aspects of the show in favor for dull storytelling, expected developments and uninspired action sequences, if you could call them that. “Occultation” opens with an adequate cold open. As the camera floats in outer space over the earth, we hear several news reports discussing the upcoming eclipse and the current state of the city. Though, why people would be freaking out over an eclipse escapes me, it is easy to suspend disbelief and buy into the apparent panic residents of New York are experiencing. And we know a very crucial piece of information that the general public is not privy to, which adds to the sense of dread in this cold open.
The scene sets up the stage for something great; it is a promise of some vampire craziness going down soon (the eclipse will presumably block out the sunlight and create a super-long evening in which the very hungry vamps will be free to roam and feed on the already jumpy crowd). It is an exciting little snippet that establishes relevant information and builds expectations for full out vampire mayhem. So naturally, the show spends the entire hour dicking around in the insufferably, mind-numbingly, dull hours leading up to the eclipse and eventually some seriously underwhelming vampire attacks. This is more frustrating than a silly tease, or a fun cliffhanger, a show so mediocre shouldn’t have the luxury in delaying potentially engaging action and story progression, especially since it doesn’t offer anything compelling in its place.
So what does happen instead of fun vampire action? Ephram gets detained by two painfully hokey FBI agents (who we knew were going to die as soon as they appeared on Kelly’s door because, of course), Nora runs around the city with her mother, Setrakian kills some vampires then almost kind of dies/has a heart attack (?), Kelly contemplates leaving the city (or not) and ultimately does nothing, some dudes dispose of a vampire body… oh, who cares? Some other stuff happened but, like much of what occurs on the show, they were just a series of events that don’t really come together to form a cohesive, or compelling story. Once again, the writers are trying to ‘explore character’ and show the individuals stories, sigh. To this I have to say, again: Why does the show insist in making us care for the characters’ well-being when it is so obvious that the writers themselves don’t care much at all for them or how they are being utilized or portrayed? (This is becoming my weekly mantra, every time I sit down to watch an episode of The Strain, I wish the writers would just give up on it. I will never care about Nora’s mother, or Eph’s family, etc.)
The show is a string of vignettes, some silly, some scary and creepy, but most of them cliché-ridden schlock that fills up time and slows down any kind of narrative agency. The characters, in addition to being ridiculously stupid, continue to react in laughably blasé, detached ways to the insanity they witness or experience. Vasiliy saw where the vampires are hiding out in the previous episode and has done nothing to inform anybody, his supervisors, or people standing by he doesn’t take anyone to see what is happening, etc. There is a crazed vampire dude running around in the street, drenched in blood, and the people in the surrounding area have no reaction, even after the thing kills two people. It is as if the events of this show are happening in a parallel universe in which human nature is deprived of any survival instincts or social skills, or logic, or common sense. It doesn’t help that it is never really clear what time of the day it is, or how much time has passed in between each episode, or even between scenes. Which makes it quite disorienting and difficult to follow whatever story there is, let alone rationalize people’s actions accordingly.
If the show’s creators are going to disregard logic and character and story in such blatant ways, the least they could do is provide some entertainment. “Occultation” is another boring and underwhelming hour of The Strain.