Photo: Michael Gibson / FX

Who's Winning The First Innings Of The Vampire War?

With so many characters, we could only rank the top 20.

It's only the second episode of vampire/zombie hybrid summer horror show The Strain, and already this FX show is suffering from serious overstuffing. Hey, I like novelistic, I'm down with The Wire, but for a show about ugly vampires with giant bio-hoses coming out of their throats, it seems a bit...ambitious?

On the other hand, it's nice that they're giving actors such as Regina King and Francis Capra work, so instead of complaining about character clutter, let's do what my eldest daughter does with her scattered rubber bands and beads collections and organize this mess into some sort of order. Vampires (or are they zombie-like vampires?) are invading New York City, and it would help to know who's coming out ahead, even if it's not a full-blown war yet. Here are your rankings of who's winning and losing among The Strain's top 20 characters for this week. (Don't worry if you don't know most of the character names yet: I had to IMDB the shit out of this one.)

20. Ephraim Goodweather

Ephraim had a shit week, y'all. He was taken off the airliner case after barely roughing up his CDC boss, told an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting what a dick and terrible father he is (smirking all the while), got emasculated and man-hugged by his ex-wife's pretty cool boyfriend Matt, and found out that the medical examiner he trusted is dead. And he kissed his co-worker on the mouth, probably out of loneliness. Dude's got problems.

19. Nora Martinez

She has nothing to do except act on Ephraim's hunches, back him up when the mean lawyer lady threatens to sue the pants off everybody, and accept a weirdly awkward workplace kiss when Ephraim is feeling sorry for himself. She also does the actual research while Ephraim runs around causing family strife. She figures out the connection between the nasty worms and how the virus is spreading, but doesn't even get a raise or a thank you. Maybe she should stick one of those worms down Ephraim's pants.

18. Ephraim's Awful Wig

A character unto itself, this dead animal mostly just flopped around. It's still more pleasant and easier to deal with than Ephraim himself.

17. Gary Arnot

The angry dad who smacked Ephraim in the face (way to go!) last week for not being forthcoming enough about Flight 753 details fares far, far worse this week. In fact, he fares dead -- killed by his daughter Emma, who has turned into something horrific.

16. Crispin

This is Gus's ice-cream-slurping, thieving brother. He may fool his mom about his virtue, but he doesn't fool Gus. Wait a minute, didn't Gus just help a bunch of vampires spread a horrible virus? All Crispin did was steal a purse for his mom.

15. Augustin "Gus" Elizalde

He's the delivery guy who hauls a giant coffin of foreign dirt across town. He loves his mama and seems to hate his lazy, criminal brother. He loses points for running off scared at the first sign of trouble at the vampire warehouse, and for knocking a carton of ice cream from his brother's hands. It's ice cream! Show some respect for the carpet!

14. Guadalupe Elizalde

The churchgoing mom of Gus and Crispin loves her sons even though they're both out committing crimes. But she's the beloved matriarch, and she's named after a saint, so she clearly gets ranked above the boys. And she's got a new purse!

13. Eldritch Palmer

This rich old dude is hoping that the vampires can give him immortality or stock tips or some damn thing. He seems to be placing an awful lot of misguided faith in The Master, helping secure this being's arrival in the U.S. Even his adviser thinks this isn't such a good idea and most advisers to guys like this are all about saying "Yes" and "Capital idea, sir!" But in the end, Eldritch gets his thin white hair blown back and is horrified to see the true face of evil, which probably looks like a melted cinnamon Yankee Candle or cat litter that hasn't been cleaned in a few weeks.

12. Jim Kent

The CDC administrator we all know as "The one played by Sean Astin" throws up at the scene of a death, which we're pretty sure the rest of the CDC frowns upon. He also appears to be double-crossing his co-workers and he carries around a very lame satchel. You're, what, thirty-five? Grow up, hobbit.

11. Capt. Doyle Redfern

The pilot of Flight 753 agrees to help Ephraim even as he's getting sick as a dog himself. He feels guilty about what happened, especially that whole bit where he allowed a giant box of weird soil to arrive stateside.

10. Joan Luss

The aggressive lawyer lady who threatens to sue the CDC (or is it the government? Or the airline? Everybody?) seems pretty triumphant, throwing her weight around and getting hit on by goth boy Gabe. But she's also bleeding from the mouth and looks like she may die. Maybe she should go for a settlement instead.

9. Ruby Wain

Gabriel Bolivar's manager Ruby does not give a fuck about your plague victims and potentially apocalyptic virus. Have you seen the uptick in concert ticket sales?

8. Kelly and Zach Goodweather

They're doing just fine the less they have to deal with schmucky dad figure Ephraim. There's a custody hearing coming up, and Zach has to be the one to tell Ephraim not to be late. Ex-wife Kelly is worried about the plane situation, and even compliments Ephraim, saying she's sure it'll be fine if he's handling the investigation. Matt's a lucky guy. Or not a total jerk, at least.

7. Everett Barnes

He's director of the CDC and tells Ephraim to take his stupid ball and go home. Of course, Ephraim ignores him and keeps acting as if he's not suspended, but Barnes is still Ephraim's boss and can yell at him whenever he wants.

6. Gabriel Bolivar

He's rich, has tons of fans, and seems bemused and untroubled by having been on a plane with hundreds of dead people. And his wig is career-appropriate. He also has a biting problem in the middle of a threesome, chomping on a girl's neck and causing her to flee. All right, now he's a little troubled. But he's the one victim among all the plane passengers for whom vampirism would actually be good on-the-job training.

5. Matt

He's dating Ephraim's wife, raising Ephraim's son, and probably rubbing a chopped-off set of Ephraim's nuts on the nightstand for luck before he goes to sleep. And he does it while seeming like a much nicer guy than Ephraim, even as he's tearing apart Ephraim's former home office to make a game room. Kids like game rooms, Ephraim. They don't like the home offices of dads who ignore them.

4. Vasiliy Fet

Vasiliy Fet is a v. silly name, but the man wielding it seems like a pretty bad-ass exterminator with lots of cool weaponry and toys. He clears out a snooty restaurant with aplomb and a thick Russian accent. But can he exterminate vampires?

3. Thomas Eichorst

The Master's second-in-command (presumably) seems to have a major hard-on for making Abraham's life miserable. He's pretty scary, even if his attempt to intimidate Abraham in jail sort of backfires and makes the old man even more bent on vengeance.

2. Abraham Setrakian

The former concentration camp resident and pawn shop owner holds his own against the forces of evil in a tense jail-phone conversation with Herr Eichorst. We learn that the gross heart he keeps in a jar apparently belonged to the woman he loved and lost. And she was...a vampire? Abraham makes some threats he seems intent on following through on. He also has a cool sword.

1. Emma Arnot

In last week's episode, wee French-accented girl Emma showed up at home after having been thought dead on Flight 753. Her father Gary was so glad to see her that he didn't notice that she looked dead and was cold, so cold. So he gave her a warm bath, probably hoping that would help (stupid, stupid dad). Instead, he got blood-sucked from the bathtub in the episode's creepiest bit. While everybody else is dithering around trying to figure out what's happening or get a plan in place, Emma is out for blood and gets it. She wins the week, easily.

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