The Strain- episode 1

Considering all the weird ass things that have happened with planes recently, this is very… uhh… timely. On an international flight out of Berlin. A stewardess is preparing passengers for landing. She’s called to the front of the plane by the pilot, deals with a couple trouble passengers and gets to the front. The pilot is freaking out, says there is something alive in the cargo hold. The stewardess tries to calm him so he doesn’t incite panic, but then something hops through the floor.

A man that can’t have it all!!! Dr. Ephraim Goodweather of the CDC is late for his third custody counselling session. He and his wife are separated. His life is work. She’s started seeing someone. Matt, he’s an operations manager at Sears. Ephraim thinks of him as a manchild. His soon to be ex-wife says that Eph was never present enough, that he got straight A’s at his job but isn’t what she needs. He doesn’t want to give up on their marriage, but it gets all sorts of “this is what we’re talking about as his phone rings and he’s called to investigate the plane.

Old man pawnbroker, Abraham, gets a visit from two thugs looking to unload a stolen watch, they try to grab money from the counter but he grabs an arm and threatens to slit the criminal’s wrist open. The men flee and The old man sees the news about a plane from Berlin and he knows immediately that “it is him” and he goes downstairs to talk to a heart in a jar about it. He says he doesn’t know if he has the strength to do it all over again. The heart responds, beating. He asks it if it is hungry and pierces a finger tip, then he drips the blood into the jar. 

Abraham gets one hell of an entrance.

Ephraim complains to his hot partner (and former/current? lover), Nora, about how his counselling went as they suit up. They get on the plane and go through the lengthy process of searching the plane and examining passengers for clues as to what may have happened… when a handful of passengers start to wake up.

The four surviving passengers get quarantined as they decide what to tell families and the press. Attorney, pilot, rockstar …and a nerdy guy. Eph and the CDC find a huge coffin …with a latch on the inside. Elsewhere, Eph’s ex-wife, son and the new guy are watching the news. Matt tries to make light of it, Zack says, “Don’t worry. Wat ever it is, my dad will take care of it.” But he sends a text to his dad to ask if he’s ok.

Eph smiles as he texts back, reassuring his son. His partner catches him and gives him a pep talk before he addresses the public, they hug and he kisses her hair. Which is sweet but also leaves his colleague alone inside while the CDC packs up the cargo. He thinks that he hears something and goes to investigate.

He encounters a shrouded figure with bloody extra limbs that claws his neck and sucks blood through those extra arms. The man is emptied of his blood, gets his neck snapped and skull cracked in.

Completely different manner of death than everyone on the plane..

Elsewhere an old man enlists the help of a Hispanic thug (and wanna be boxer) to drive cargo out of the airport. The man has provided a truck and security badge. In exchange for this errand, the old man says that he will clear the other man’s brother’s criminal record and take care of his mom’s “immigration status.” 

206 passengers are dead and they don’t know why.  One of the parents punches him in the face. Soon to be ex watches from home.The victims have no red blood cells, white foam appears in their veins. blood proteins have been separated. 

As they are trying to find what became of the coffin, the medical examiner is examining the organs and we see bunches of those tiny worms writhing around inside. The examiner drops a heart full of a swarm of worms as they try to get under his glove. suddenly, the deceased pop up around him and attack him.

The coffin escapes. Augustin calls his mother to check in on her. The old man who hired him tells his cohorts that the cargo is safe and that those on the plane will return home to their loved ones.

And they do, we see a young girl from the plane, Emma, whose father had punched Ephraim  return home to her father alone.

Corey Stoll is incredibly cast as Ephraim. In the same way that I think Halle’s role on “Extant” is amazing at challenging domestic gender roles (Halle’s Molly doesn’t have a life centered around family or pregnancy, she thinks of her career and her own immediate safety/health) Ephraim is a good father but can’t seem to “have it all” with a demanding job and stable home life. 

Creepy parasites that turn people into vampires and the CDC comprises main characters? Well, that’s very V-Wars

Ephraim’s partner is a cliche. Men and women are never friends. She’s a spicy Latina. I imdb’d it and she only appears to be in 3 eps. 

David Bradley (Abraham) and the creepy effects are what really does it for me here.

Extant- Episode 3

John comforts Molly with science after her miscarriage. He had already been working on an android and decides that they should raise the program. Molly, in her grief, volunteered to go into space. Molly is remembering all this while she lays in bed.

John wakes up and proposes that they throw Molly a birthday celebration since she missed her birthday in space.

Ethan is nervous about orientation. Molly is going for an invigorated run, her health monitors encourage her to slow down, she sees a spaceship blast off. Orientation doesn’t go so hot, There are angry villagers there who call Ethan “a toaster.” 

