The Strain – The Third Rail Comments

EphEvery piece of film or literature that has a villain needs a hero (or at least an anti-hero) as a counter.  Last night’s episode of “The Strain”, The Third Rail, left me feeling that we, the schmucks in-between these two central characters, are doomed if Eph is our hero. Ephraim Goodweather is not a flawed hero.  He is just flawed, and each week, I find myself rooting for Pennywise “The Master” to take him out… and take Nora with him (thanks @pheonixatdusk, for the clown reference!).  If Eph is our hero, I am afraid that The Strain’s version of humanity is either without hope, our about to suffer a huge credibility crisis if Eph leads them all to salvation.  With each passing week, it feels more and more as if Vasiliy, Gus, Dutch, Abe and the #VigilanteVamps are meant to save humanity from the growing viral threat and save Eph from himself.  By saving Eph, hopefully they will liberate Nora from the stupidity of loving a man who treats her as a mirror for his enormous ego.

Like most central male characters, Eph is a bundle of contradictions, ones that cannot be explained by the simple notion that he is a man in the midst of emotional conflict – as far as I’m concerned.  He takes his associate / mistress to help him find his missing ex-wife, and proceeds to have sex with her in his wife’s house while a crisis of epic proportions is taking shape outside in the streets.  He deeply loves and cares for his son, but places him at risk to leave him in the care of a woman with dementia who cannot care for herself and was difficult for other adults to control.  Is it the writers’ indication that Eph is willing to risk his precious son’s life in order to be the hero?  Are we to understand that he doesn’t trust the others to make it without him?  How could they survive or do their job, without his guidance, right?  Yet, in the last episode we find that instead of saving the group, he needed to be saved when his own desires got in the way and put the lives of the others at risk.

TheEyeballIs Nora too dim around/enamored by this man to understand that almost all of his actions have put her life at risk?  Does she not understand that when given the choice between his need for Kelly and his relationship with her, she has lost every single time?  I don’t know if it the writers intend for us to dislike these two and their utterly selfish and narcissistic behavior, but if it is? Dead on!  I find them both contemptible.  Eph is written as a man who “loves” Kelly – in the way a only narcissist can.  He loves her when he’s not busy punishing her for the shortcoming of not allowing him to ride roughshod over her life (interpret that to mean that Kelly has standards and he doesn’t get to play god with her).  Pay attention Nora.  Eph does not seem to like be held accountable for his actions.

In a scene that was meant to show us his compassionate side, he discusses with “the mirror” the sense of conflict he feels.  If they were in a remote village during a viral outbreak, they wouldn’t kill everyone off to save the others.  They would find the cause, cure the ill, and leave as many people in tact as possible.  TVgod help us when Eph meets the #VigilanteVamps. He will be convinced he is 100 percent correct.  Are we to buy that he thinks this walking talking virus is the same thing?  What seems more likely?  That he believes it or that he is wankering on – making this event all about him?  To me, as he is written, it seems more likely that a man with a God complex cannot conceive of not being able to lead a team to cure others who are ill and that he is capable of fixing all things.  It explains his rush to rescue Kelly despite the improbability that she was either alive, in that cave, or that he could save her on his own, given the sheer number of vamps they’d already passed in other corridors.

The Strain Nora EphIt is his God complex that leads him to mock Vasiliy’s attempt to create a UV weapon, and his need to throw his advice in a way that demeaned Vasiliy and his efforts. Of course, Eph was the the only functioning brain in the room.  He is grateful for Abraham’s support, I believe, but not especially big on the idea of seeing Abraham as the leader of their ragtag band.  It is the same arrogance that would make it difficult for Kelly to take him seriously as anything other than a ranting tool, looking to prove the rest of the world wrong and himself the god of all things.  If the writers really want to redeem this guy, have him reflect on why no one was willing to take his counsel (not his ex-wife, not the judge in his custody case, not the team leaders of the CDC, no one).  Then let him acknowledge the contributions of the others.  If the writers want to redeem Nora, wipe the reflective shine off of her and let her stop following behind Eph as if she was given to him like a puppy at Christmas.  Give her a little of Dutch’s kick-ass edge.

My last thoughts on the show are about just how much I’ve enjoyed watching it.  Now that I know the books that precedes the show exist, I refuse to read them.  I typically hate watching movies based on books because I fear the mythical/legendary bean counter execs who, from offices on the magical top floor, come up with ideas to make movie-versions of good books “more profitable” and simultaneously unrecognizable.  Since I have never read the books I can enjoy the show for what it is, for me, an alternate version of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Ephraim = an unlikable, though not completely off-base version of Rick Grimes.

Zach = a battle tested but too young to know he doesn’t know it all, Carl Grimes.

Kelly = Lori. You knew she wouldn’t last, no matter how much she was needed to balance Eph/Rick.  What man can be a hero without a dead wife/girlfriend, mother of his child, to avenge?

Nora = She a little bit like Carol (who was in love/love with Rick in the graphic novel, though not the show).  I only hope the analogy carries through and she leaves the whimpering Nora behind and becomes stronger.  I have a feeling that Mama Martinez will become Nora/Carol’s “.Sophia”

AbThe Strain Guse = Abe – strong, fearless, and leading an army to knock the undead back into their graves.  It took me a while to realize that David Bradley is the sane actor from the Harry Potter series!  From Argus Filch to Abraham Setrakian. Impressive

Dutch = another Michionne, wielding technology like a sword.

Vasiliy = Daryl Dixon. You don’t know why you love him, but you can’t help it.  Whatever he is and whatever secrets he keeps, they’re better left unsaid.

Gus = No equal.  In the Vamp Apocalypse I want this guy at my side.  He’s tough like Vasiliy, thinks quickly like Abe, he has the integrity and loyalty Eph lacks… and on the shallow side, he’s amazingly hot. This is when casting goes terribly terribly right!  Thank you, casting directors.

I probably won’t be able to comment on each week’s episodes, but when I am able to comment, I hope to see you back here.  If not, join me over at! A great site with great commentary on reality tv and celeb news!

Hey, until then, could someone ask the writers where Neeva and the Luss children are?  The #VigilanteVamps let them go and we’ve heard nothing since.  Are they joining the fight? Maybe the Luss kids and Zach can keep an eye on Mrs. Martinez since none of the adults want to monitor her.