Michael Gibson/FX
Jonathon Dornbush
September 07, 2015 AT 02:16 AM EDT

One of The Strain’s most intriguing episodes in its inaugural season was the gas station bottle episode “Creatures of the Night.” It wasn’t necessarily the best iteration of that idea, but it tried something different, something ambitious in the way it focused its scope and amplified the terror of the strigoi.

Because of the way the fight has escalated, it would be difficult for The Strain to try another small-scale episode like that at this point (though I certainly hope they’re open to re-exploring the possibility). Yet in many ways, “The Battle for Red Hook” echoes that episode. “Battle” focuses itself around a specific encounter, albeit one much larger in scale, rather than pushing the overarching plot forward with major turns or deaths.

By stripping away too many various, winding narratives, “Battle” both suffers and excels for its focus on the immediate. There’s no Palmer plotting and creepy flirting, but there’s also no Quinlan (whose presence on the show has been such a great course-correction that his absence is a notable shame). And while “Battle” may not live up to its name in terms of execution, the whole still works despite the presence of its noticeably weaker aspects.

Though it may seem like the episode is primed for another whiny Zack-filled hour, his tantrums are largely kept to the early moments of the team’s struggle in “Battle.” After Kelly’s strike, the group is nursing its wounds in Fet’s fortress, but they know that another attack is imminent. The Master knows where they are, and he’s not going to let them idly sit by—Abraham is worried about Eichhorst coming for him, Nora believes Justine needs to know, and the rest of the group agrees that more firepower would not be a bad thing at this point in the fight.

They would be quite right, as Eichhorst is clearly planning something. He’s hired a boat captain to drive him and a few of his closest vampiric friends across the river to Red Hook. With the promise of a big payday, the guy acquiesces (oh how I hope there’s a deleted scene of the boat ride over as he met all the passengers), and ships them off to Brooklyn. Of course, this being Eichhorst, and Eichhorst being pure evil, reneges on his deal, having Kelly infect the unsuspecting captain upon their arrival.

As the strigoi prepare for an attack, so too do their human foes gather their own forces. Fet goes off to find Dutch with Nora by his side—she appears quite displeased at Eph’s latest gun purchase — while Eph, Zack, and Abraham go off to warn Justine of the inevitable assault on their neighborhood.

Things don’t go splendidly at Dutch’s hideout. She and Nikki are holed up at the latter’s apartment, a fact Fet would rather ignore. He and Nora fill them in on Kelly’s midnight stroll into headquarters, but Dutch still stays behind with Nikki, further making things complicated for Fet, as the duo returns to meet up with Eph and Justine.

Fet and Nora have a much better relationship with Justine, which would have been helpful to Eph when he first barged into her meeting with the mayor and the police. He brings in Zack, a face Justine knows, to reassure her that he’s not some crazy person spouting lunacy about vampires. It doesn’t help, granted, that Abraham starts going off about the Master and strigoi and all this technical mumbo jumbo.

Justine eventually buys into the idea that Red Hook may not be safe, but the mayor is having none of it, so he leaves in a huff to let Justine handle the whole life-or-death affair. He’s got rich friends to catch dinner with uptown, anyway. The threat very much becomes a real one after the power goes out — Eichhorst and Kelly have tampered with a power plant to knock out all the UV lights surrounding the government checkpoint Justine has set up. And probably just to cause general paranoia and fear, Eichhorst seems to be a fan of that.

Backed into a corner, the police force, led by Kowalski, prepares a first line of defense against the strigoi waiting just outside their fences. Eph and even Justine line up too, though she’s clearly not an expert markswoman lying in wait. The strigoi make their first attack, and the cops pick them off with relative ease.

That’s exactly the problem, though. It’s too easy.

NEXT: The real battle begins and Kelly once again tries to win custody of Zack by attacking everyone he loves.

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