Justine Feraldo sure knows how to rally the troops on the hit FX thriller, “The Strain.” Bullhorn in hand, the no-nonsense city councilwoman takes to the streets to tell the good residents of Red Hook, Brooklyn that, “Tonight we fight, or we die.”
That pretty much sums it up.
And she’s so inspiring that the locals of this gentrifying neighborhood arm themselves with all those jars of artisanal pickles lying around and prepare for a massive melee.
Just kidding. They have guns. Lots of guns and knives and other useful police-supplied weapons, which obviously work better than fancy food products to make a dent in the invading bloodsucker horde.
As the aptly named episode, “The Battle for Red Hook,” implies, there’s a knock-down, drag-out fight when vampires threaten to overrun the area, home to the Scooby gang’s headquarters. It had been just a matter of time before Kelly and the creepy Feeler kids found their way to Zach.
Early in the hour, Thomas Eichhorst tells Kelly it’s time “to show them our power.” Then he sets in motion a plan that ferries over him and a few other undead VIPs from Manhattan by boat. Once there, he cuts the electricity so there are no longer any vamp-frying ultraviolet lights to create a safe halo over the place.
With hundreds of hungry vampires as backup, Eichhorst figures his plan is airtight. Kelly will have Zach, and he and the Master will have the Scoobies.
Not so fast, dude. Have you forgotten that Nora has an uncanny ability to decipher a power plant’s employee manual and that hipsters will pick up arms (after stepping away from their locally sourced dinners) to protect their turf?
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of “The Battle for Red Hook,” let’s have a word about the opening credits. Those are new, yes? And they’re spectacular in their campy, comic-book graphics and stop-motion style.
That’s exactly the tone that the series, now in its second season, has been going for all along. There’s a slight wink at the audience, with the takeaway being, “We know it’s cartoonish at times, but it’s a great suspend-your-disbelief ride.”
Now the credits make that plain right up front. (The former credits focused on the contagious nature of the vampire disease. Valid, but super serious). I can totally get behind this change. I just don’t know what took so long.
On to the battle, which I’ll refrain from calling epic because, well, it isn’t. Maybe I’m just disappointed because I was so bowled over with last week’s episode, “Intruders.” This one just doesn’t compare. No Quinlan and no Gus. No Eldritch Palmer. (Though I sure am grateful for a break in the bedroom scenes between Palmer and his paramour. Way too much old-man skin!)
Even though it lasted only a minute, I’m also glad to see Zach get a stern talking-to about letting vampires into the Scooby stronghold. Dumb kid! Since Kelly now knows where the good guys are holed up, Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) knows too. Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) says the invasion is imminent.
They know two more things: They need additional firepower, and they need to warn Justine.
Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), Setrakian and Zach try to tell Justine (Samantha Mathis) that her vamp-free zone is about to be lousy with bloodsuckers. This gives Setrakian the opportunity to dust off his crazy coot routine, muttering about the Master, but Eph sounds sane enough that the councilwoman listens to him.
And this gal has pretty good intuition about people, especially since the major of New York has just suggested that she expand her take-no-prisoners approach to the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Feraldo, ever the politician, says she needs to go into areas where she can win. She doesn’t want some bungled attempts at vampire eradication to smear her stellar record. Plus, she knows that hizzoner’s rich friends live in that tony ‘hood and that’s the only reason he’s suggesting it. Go find yourself another patsy, Mr. Mayor.
Nora (Mia Maestro) and Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) visit Dutch, who is playing Rosie the Riveter at Nikki’s new apartment and is so preoccupied with her former (current?) girlfriend that she begs off on yet another adventure. In fact, she kisses Fet on the cheek and sends him on his way. Cold!
It’s not long before Eph and Setrakian’s doomsday predictions start to take shape. All the lights go out, taking down the UV shield at the Red Hook blockade, and the first-line vampires start to attack.
And, oh yeah, the mayor hightails it out of town like a big girl’s blouse.
Feraldo and her second in command need to know what they’re up against and look for a bird’s-eye view of the danger. What they find is shocking: a sea of vampires ready to bust down their barricades. Justine nearly crumbles, and Frank “Tough Love” Kowalski (Paulino Nunes) asks her if she wants a car to follow the mayor.
His rallying speech may not be the best, but it’s the kick she needs to start assembling her citizen army.
Meantime, Nora and Fet try to get the juice back, inadvertently getting their own juices flowing. (Even if you haven’t read the books, you already know this is a telling moment. And Dutch, as dense as she is these days, notices later that the two make a damn good team).
There’s a violent scrap at the power plant –vamps get picked off – as Nora’s trying to translate a user’s guide, Fet’s playing security guard and babysitting Zach. The pressure’s on because the vampire throng is advancing on Justine and her volunteer fighters.
As if Nora didn’t have enough on her plate, Kelly shows up at the power plant to try to steal Zach. She grapples with Fet, but manages to get away clean again.
Speaking of getting away once more, Eichhorst invades Scooby headquarters and trash talks both Eph and Setrakian. Eph uses his new sniper rifle to middling effect – the kill shot is not in the chest! – and Eichhorst uses his parkour skills to ditch them both.
Also no slouch in the planning department, Eichhorst has brought along a bunch of strong and nimble bloodsuckers for this event, the “mature” ones that can scale fences and run fast (no aimless shambling for these creatures).
The ensuing fracas at the Red Hook barricade turns into a muddle of vamps, cops and locals swinging, stinging and dying.
Dutch even shows up, and then Nikki, armed with a knife from Dutch that says, in essence, “We’re a terrible couple. We might as well kill things together.”
Just as things are starting to look fairly grim, Nora pushes an extra lever or two and the electricity roars back to life. Out on the street, vampires catch fire and turn into crispy critters as the UV shield reactivates.
Was anyone else as underwhelmed as I was about this hour? Oh well, they can’t all be fabulous.