'The Strain' Recap: Lucha Libre Van Helsing

Everyone wants their mommy.

FX Networks

Every television show should begin with a loving homage to Mexican lucha libre horror movies where masked wrestlers regularly fought vampires. All of them. Think about how much better that network note would have made True Detective’s second season.

So that was great. Then other stuff happened.

This week on The Strain, New York descended into martial law as the Strigoi continued to take over the city. How fitting was it to kick off after the intro break with America’s most famous anti-war anthem ever? Kind of! (The song is actually about the military draft system in the context of Cold War aggression.)

The song plays as our Scooby Gang unleashes their pet project into a vampire nest in Red Hook. Until the next night, it’s a waiting game which sees Eph try — and fail — to reconnect with his son.

I’m not a fan of Zack’s moping about his mother, which is surely going to come to a head like freight trains on the same track now that Kelly and her minions are closing in on Zack and Eph. Still, this week was sweet, as Zack couldn’t even enjoy a day off with Eph without remembering their happier days all together as one family. Zack’s story is probably the least exciting, no matter how central The Strain is trying to make it, but this week was sweet, for all its bitterness.

Here’s what I’m a fan of: Gus and Setrakian. I love seeing Setrakian’s past (despite the shitty make-up) as a vampire-hunting Indiana Jones. We were once again given a flashback to Setrakian’s days in Vienna which was rich with backstory; we see Palmer and Eichorst meet for the first goddamn time. We know serving Palmer was a Fitzwilliam tradition, and watching Setrakian’s earliest vampire hunt was thrilling.

More yung Setrakian plz.

Gus has a far better story about his mom than Zack. While Zack is just whining why he can’t help, Gus is more nuanced. He’s refusing to chop off her head, even when he hears The Master (using his mom as a puppet) taunt him about her eternal disappointment with him. Locking her in their home was rich.

I didn’t expect to like Gus as much as I have when the series began. His separation from Vaun last week appears more permanent (I think Vaun is dead and gone, which upsets me), so his immediate aftermath in this episode was very much about his aloofness. What does he have to fight for anymore, besides himself? Himself seems good enough. His refuge in the Indian restaurant, where he butts heads with the “Silver Angel,” the faded Mexican movie star, now dishwasher and kinda literal guardian angel of the owner’s daughter, was a way station for his spirit until Angel kicked him out. When Gus hooks up with her eventually, it will be fascinating to see how he and Angel develop their friendship. If they do at all.

The teaser for next week was incredibly vague, so right now The Strain has a lot of lateral room to do literally anything. Eph wants to go to D.C. (feeling a little too The Walking Dead for my taste right now). They need to free Fet. Fitzwilliam needs to make up his goddamn mind. But my hope: we find out what the hell became of Vaun, besides being grilled into a hot dog.

One last thing: In case you and the rest of Twitter were wondering what the deal was with the opening scene, masked wrestlers fighting monsters and aliens was a real genre of cinema in Mexico throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. These guys were real life superheroes that took their bombastic wrestling personalities to the screen. You could equate them to Marvel, except Chris Evans would never wrestle in his Captain America costume. A nice touch by del Toro in his homage was spoofing the studio logos.

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