Molly tries to see Harman but he’s not there, he’s drawn weird circle patterns (like the one that appeared on Molly’s stomach) on the wall. Sam is disappointed that Molly still hasn’t told John about the pregnancy. She says some version of, “the timing isn’t right.” 

At the party Sam takes Molly’s blood (which is weird). Molly’s dress is fantastic.

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Then Molly collapses and sees herself in space with Marcus. A bit later, John’s lab tech tries to flirt and insert herself into their family structure, but John pays no mind. Marcus’s brother arrives at the party, and Molly has a misunderstanding when he says that he sees Marcus everywhere.

The power goes out. John finds something moving in a box and finds it’s a chicken that Ethan caught earlier. Ethan doesn’t understand what things need food or water. John says, “no more birds and no more secrets.” That prompts Ethan to say that “mom says secrets are okay if you don’t want someone to worry.” John confronts Molly. Then she confesses.

Sparks said that the ISE implanted something in her without her consent. Which is gross and weird. 

As the party wraps up Molly looks for Tim (Marcus’s brother) to say goodbye. Her husband keeps saying that he is not there. She remembers him next to her in a group photo, which is on a screen… but there’s a empty space next to her. SO YOU ARE TELLING ME: THAT NO ONE STOOD NEXT TO HALLE AT HER OWN DAMN BIRTHDAY PARTY?! John tries to calm her but she says she’s losing it, she insists she saw Tim there, saw him talking to other people. The secrets all come out and she manically recounts her hallucinations. She goes off with Sparks because Sam will be there and something bad is happening and she trusts Sam.

Sam tries to go to her office but is held up by security, she sneaks around and shee’s that they are taking her files. Knowing they can’t be trusted she tries to call Molly, she gets John, expresses concern and then texts Molly to get out of the car. 

Molly goes for might over cunning. I thought she would fake morning sickness for sure. Anyway, Molly grabs the wheel, the car swerves and she gets out and runs as we see weird circles protruding on her torso. John is behind them and picks her up.

This show is getting serious. So much craziness, and what could ISE be up to? Halle Berry is just so phenomenal. Her/Molly’s meltdown after discovering the truth about Tim was astonishingly painful to watch. She has no idea who to trust and those she trusts are in danger… with still no clue as to why. And the plot doesn’t center around Ethan. And for Molly the baby she is carrying isn’t even the main focus., she wants to know why she has been betrayed, not gushing over possibilities. 

Which is good, because it’s majorly sick that they implanted something in her against her will and caused her to have abnormal brain scans and jeopardized her physical and mental well being as well as her family life and career ENTIRELY. 

Is Harlan real? 

I hate that Julie is being written as a romantic rival for Molly. I enjoy that John entertains none of it (and that he is supportive of Molly even when dealing with insane situations). Julie being flirty toward John and catty towards Molly her behavior makes it seem as though she is infringing on thei parenting and inserting herself into their family situation. But rather Ethan is her life’s work, too. Not just John’s.It would be nice if she was portrayed as John’s colleague and not a potential hook up.

Extant- episode 1

I’m a little wary of this show. Mostly because the overall premise is that a woman gets impregnated without consenting.

But there are things I immediately like. Halle Berry on primetime network, interracial marriage on prime time network, a mother with a high profile job, a black mother with a high profile STEM job on prime time network. 

Halle Berry’s character, Molly has just returned from space. 13 months alone. When she returns home she’s feeling ill while getting ready for her son’s party. She assumes that she’s just readjusting to earth. Her son’s party goes well, but the child pushes another and his father scolds him (no “boys will be boys” attitude? nice!). Molly’s female friends ask her how her family manages so well, her being away for so long, missing her family, her family doing family things without a matriarch and she is nonplussed. As the father tucks in the child in we see that he is an android.

The son was created, designed and programmed by the father.

Molly wakes up and looks through old news articles, photos of her and Marcus. A former romantic partner who passed away. 

Her friend and doctor, Sam calls her in. Molly’s tests have returned. She’s pregnant. Not only was she alone in space, but she wasn’t able to conceive with her husband. This is what lead her husband to “create”/program Ethan. 

Molly flashes back to an issue on the spaceship when they passed by a solar flare. She lost power and saw Marcus on the ship.13 hours missing from the log, when she meets with the panel she says she accidentally deleted the security footage instead of copying it. They don’t believe her, because she doesn’t make mistakes like that.

