“The Box” picks up the several threads leftover from last week and stalls in lackluster fashion. The threats from the first episode aren’t nearly as prevalent, but the ominous sense of dread starts to descend on the CDC as the mystery of the empty plane stops making medical sense.
This episode begins with my personal favorite character of the series, Vasiliy Fet. He’s a no nonsense rat exterminator who thrives in darkness. He’s only given a few key scenes this week but Kevin Durand (Of LOST fame, or perhaps of Blob fame in X-Men The Last Stand) finally gets the roll he deserves. As a member of the city pest control he’s very skilled at tracking and killing vermin… one wonders how such skills will pay off in the future.
Meanwhile everything is under CDC jurisdiction. That much is clear. Ephraim seems to have the power to shut everything down. He loves to show the size of his dick by asserting control. It’s clear that viral outbreaks are serious business here, but it’s almost too much to watch. Especially since the man in charge of the CDC seems completely inept. He doesn’t even understand the gravity of the situation when locked in an intimate stranglehold between himself and Eph.
Somehow though Corey Stoll is still compelling. He does his best with being the one guy who has an inkling of the truth. His ability to take command of a scene shows an assertiveness that few characters share so far. Most of this is due to the fact that the episode largely concerns itself with confused people too afraid to admit this is a viral outbreak. So you get a lot of talk about the repercussions of shutting down New York.
The scene between Herr Eichorst and Abraham is probably the standout of the episode. They share a lot of history and Eichorst shows he’s one evil bastard by jamming a knife into Abraham that deeply penetrates the misery of his past. This is the strength of the series thus far. The science is actually far outweighed by the actual mysticism of the swords and supernatural.
There is far less horror on display this week than the last. There is the fantastic reveal of The Master, but for the most part the plot feels like a stalling vehicle, it just can’t decide how fast to move. Things chug along and everyone other than Vasiliy feel lost in limbo. The only real reason Vasiliy works so well is because he’s so detached from everything else in the main narrative.
It’s just unfortunate because there is a ton of great potential within the series that still feels lost in this episode. Ephraim’s character becomes even more jagged with the reveal of his past as an alcoholic but it doesn’t serve to make him any more compelling. He’s learning about himself and there is an awkward AA scene that does a groan worthy self reflexive info dump.
Pretty much all of the best scenes of the week belong to the last ten minutes. It’s almost as if the best parts of this episode and the extra half hour from the first episode should have been cut into something with a little better pacing, but I digress.
Despite its problems The Strain still shows an fantastic amount of promise, but it just has to make good on it’s premise. This week tried to focus on character, but totally forgot the service the plot and serve up the horror.
– Sean Astin is left to comedic relief and dumbfounded bewilderment. He’s not that compelling. One small cough, good god.
– I can’t stand Mia Meastro. She’s wooden, devoid of emotion, and the most unconvincing television scientist I’ve ever witnessed.
– Chilling when Eichorst recites Abraham’s concentration camp number from memory.
– A huge missed opportunity with the scene in the morgue.
– I dug the scene licking blood off the floor. The reveal of the Master, and the final scene of the week, but it these were pretty much the only moments of horror.
For those of you still in doubt, I urge you to stick around for one more week. This is the weakest episode of the series, and I can certainly promise things get better from here.
What did you think of “The Box?”