“There's something in the plane... something alive in the cargo hold.”
Regis Air International Flight 753 is coming into New York on February 8th. After a long flight from Berlin, its crew and passengers are ready to be on the ground yet again. Just as it's going through the motions of a routine landing, a member of the flight crew is in a state of panic. Apparently there's something in the cargo hold. Something that busts through a solid steel door and overtakes the plane as it lands. 210 souls, all trapped in one of the most advanced airplanes in the world. All are now victims to something or someone among them, something that they couldn't even possibly imagine. With the aircraft sitting on the runway, unresponsive to any and all radio calls, every agency JFK International Airport can think of is summoned.
”This isn't just about you Eph or what you want. Not any more.”
We meet our first set of heroes in a moment of crisis. For Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, he's ten minutes late to his last custody hearing with his estranged (and soon to be ex) wife. She labels him as “barely present” in their crumbling marriage, and With a parking ticket and a meeting cut short by the possible outbreak at JFK Airport, Dr. Goodweather rushes to the scene at JFK Airport, and is met by fellow CDC team members Jim Kent and Nora Martinez. After laying down some knowledge on the reproduction of viruses to the various agency heads on site, Eph makes the best case for the CDC being the first agency through the door on Regis Air flight 753.
Meanwhile, in Harlem, pawn broker Abraham Setrakian find himself the victim of a clumsy attempt at robberyby putting his would be thugs into a position to negotiate one of two options: either return the money and give him their gun, or find themselves dead and/or arrested. Triumphant, Abraham notices a news story about the Regis Air flight on the ground. Something about the details strikes a chord in the older gentleman's memory. At that moment, the old man knows that an ancient evil is lurking, making its first moves towards supremacy.
”He's back. I don't know if I have the strength to do it all over again.”
Back at the airport, Eph Goodweather and Nora Martinez suit up for entry into Regis Air flight 753. Eph confides in Nora his family problems, and we learn that they've had a bit of a workplace fling. They don't talk for long, as they board the plane shortly after their dialogue. At first they find all 210 passengers supposedly dead where they sit. The two epidemiologists get to work on trying to diagnose just what took out the almost full flight, which leads them to examine the little girl we met at the beginning of the episode. No outward signs of illness are present, as well as no signs of struggle. Just when it looks like no clues are to be had, Eph uses a UV light to catch traces of the ammonia they picked up on the plane. As they get ready to write everyone off as DOA, four passengers miraculously come back to life: pilot Doyle Redfern, lawyer Joan Luss, rock star Gabriel Bolivar, and computer programmer Ansel Barbour.
Just as we're wondering who's behind all of this and how four “dead” people can come back to life, we're introduced to our first villains of the piece. Eldritch Palmer, eccentric and cold hearted millionaire, is undergoing a dialysis process as German agent of all things vamipire, Herr Eichorst, arrives to banter with him a little bit, as the introduction is short. Back at JFK, Eph, Nora, and Jim brief their boss, Dr. Everett Barnes, about how they're isolating the four surly survivors and doling out the dead bodies to medical examiners across the city. Dr. Barnes wants Eph to brief the press, which Nora flips out about being way too early. There's no time to fight though, as the doctors are alerted to a mysterious item in the airport. A particularly interesting item of unclaimed cargo that looks like, but couldn't possibly be, a nine foot tall coffin. Eph opens the coffin to find nothing but soil and a door with a latch on the inside. Unfortunately for one of the air traffic controllers, we see just what was in that coffin, as it lures him into a secluded part of the cargo hangar and feeds on him by piping directly into his carotid artery and draining him like a juice box.
”206 passengers on Regis Flight 753 are dead, and we don't know why. Four passengers survived, and we don't know why.”
Herr Eichorst shows up again, as he calls upon Gus Elizade. The Hispanic gang member is drafted to pick up a cargo for Herr Eichorst at the airport, in exchange for wiping his brother's wrap sheet clean and giving his mother proper citizenship. All he has to do is pick up the coffin and follow three rules: don't examine the cargo, make no stops, and cross the bridge into Manhattan by daybreak. While Gus sets off on his mission, Abraham Setrakian makes his way to JFK airport. He tells the authorities he has information about the outbreak, and needs to speak to someone. That someone would be Eph, if he wasn't being ambushed by the media as he is about to address the family members of those on the flight. He handles himself well, as he tries to assure the grieving crowd and the hungry media, and all he gets for his troubles is a slap in the face. He promises to give the families answers in 48 hours.
”If you have the coffin, you still have him.”
