Just as a precursor, prior to this, I’d been reviewing this series on my own site. As such, you can find the reviews of the first three episodes over there – link’s with the profile.
With that in mind…
Last week I started off with a verbal unloading on the familial plight of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather.
Well, let me just start by saying this:
Good news: There will be none of that this week after this statement
Better news: BECAUSE THERE WASN’T ANY IN THIS EPISODE.
Jokes aside, this week has continued the show’s increased bid to embrace what the series has been doing well in the episodes prior: the horror continues to overtake the rest of the episode, and it’s a welcome shift.
If there’s any question of what this show is trying to do with itself, the end of this week makes it pretty clear when a mostly absent Abraham Setrakian re-enters the episode, using his silver sword cane to dispatch the slowly transforming vampire child Emma and her recently turned father.
It’s a quick, clean kill, and also one that shows us the slow burn of the earlier episodes is officially over. The Master’s spawn are loose and they’ve begun to feed- the gloves are coming off and the blood’s coming with them.
With a lead-in like this, it’s kind of surprising to say that this week’s overall content is actually relatively tame compared to the last few episodes. Outside of the initial surprise when Setrakian arrives at the end of the episode, this doesn’t have a shocker moment quite like last week’s head smash or the coroner in the pilot. Instead, it plays the horror over a lot of smaller moments.
We still get one nice bit of body horror out of the deal; This week care of Eph and co performing an autopsy on the late (and now hard to identify) Captain Redfern. This is also our first really good look at what those who have turned look like, and it doesn’t disappoint. The culmination of this is a scene that feels very much in the vein of del Toro-style dark humor as Eph and Nora examine and remove Redfern’s stinger- a fleshy monstrosity that Jim compares to a python. It’s equally amusing and disturbing to watch unfold.
Speaking of Jim, we see him come clean about his hand in the coffin getting away from CDC custody. On the one hand, Astin plays the role in such a way where you kind of feel bad for him. On the other, it’s nice to actually be able to relate to Eph for a change in how angry he gets over the fact Jim’s actions may have rendered the plague impossible to contain. Jim’s effectively off the team for the moment, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of him on the series — though I’m not optimistic of his odds.
The only part of this week that seems to be a weak point is the return of Gus (Miguel Gomez) after an absence last week. His parts aren’t completely without merit, I’ll say that much now. There’s one scene involving a car theft that actually has some really nice camera work going for it. The problem is, his arc right now feels out of place among all the other storylines. Everything else is coming together with the plague moving to the front, and as a result, his storyline regarding his family and his attempts to use his connections to the criminal world for good feel extremely out of place. From the books I know he will get involved in the main story, but for now, it really feels like changing the channel mid-way into an another show. It also doesn’t help that this part of his story sort of plays like a stereotype showcase. It’s not overtly offensive, but it does undercut the characters as multi-dimensional people as they get played so broadly. It doesn’t ruin the episode, but it does remind just how much work Gus’s parts are going to need in the future to catch up.
Also somewhat out of place this week is Jonathan Hyde’s evil old rich man, Palmer Eldritch. This is mostly a filler week as Eldritch’s role goes. The fact he’s hiring people to try and sabotage communications is an interesting development on paper, but in series right now, it’s all talk and no action. I don’t doubt it will play later into the season, but for now, it’s really a lull for what was building to an interesting story in the last two weeks.
However, the horror element makes up for it and contributes to some of the best parts of this episode. Besides the vampire autopsy body horror extravaganza, this week takes a more understated approach with the continued transformation of the survivors. After spending the last few weeks being kind of an irritating character, Ansel (Nikolai Witschl) actually starts to show a bit more of a human side, ironically while losing his humanity. After his earlier insistence that he’s well, this week it’s become clear he’s not, and he makes the wise move to keep his family away. One of the things I was actually surprised by here was the change in gears of horror on this arc. Where previous weeks gave some wonderfully creepy visuals, Ansel’s arc this week keeps the big shockers off to the sides (barring one well executed jump scare, anyway.) Probably one of the best parts of this is done almost entirely off screen and with sound- on finding out her husband has now become an utter monster, Ansel’s wife, initially distraught, opts to feed an obnoxious neighbor to the creature formerly known as her husband. Besides the fact said neighbor IS an absolute jerk, the way it’s handled is simply effective: she closes the door and we’re treated to only the sounds, which paint a pretty vivid picture.
The title of this episode really says a lot about where things are going. The line is a warning to a shocked Eph and Nora about what it takes to dispose of vampires- a practice he is now quite versed in. In this case, it also serves as a sort of warning to viewers about the episodes to come: the hiding is over, the monsters are coming out, and this show is about the carnage to follow. The mystery will still be there, but the monsters are no longer going to be in the shadows, and the show will be free to play to its strengths with a vengeance in the weeks to come. If you’re not on board with that now, don’t say Abe didn’t warn you.
Next week continues the increase in momentum. Judging by the previews, we’re going to get more answers regarding how Abe got drawn into all of this, as well as the fact the much-hinted at eclipse draws ever closer. As an additional bonus, next week’s episode marks one of two in a row directed by Peter Weller.
Yes. THAT Peter Weller.
See you next Monday for Runaways.
-Good mix of low-key jolts and body horror
-Storylines coming together and picking up the pace
-Gus’s drama still feels disconnected from the story
-Palmer’s time spent on telling with minimal showing