Ephraim Goodweather has seen the light.
On “Creatures of the Night,” the eighth episode of FX’s The Strain, the good doctor and his companions went toe-to-toe (or nail gun-to-bloodsucking tongue, in more cases than one) with an organized army of Strigoi. The monsters cornered Eph and friends inside a convenience store, working as a unit to smoke the humans out. It’s a far cry from the mindless, droning zombies of The Walking Dead, and with good reason; unlike those brain-dead walkers, even the most feeble vampire on The Strain can be used like a pawn on the chess board, with the Master calling the shots from abroad.
That’s right: the vampires have “a caste system,” according to Abraham Setrakian. The Master sits at the top, but certain Strigoi have more freedoms than others. Nazi vamp Eichorst, for instance, is one of “the chosen,” gifted by the Master and able to retain a semblance of his former self. Eichorst isn’t used to physical damage, either, which explains why he took a gunshot wound to the leg especially hard this week.
The new vamps terrorizing New York City operate under the Master’s control, and while they’re otherwise simple-minded, it won’t stay that way for long. According to Abe, even the youngest Strigoi will mature within a month — but that’s a far future problem, considering the dangers he and his companions face now.
It’s “From Dusk till Dawn” inside of a convenience store, as a group of strangers slug it out against a group of vampires, gathering and gaining numbers outside the mart in preparation for invasion. Both sides suffer casualties. Numerous vampires go down swinging, thanks to well-placed ultraviolet light blasts to the face, and makeshift Molotov cocktails. Humans die, too, including one of the employees, as well as a patron played by make-up effects legend Rick Baker, in one of the show’s greatest cameos to date.
We also suffered our first series regular loss: Jim Kent, the CDC mole played by Sean Astin. During an early encounter with the vamps, Jim is exposed to one of the deadly blood-worms. Eph and Nora Martinez are able to excise the worm they see in Jim’s face, but it’s too late; the virus has spread, the worms are everywhere, and Kent knows it’s only a matter of time. Eph refuses to kill his “friend,” even though it’s what Kent wants; he would rather die than turn.
Lucky for everyone, Kent gets what he wants, and Eph doesn’t have to make the choice. That’s because the group has a new friend: vermin exterminator Vasiliy Fet, now fully aboard Team Ephraham, thanks to his serendipitous encounter with the group while raiding a medical supplies facility for UV lights.
As the vampires close in, and the argument over Kent’s fate reaches a fever pitch, Fet steps up to the plate and shoots Eph’s traitorous pal to death. It’s not the sweetest meet-cute between Fet and his new friends, but it’s a cold-blooded decision that allows him, Eph, Nora, Abraham and a computer hacker named Dutch (the same computer hacker responsible for screwing with the Internet and cell phone signals in NYC) to escape the convenience store and drive off toward freedom.
What Eph’s group lost in an old friend, they gained in new ones. Fet over Kent is an upgrade, no two ways about it. And even though they don’t know it yet, Dutch brings assets to the table that they might be able to use against the Master’s plan. Beyond the new recruits, Ephraham have new tools at their disposal: Ultraviolet lights they can use to burn and stun these monsters. They also have the knowledge that the vampires aren’t just instinct-driven blood-suckers, but manipulatable monsters that can operate under the guidance of a structured plan.
Perhaps the most important new tool in Eph’s belt, however, is renewed nerve. Though he’s furious with Fet for killing Kent, Eph finds himself in the same predicament moments later, as he stumbles upon a delivery truck driver infected with the strain. Rather than leave him for dead — rather than allow him to turn — Eph begrudgingly puts a bullet in the man’s head.
It’s what Jim would have wanted.