The bodies start to arrive at the Manhattan medical examiner's office, and as the examiner begins his autopsies he finds some curious facts. First, all of the passengers have clean incisions on their necks, with paths to their carotid arteries plowed through with no puncture. Second, the bodies are apparently bleeding a white, opalescent liquid that surely isn't blood. As if things couldn't get any weirder for Eph and Nora, Abraham tries to convince them of the vampire plague that's about to descend on New York. Failing to hold Eph's interest, he tells them what he knows: the bodies aren't decomposing properly, and that the bodies of the flight's victims must be destroyed. His last piece of knowledge as he's dragged away by the NYPD: “Destroy the coffin. If you still have the coffin, you still have him.
”Sweet Caroline. Good time's never seemed so good.”
Back at the Manhattan medical examiner's office, the examiner is evaluating one of the bodies under UV light and finds what looks like worms slithering through the body. Eph and Nora continue to examine the plane, and find another one of those worms, as well as a clump of soil. The worm tries to attack Eph's gloved hand, as he acknowledges “It's looking for a host. It's desperate.” Just as the doctor's put two and two together, the coffin has disappeared. The only clue to its random disappearance is a blurry shadow that seems to have made off with the coffin and apparently loaded it into a CDC van. The same CDC van Gus was sent to pick up by Herr Eichorst. After a bit of an incident at a police checkpoint, Gus finds himself helped out by an unlikely ally: Jim Kent. Apparently, Jim is working for the same people Gus is: Eldritch Palmer's Stoneheart Group. Jim clears him to leave, and gives Gus a message for his employers: “You tell those sons of bitches I'm done. I came through for them, but I'm done.”
”I look out upon this island and I savor what's to come... purity.”
Unfortunately for the Manhattan medical examiner, just as he's discovered that the corpses seem to have developed new organs unlike anything he's ever seen before, the blood worms start to get anxious for food and reanimate a dead heart. After narrowly averting infection by a single blood worm, we see the entire morgue is on its feet. The Regis Air passengers and crew are alive once more, and they're hungry. At that same moment, Eldritch Palmer and Herr Eichorst have recognized that their old foe, Abraham Setrakian, is still on the hunt, Gus Elizade is on his way across the bridge with the coffin, and Setrakian is in prison until dawn. The initial pieces are in motion, as the old man's warning to destroy the bodies proves to be more than warranted.
“Love is our grace. Love is our downfall.”
The grieving father that slapped Eph returns home to an empty, quiet house. It isn't empty and quiet for long as his daughter returns home in the middle of the night. She's cold and pale, but she's still his little girl. And what father would leave his little girl in the cold? A little girl who, as Herr Eichorst said, found her way home thanks to that powerful force we call love.
Night Zero was a great start to The Strain I've been waiting for ever since it's announcement. But just because Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan made good on their first episode, doesn't mean I don't have some bones any fan of the books would pick. To those of you experiencing The Strain for the first time, this is where your journey ends. I'll see you all again next week for the next episode, The Box.
But for those who've done their reading, or those who don't care about spoilers, click over to the next page for Nitpicks, Notes, and Nods.
While they skipped the prologue with young Setrakian, we actually get to see the inside of the plane, and are introduced to our survivors.
Eph actually shows up to his last custody hearing, instead of missing it due to the Regis Air investigation.
The Sword was revealed right from the off, not as a surprise during a future vampire battle.
Eldritch Palmer was never seen in his Chesapeake Bay estate. We catch up with him already in NY.
The show is taking place in February, but it actually takes place in warmer months in the book.
Crispin (Gus' dirt bag brother) is introduced to Setrakian. If I remember correctly, this never happened in the book. It certainly wasn't how Setrakian was introduced. Still, this WAS a more bad ass introduction to our vampire hunter, instead of warming soup and ominously fortelling, “He is here.”
I'm really hoping we get an episode of the Young Setrakian Chronicles, as those interludes were great moments of back story to his character. I really do miss the original opening, where his grandmother introduces him to vampire lore as a kid.
It's kinda cool that FX actually let the credits sequence run on both ends of the episode. I won't expect this as a weekly thing, but it really added to the “movie” feel of this week's episode.
Speaking of movie, holy extended episode, Batman! I really thought the Pilot would be centered on about the first 50 pages or so (the actual investigation of the airplane), but they zoomed through 159 pages of material tonight! Here's hoping they don't burn through it all too fast.
Gotta love that Andrew Divoff, the Wishmaster himself from everyone's favorite forgotten 90's horror flick, is the Air Traffic Controller who gets drained like a human juice box by The Master. Also, the creature design in The Strain is even better than the original concepts del Toro presented in the book trailers.
The snow at the end of the episode hints at a rather big happening in The Fall, leading into The Night Eternal.
Eldritch Palmer makes direct mention of The Fall.
That heart has a fun story of its own in The Fall. Next Week's Episode: "The Box"
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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