I loved the first season of FX’s Horror Drama, The Strain, based on the books by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan which told of a Vampire Plague occuring in present-day New York. After the Gothic Emo of True Blood & Twilight, I found it a refreshing change that the Vampires in question weren’t your everyday garden-variety bloodsuckers - oh no, the Strigoi were in fact shambling zombie-like creatures whose tentacle/tongue/mouth/things spewed out worms to infect a potential host or else devore them.
And with hints of an elaborate mythology to back it all up and some scene-stealing performances from David Bradley as the Van Helsing-like Abraham Setrakian I honestly thought this show would have legs well into a second season, despite book-readers insisting the story took a dive after it’s strong first outing.
I’m not sure how much the show slavishly follows it’s literary source, but I can confirm the writer’s haven’t done much to avert it’s downward trajectory so far this year - and with the end of season 2 looming, I thought I might try to figure out exactly why it hasn’t been working for me.
Here then are 5 areas in which The Strain could possible improve...
As someone who grew up with separated parents, I was able to build up a significant amount of empathy for Ephraim Goodweather and the relationship with his son, Zach, who was in season 1 played by the completely inoffensive Ben Hyland. How unfortunate then, that they had to replace Hyland with Max Charles, who exuded all the charm and charisma of Damien from The Omen. In their few scenes together I could tell there was little chemistry between the pair and it looks like the writers may well be ditching this sub-plot in acknowledgement if a recent subplot continues on course.
In one of the most ridiculous plot contrivances of the year, we see Goodweather ‘changing his appearance’ before a trip to Washington DC. I’d like to speculate this had more to do with Stoll throwing a strop about the wig he’d been forced to wear for the role up until now. You have to wonder if the flashback scene in Episode 12 had anything to do with the writers wanting to get their own back…
That Blatant McGuffin
Otherwise known as the Occidu Lumin, which translates as ‘The Fallen Light’, believed by our intrepid Abraham to be the key to defeating ‘The Master’ - it’s also been the glue just about holding this season together, even though we have no idea what it will do yet...
Despite what many characters in the show will have you believe, the signs of the apocalypse are few and far between for a show in which half the inhabitants of New York City have been turned into worm-spewing zombified vampires. Sure, they mostly come out at night, mostly, but the TV networks are still on-the-air, the cabbies are still out and about and it doesn’t seem hard to get a mobile signal either.
Unbelievable & Pointless Romantic Arcs
The love triangle between Vasily, Dutch & Nikki, the ‘affair’ between Eph and Leigh in Washington & the unlikely relationship between Eldtrich Palmer and his much younger assistant, Coco - it all just seems a bit much for what is ostensibly an out & out horror show. You’d think people would be more worried about where their next meal would be coming from!
Despite all of the above, I do find the show enjoyable and I still think it’s got quite a lot going for it! There have been several exceptional flashback sequences - including a season prologue directed by Del Toro himself - which lend the fiction some remarkable depth, the Strigoi are simply the most unforgettable on-screen monsters of recent times and David Bradley’s grizzled ravings will likely carry the show for another season or two. But with so many questionable decisions made in the writing room this year and only one more episode to air this season, you have to wonder how long they can hold out before an extreme maneuver has to be made.
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