Ethan’s father presents his research to Yasimoto Corp, but Humantix is denied funding after he wiles out on a woman for saying his son is not equal to her daughter because Ethan doesn’t have a “soul.” He replies that Ethan has what all children have, synapses, shared experiences. Life.

Molly’s bosses contact Yasimoto and tell him that funding was denied, so Yasimoto reaches out and backs Humantix as a private citizen to get closer to the family.

Molly takes Ethan to the park for icecream, after getting a balloon with a note, Molly tells Ethan that it is time to go. He drops his icecream and lashes out and runs off, Molly chases him and finds him with a dead bird. Ethan says it was like that when he got there.

Molly is creeped out. She relays such to her husband so says Ethan is just adjusting to her return and ends with a hostile “that kid is the closest we will come to having a child!” Which, since Molly is hiding a pregnancy is not true at all.

They make up the next day. Tensions are high and no one said anything that wasn’t true. Molly is scheduled to see a psychiatrist, a previous astronaut committed suicide and now the psych evals are required. She has more flashbacks. She hallucinated Marcus coming to her on the spacecraft, she freaked out and deleted the tapes, on the footage Marcus wasn’t visible, but you could see her reaching out to him.

Then, back at home, the astronaut wo supposedly had killed himself shows up in her yard, he tells her that he is not a hallucination (so he knows about the hallucinations) and tells her not to trust anyone as her husband calls her in for dinner.

So there is a lot going on. How would a hallucination cause her to become pregnant? How would her employers have impregnate her? If that was the goal, why would they send a man first? Is her son really a creep, or did he just find a dead bird? 

Great first episode for something that seemed convoluted.

I enjoyed the next level future science: the synthetic soul (to steal the term from “Almost Human”), private sector space travel. And the it was coupled with societal standards that may never match society’s progress with science no matter how much we know: gender roles (Molly’s friends asking her how she manages to have her career) and the concept of intangible humanity that keeps us separate from other creature (and in this case:robots).

extant2

And that’s just a fabulous haircut that Halle has.

Review! IN THE DARK a Horror Anthology

Drawn from a wide range of inspirations, stories reminiscent of childhood campfire tales, or Lovecraft-esque, or teenage action influenced and featuring creepy kids, self-sacrifice, monster hunters, petty revenge or something more existential, good people going bad, and bad kids going good from the tampering of horrific entities. What if the reason that jerk always checks his phone so much is that he needs to know when he’s going to change into a horrific beast? Nothing is as it seems here IN THE DARK.

inthedark

Among my faves:

The Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley penned story Guilloteens a punk rock Buffy homage with a Scooby gang monsterhunters and on one night they find a house being used by were-wizards for nefarious reasons. Were-wizards. So cool. Cute characters and extra blood spatters made awesome by artist Christian Wildgoose.

All Things Through Me by Mike Oliveri, artist Mike Henderson follows the son of a fallen priest who can communicate with the dead and has a knack for possession on a house call in a small town and stumbles on something local law enforcement would rather he hadn’t.

When the Rain Comes by Steve Niles is a creepfest about repercussions of fearing what you don’t understand. Damien Worm’s super creepy art is killer here, cloudy scratches, scribbled silhouettes capture the essence of the mysterious creatures that come forth to a farmhouse after a flood.

The Body by Tim Seeley, art by Stephen Green, mixes urban violence with a supernatural avenger.

Final Meal by Christopher Sebela and Zack Soto makes me glad to be vegan after reading this eerie tale about feeling like a God on the top of the food chain following a sad character who can’t get enough of sucking life from between his teeth.

The One That Got Away, written by Scott Snyder (who, y’know, writes both metropolis and Gotham’s heroic dudes) plays off our expectations when a young boy is approached by a knife wielding character.

Brian Keene’s The Lost Valley of the Dead is set in a wild West zombie plague. Tadd Galusha brings it with well drawn zombie animals sporting dripping fangs and exposed ribs. In trying to escape the disease they find a hidden entrance to a world of dinosaurs ..things get even crazier when the T-Rex ingests the zombie coyotes. Zombie freaking dinosaurs.

Swan Song by Rachel Deering takes a break from the plethora of werewolves and features a gorgeous vampire and the dashing would be hero who unknowingly unleashes a monster.

Extra treats- faux vintage ads and page 185’s horror trivia crossword! I’m thinking about sending $3.25 to get my “Creature in a Crate”.

Whether you like your villains internal, supernatural or humanly homicidal and your main characters twisted, teenaged, tragic or triumphant and your settings futuristic, realistic or rustic IN THE DARK has something for you. If you didn’t get in on the ground floor for this one order one from your local comic shop, IDW is printing and shipping this rad compilation soon.