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'The Strain' recap: 'Creatures of the Night' closes in, and a major death

Is it wrong to be almost giddy about the latest episode of "The Strain," FX's hit summer thriller from creature creator Guillermo del Toro? No, it is not.

Because Abraham Setrakian and Vasiliy Fet meet for the first time, bond immediately over the concept of fighting evil, exchange quips about Home Depot-grade weapons and obliterate some undead. It. Is. Glorious.

Fans of this vampocalyptic series have anticipated that these titans would come together at some point. That the characters fall so quickly into lockstep, promising to truly get the ball (and the heads) rolling, makes episode 8, "Creatures of the Night," especially rewarding.

There's never been a moment's worth of wishy-washiness from Setrakian (David Bradley), and now viewers will be able to expect that same level of bravado and conviction from Fet. Plus the New York City exterminator, played by Kevin Durand, is a hunk of manly man, so his expanded screen time is a little something for the ladies. Woot, woot.

It can't be overlooked, of course, that there's a gut punch amid the welcome development of this hour. It's a significant death of the non-vampiric sort, with major cast member Jim Kent, played by Sean Astin, leaving the mortal coil before he has time to become an immortal beast.

It was important to the story that Jim stay around long enough for viewers to get somewhat attached and for him to try to redeem himself as an official from the Centers for Disease Control who actually cares about a virulent pathogen run amok.

But he was already branded a traitor, having unwittingly helped set the vampire contagion in motion in the first place. He was a goner long before he caught the business end of a vamp's stinger on the cheek. Just a scratch, indeed.

Unsurprisingly, it's Fet who "releases" Jim, putting a bullet in his brain as infectious worms course through his body. Jim would have transformed in short order and eaten everyone near and dear. And if Fet hadn't committed the mercy killing, Setrakian would have. Like minds.

It's impossible not to draw comparisons between this episode and AMC's megahit "The Walking Dead" because our heroes are surrounded on all sides by advancing predators and must plot a daring escape. Then again, that's a well-used trope in genre movies and TV, so just go with it.

How did the creature-killing Scooby gang end up in such a sticky wicket? The righteous members, including CDC scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), go on a nighttime raid at a medical supply store for ultra-violet lights to "create our own sun," to fry the vamps. They run into Fet there, who was already one step ahead, having seen what he calls "rat people" in the sewers below the city and in his office.

A snacks-and-sundries run to a convenience store across the street ends with them barricaded inside fighting off a swarm of vampires. And of all the bodegas in all of New York, who happens to be shopping in that one? The badass hacker chick who has disabled the Interwebs for a fat wad of cash from the Master's minion, billionaire pipe dreamer Eldritch Palmer. The current communication meltdown? Yep, it's her fault.

Despite a feeble and aborted attempt to run away with the bread delivery guy, hacker chick is now part of the gang whether she likes it or not. At least her girlfriend made it out alive. (Probably not.)

The converging vamps look suspiciously like zombies, except for the projectile tongue/stingers. They gurgle and groan and move at varying speeds, some quite nimble, which can be explained by their "maturity" level, according to Setrakian.

During this standoff, viewers learn some other vital vamp data as Setrakian tells his fellow fighters that there's a hive mind at work. The undead can communicate with each other and work together. They can use tools, just like cavemen! That's because the Master, the king of all vamps, is pulling their collective strings.

And the Master is way angry — Eph recently kneecapped his henchman, Thomas Eichhorst, with a silver bullet — and he's trying to end the renegade heroes before they foil his plan for world domination.

He won't succeed, surely, not against the combined mojo of Fet and Setrakian. But there are plenty of tense moments before the crew kills enough vamps to run from the store, commandeer a truck and speed away with explosions in their wake. Molotov cocktails are involved, as is Fet's knowledge of gases and liquids. So what if he doesn't have a credit card? He's a stone cold asset.

Speaking of stoned, where's Mama Martinez? Sure, she's riddled with Alzheimer's disease and not likely to be a reliable fighter, but did Nora just drop her on the side of the road somewhere?

Viewers may surmise that the elder Martinez is back at Setrakian's pawnshop wheeling and dealing. Or the better guess: She's wandering around Harlem trying to get a stiff drink.

Nora could use one too, since she finally fired a gun and killed a vamp for the first time. And fans might reach for the same after an episode that's filled to the brim with bloody action.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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