Considering that the first season of The Strain was largely about the hunt for the Master, it makes sense that the season two premiere, “BK, NY,” starts off by diving into his backstory. Before we find out anything about Eph and his merry band of vampire hunters (Palmer’s words, not mine), we flash back to Setrakian as a boy in Romania in 1932. He’s sitting at a table with his mother, begging her to tell him a story, specifically the one about Sardu. His mother relents despite the graphic nature of the story and tells it again.

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The story of Jusef Sardu is the origin story of the Master. Sardu was plagued with gigantism, and while his body was frightening he was a loving giant. As Setrakian’s mother puts it, his disease “made him aware of the fragility of life.” Sardu becomes the Master when he sets out on a hunting expedition with his brother and other men from the village. The other men wander into a cave believing that they’re hunting a wolf, meaning that it isn’t long before a strigoi is having them for dinner. Sardu finds his way to the cave hoping to kill the wolf that killed his brother, but finds only perhaps the most disgusting vampire so far on this show. His throat is the shape of a scrotum (seriously) and he infects Sardu by vomiting all over him. It’s hilarious and disgusting, the two things I want most out of The Strain.

Starting with such a mythological backstory is a bold move, and one that suits the show. Season two is shaping up to be largely about the mythology of the strigoi, with Setrakian hoping to track down an ancient book called the Occido Lumen, hoping it will tell him something about defeating the Master. Considering that the second book in the series fills in a lot of the history of Setrakian and his vampire hunting past, starting the second season with a dive into that material is a good thing. It establishes a tone and structure for the season, which could work to balance out some of the flat performances that bogged down season one.

With that out of the way, the show has all the time in the world (and a 75-minute premiere) to bust out a lot of exposition. Some of that exposition is fun, but most of it is just the building blocks for the season, a necessity for the premiere but not exactly captivating television. It’s good to know that Zach, despite being played by a different actor, is still a total asshole. He yells at his dad, telling him that he’s a bad doctor and that he needs to save his mom before storming off and complaining to Dutch that the cola she brought for him is warm–and that’s after he chides her for stealing. That’s right, the kid wants ice-cold soda in this vampire-infested world and nothing else. Mark my words; by season’s end Zach will have majorly derailed this operation.

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What “BK, NY” largely establishes is that the strigoi are expanding their operation while the humans seem to have no real defense against them. Dutch and Fet are vampire-proofing their hideout while Eph and Nora are off securing a pathology lab in order to work on a cure. Or rather, they’re going to work on an infection, hoping to kill the carriers and take care of the disease that way. They might not get much of a chance though as Palmer and Eichorst are working on the next phase of their plan, which involves buying a warehouse and remodeling it for their purposes. “The drains, they’re all functional?” Eichorst asks, one of the only genuinely funny lines in the episode.

Whatever that plan is, it’s likely not the most immediate threat to Eph and the gang. The Master has decided he needs a new body after having his perfectly broiled in the first season finale. Before he does that though, he gets Eichort to round up a bus full of blind schoolchildren so that he can infect them and turn them over to Kelly, the former Mrs. Goodweather, who’s now in charge of The Children of the Night. These children, rising out of the dirt at the end of the episode, have extra sensory powers, and it looks like Kelly will be using them to track down Eph and Zach.

The Strain is very much a visual show, and the image of the rising Children of the Night is just one of a handful of great visual moments in “BK, NY.” There’s Eichort standing in front of the bus, his sinister smile lit up in the headlights. One of the better shots takes place in a storage facility, where Setrakian has stored a number of his old files. He’s asked Eph, Nora, and Fet to help him bring them back to their hideout. Once in the storage unit, they find a couple that aren’t infected. Ruining their peace and quiet, an army of strigoi descends on the group. The following shootout is beautifully shot. With the light turned off, we only get glimpses of the swarming strigoi when a gun fires and lights up the cramped hallways of the storage facility. It’s tense and claustrophobic, which is a good thing for your horror show to be.

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The shootout can’t save the storage unit couple though. They’re attacked by the strigoi, the worms clearly inside their body. Fet goes to kill them but Eph stops him. “We need them,” he says, clearly hoping that the two will agree to being experimented on so that he and Nora can find an infection that kills the vampire cells.

That’s where “BK, NY” leaves us. In many ways, it’s an episode that’s the embodiment of everything that’s good and bad about The Strain. It has moments that are so gory that you just can’t help but cringe, and plot turns and character moments that are so ludicrous that you can’t help but laugh. Then there’s the stunning visuals and the promising focus on mythology. That’s enough for a season premiere, but is it enough for a full season?

Stray observations

  • Reviews of The Strain are back because this show is just too ridiculous to not cover. I’ll do my best to fill LaToya’s Zach-hating shoes.
  • So, the Ancients have a predictably disgusting feeding ritual.
  • When Eph said that Zach was still asleep I was praying he’d stay that way for the entirety of the season.
  • Eph has a drinking problem, just in case you were wondering.
  • I’m all in on a Fet-Setrakian bromance. “You shouldn’t feel like you failed.” There’s dust in my eye.
  • Setrakian has some silver grenades in his storage unit. “Dangerous explosives, your favorite!” exclaims Eph to Fet.
  • Fun fact of the week provided by a Toronto-based writer: Vestry Hall, where Bolivar is hiding out, is the beautiful Massey Hall in downtown Toronto. Great music venue.

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