Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.
- This week’s episode opens on a few guys sitting around a table, eating breakfast, and watching The Bob Newhart Show. And you know what? Nobody’s laughing. I understand that the world of The Strain is a post-apocalyptic hellscape ruled by corporate greed and stinger-shooting vampires, but still,The Bob Newhart Show is timeless. You have to find the joy where you can during the nuclear winter!
- One of the people sitting around that table is Gus’ cousin Raul. He’s working at a distribution center run by The Partnership, mostly moving around produce and giant boxes of Freedom Bars. You get the sense that not everything is right with all of this food though. After watching the strigoi pump blood into their building in the season premiere, it’s hard not to see every single pipe and plastic tub as potential storage for blood.
- Raul comes into play later, as Gus needs him in order to get inside the distribution center and steal some food. You see, Gus is running some sort of goods business with Creem, both selling and bartering items while also “redistributing” other resources like food. The break-in, which is supposed to be nonviolent, goes wrong though, and Raul is forced to leave his post and run off with Gus, Creem, and the rest of their men.
- “The Blood Tax” is chiefly focused on expanding our understanding of what the world looks like now that nuclear winter is in full effect. Not only do we get a more thorough understanding of what Gus and Setrakian have been up to—basically running from bad guys and keeping The Lumen safe—but we also get a better look at The Partnership.
- The Strain never really knows what to do with Dutch, and that seems to be the case again this season. Once, oh so long ago, she was a badass vampire hunter/hacker; lately, she’s been relegated to the damsel in distress, and it’s been disheartening to watch the transformation.
- This season, Dutch acts as our guide to The Partnership, her suffering meant to show the quiet brutality of the ruling group; unfortunately, Dutch is no stranger to being put through violent situations in order to underline, for the umpteenth time, that these people are bad people. So, Dutch is locked away in some sort of home for women, where they’re being put through countless fertility tests while hoping to get pregnant; well, the Partnership is hoping they get pregnant, but Dutch clearly isn’t eager to bring a human into a strigoi-ruled world. The motivation here is murky at best. Does the Partnership want to repopulate? With Sanjay Desai as the Chief Health Officer, there must be something much more nefarious going on, right? And what about all those blood tests? The Strain is playing coy right now, holding back on the true nature of The Partnership in order to build some intrigue into the season. After all, what else is left when it comes to dramatic stakes? Without that mystery, there’s really only more of the same war between the strigoi and humans. It’s an intriguing enough mystery for now, but the show does run the risk of drawing it out for too long. At some point we need to know what the stakes truly are, because that’s how we stay invested in these characters.
- In other words, this season hinges on the show’s ability to pivot from a story of survival to one of revolution. The survival narrative is played out, and now The Strain has to adapt.
- As always, Setrakian has a way of defining the tone of the world around him, and perhaps summarizing our own current political atmosphere: “We want to believe that progress is lasting, universal. We want to believe this so badly that we let down our guard, and our own evil crept back into us.”
- So, “The Blood Tax” sets up two stories that could change the course of this season. First, there’s Dutch looking to escape The Partnership. She fails this week when she tries to help another woman get out, but perhaps she’ll have another chance soon. Then again, Sanjay is watching her closely after she refuses to work for him and The Partnership. ”So you want me to be the mouthpiece for your bullshit?” she says before turning down the dubious offer.
- Then there’s Eph, who’s finding his fighting spirit again. After poking holes in the revolutionary outlook of the group he’s with, he runs through what he would do to hit the strigoi where it hurts, saying he’d find a way to poison the blood that’s being pumped into their living quarters. “So let’s do that,” replies his new ally, and suddenly something comes alive behind Eph’s eyes again. Maybe this isn’t just about survival for him anymore. Maybe the strigoi haven’t already won. Instead, there’s the hope for an uprising. It looks like we’re well on our way to an eventual showdown between Eph and The Master, with the latter grooming Zach as his next host.