'The Strain' recap: A vampire free-for-all begins in 'Occultation'

'The Strain' recap: A vampire free-for-all begins in 'Occultation'
Corey Stoll as Ephraim Goodweather and Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez on "The Strain." (Michael Gibson / FX)

The Master, along with being the king of all vampires, sure is a micromanager. He's left few, if any, details of the burgeoning vampocalypse to chance in FX's thriller "The Strain."

Viewers have learned the extent of his type-A personality by seeing each piece of his horrifying plan unfold in the previous five episodes of the hit summer show. There are devoted minions to do his bidding, threats and intimidation to recruit the unwilling, trails of misinformation, worldwide infrastructure meltdown, and payoffs, payoffs, payoffs.


And now, there's that eclipse fans have been hearing so much about since the pilot. It's no accident that the Master has surfaced just as day will spectacularly become night. He's landed in Manhattan with a choice sliver of time to advance utter destruction as the moon blots out the sun.

Vampire free-for-all!

Attacks by the undead break out all over the city in episode 6, called "Occultation," and provide not only the most propulsive action fans have seen but give our hero a chance to escape the clutches of two surly FBI agents.

Those cops never should have roughed up Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist who sincerely wants to fight the growing evil here. He wasn't lying or insane when he claimed that normal everyday folks are turning into blood-sucking predators. That bitch slap was really unnecessary, officer.

Eph, played by Corey Stoll, has become the official fall guy because, of course, there must be one in a tale like this. He's been caught on video manhandling a survivor of Regis Flight #753, and he admits he ended Capt. Redfern's life. Yes, Eph did it in the basement with a fire extinguisher, but he had no choice because Redfern had turned into a monster.

The feds are unmoved. Charge: homicide. Eph, searching for a way out, promises to locate the missing 206 bodies from the jumbo jet disaster. He and his captors hop in a Crown Victoria and inch along in the mass hysteria of a day-darkened New York. All of the sudden, a vamp strikes, proving that even a gun and a badge are no match for a projectile stinger. Did those disbelieving feds almost kind of deserve to be eaten?

Eph, his beanie and his sense of righteous indignation must move on, though, so he will leave the cops writhing on the pavement. Tough times.

This development, along with providing a little revenge fantasy within a vamp takeover, let us know the whereabouts of the missing medical examiner. He's prowling the streets for hemoglobin while looking a lot like Uncle Fester from "The Addams Family."

Vampire hunter and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian, meanwhile, continues his counterattack on those who have transformed from alive to dead(ish). And in his latest visit to the home of a Regis victim, he realizes his own limitations. He's not young anymore, he has a bum ticker, and he's almost caught in an advancing swarm of newly hatched vampires. He manages to get in several good licks, escape unbitten and torch the place. It was a successful but draining trip for the fan favorite character, played pitch-perfectly by British actor David Bradley.

Several themes run through this episode, including love, escape and family. There's the cheesy soft rock ballad "Love is the Answer," setting up the hour and, later, the Master's right-hand man lecturing that humans think love is a gift and a blessing but fail to understand that it also "binds, chokes, strangles."

Eph tries to persuade his ex-wife to leave town with his son because "something awful is happening … a contagion is burning through the city." She doesn't listen.

Vasiliy Fet, the city exterminator extraordinaire, fares no better as he tries to warn his estranged father about an advancing "pestilence." His dad thinks Vasiliy's lowly job has warped his mind. Come on, elder Mr. Fet, does he have to draw you a picture?

Helpfully, Vasiliy has drawn a picture of the creatures he saw under Chambers Street. But he shows it only to his rat-chasing friends by way of saying, "You'll need bigger weapons." His parents, meantime, stay put.

Not a good day for Vasiliy, considering he also has to kill his infected boss and that adorable co-worker who had a major crush on him. Sunlight, the show's lore reveals, is still an ultimate weapon.


The ties that bind some of the show's characters to the Master's henchman, Herr Eichhorst, involve all three themes. The CDC turncoat Jim Kent, played by Sean Astin, has to keep working for Eichhorst to support his terminally ill wife. Gus the thug, who's recently sprung from the joint, must do the same or see his beloved mother deported. Those guys, plus Gus' husky friend, Felix, find themselves on a mission to steal and dispose of Redfern's body. It's an offer/order they simply can't refuse.

Love also brings Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), Eph's former flame and colleague, to her mother's assisted living facility just before it's overrun with vampires. She ends up, with Alzheimer's-riddled mom in tow, at Setrakian's pawn shop in Harlem to reenlist in the battle.

Eph heads there too, finding his on-again off-again girlfriend and a reinvigorated Setrakian, who says, "I have a new plan." Assume that next week's hour will involve heavy artillery.