The Strain 1.02 The Box

It's week two of new vampire thriller The Strain and in this episode, Dr Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) continues to investigate the mysterious virus slowly claiming the lives of last week's survivors.

Whereas Night Zero, although beautifully shot, was a disappointing debut in the show's script and characterisation, The Box marks a moderate improvement. Plot holes aside, a conscious decision has clearly been made to slow events down and allow character insight. Familial tensions arise between Crispin (Francis Capra) and Augustin 'Gus' Elizalde (Miguel Gómez) and old rivalries re-unite in the form of the Van-Helsing-esque holocaust-survivor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and his Nazi captor Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel). We are also introduced to Ukranian rat exterminator Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) and witness the fast, dilapidating physicality of Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde).

Yet amidst all of this, Goodweather's character takes the spotlight this week as his personal life is opened up. Through an emotional speech at an AA meeting, we discover his battle with alcoholism and despite loving both immensely, his inability to keep hold of both a career and family-life. Whilst the sub-plot of his failing marriage still feels unnecessary, this added depth to his character is indeed a step in the right direction. Whether it makes him more likeable however, is another matter.... For some, this character filler and change in pace may feel lacking in momentum, but on the contrary it makes the episode a little more engaging.

In the same vein, contrasting last week's adrenaline-fulled opening, The Box takes a more drip-feed approach, slowly building the tension and suspense throughout. As time develops, we witness the biological metamorphosis of last week's 'survivors' from human to vampire. Carefully construed through their increasingly blood-shot eyes and pale skin, these subtle touches effectively lead to the inevitable bloody climax. From rock star debauchery to the nominally impressive bath tub sequence (in which a young girl's vampiric appendage strikes the jugular of her unsuspecting father), the gradual build up to such moments works wonders in distancing you from the show's persisting issues.

Whilst characters are developed they remain unlikeable, as does the show's nonsensical plot holes and vapid script. That said, this week's change in pace and focus is most welcomed, pulling us in and pushing the series forward in the right direction.

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