Season One of “The Strain” is finally here, and after a pretty good run on FX in America, its mixed bag first season is ready for consumption. Perhaps it plays better as one fluid marathon, but as a week after week series, it garners a lot of filler, some really inconsistent direction, and a crew that can never be sure if they want to embrace the vampire formula, or ignore it altogether. “The Strain” is a fine horror series, just a very mixed bag that will frustrate as well as entertain. Here are 5 Reasons to Buy and 5 Reasons to Pass On Buying “The Strain” Season One.
5 Reasons to Buy
Fun Supporting Characters
If anything, the series garners some interesting supporting characters that you will eventually wish were the main characters. There’s Kevin Durand as Vasilly Fet, the Russian exterminator whose routine hunt for rats leads him to discover the vampires lurking in the sewers. There’s also David Bradly as Professor Abraham Setrakian, a holocaust survivor turned vampire hunter who leads the charge against the Master and his horde of blood sucking ravenous monsters. There’s also Mr. Quinlan, as played by Stephen McHattie, and Miguel Gomez as Gus, the ex-con who becomes a survivor of the vampire apocalypse, and a crucial element to humanity’s survival.
Horrific New Vampires
Guillermo Del Toro realizes a fully formed new breed of vampires that aren’t elegant, romantic, or at all seductive. They’re hideous monstrous hives that work as a single entity at the command of their master. They have no genitals, and no body hair, and wield horrible whip like tongues that can latch on to their victims and suck their blood. Said victims transform in to a vampire, whether completely drained, or only slightly bitten. Even a small nick from their tongues can infect a victim.
Very Interesting Themes About The Holocaust
There are a lot of interesting sub-texts about the Holocaust peppered through every episode; especially the more we get to know about Professor Satrakian and his history with the master, and fighting the strigoi. Similar to the Nazis, the master has a hive control over his army, and even sports his own insignia. And in scenes that mirror the holocaust, the transformed vampires leave behind their worldly possessions scattered about. The vampires are also often emaciated and completely shaven like a concentration camp prisoner.
Richard Sammel as Elchorst
Richard Sammel’s performance as the villainous Elchorst is a highlight of the season as he brings to life this horrifying and deadly being with a humongous history with hero Satrakian. Donning a façade of artificial skin color and a toupee, he’s really a vicious monster capable of committing any deed at the order of the master, and makes it nearly impossible for our heroes to find and confront the master.
Top Notch Special Effects
The vampires have a very grotesque appearance and are quite often very easy to spot in public. Which isn’t much of a problem for them considering they’re pretty much taking over New York and winning. With their pale skin and Venus Fly Trap mouths, they’re really interesting depictions of the vampire monster. Especially considering the series gets in to specifics by exploring the anatomy of the vampires, and how they function inside and out. One particular scene involving a dissection is disgusting but memorable.
5 Reasons to Save Your Money
Annoying Main Characters
Savor the supporting characters, because the series focuses on three of the most moronic main characters ever created. Cory Stoll is Ephram, an divorcee who is committed to his job and almost seems to thrive on willful ignorance. He spends most of the season refusing to acknowledge the infected are vampires. Even when clearly viewing one of them lashing their massive tongues and sucking blood, he will not cop to calling them vampires or strigoi, and then bullies elderly Satrakian when he tries to convince him. He also wastes a small window on TV talking about the vampire anatomy rather than telling folks how to kill the strigoi. There’s also Nora, Ephram’s partner who he falls for during the crises who is obsessed with caring for her Alzheimer’s ridden mother, and pouts in corners when Ephram doesn’t return her affections. Nora’s mother is also especially grating, serving no purpose except to act as cannon fodder.
Stupid, Stupid Characters
During a stake out for Ephram’s son’s mother who goes missing, Nora and Ephram take time out to sleep together, which is especially annoying considering there’s a vampire apocalypse only inches away. Ephram’s son is also obnoxious, convincing his dad to stop by his house for asthma medication and really intends to pick up a photo album. Though they’re told his mother might return to the house if she’s a vampire, Eph and his son take time to look through the photo album and think back to old times. Idiots.
It Takes a While to Gain Momentum
I was almost ready to quit the series after episode three, as the storyline really drags for the first three episodes. Almost nothing happens, and there is a lot of investigations and explorations of diseases that make “The Strain” feel like a darker version of “CSI.” Even with the master appearing in the first episode to suck on a victim and smash their head in, it still never really picks up until episode four, and even then it tries our patience.
The Paramilitary Strigoi are Painfully Underused
I really hope you enjoy Mr. Quinlan because he only appears three times during the first season. And in short bursts. He seems like a very important character, its just season one can never seem to emphasize that until the season finale. Until then he appears in one episode, is never even mentioned for six, and then suddenly re-appears. I hope there’s more Mr. Quinlan in season two, as he’s a cool anti-hero deserving of more screen time.
The Master is Disappointing
Often times less is more and the revelation of the master’s form varies from spooky to kind of goofy. The Master is a full on form of the vampire he breeds, and yet he really doesn’t seem all the threatening, even when he’s grasping at someone’s throat. The Master is much scarier working through his horde of vampires, and Elchorst. When he finally shows his full form it’s kind of a lukewarm response. He’s not shocking or horrifying. Just unusual and clunky. Hopefully the less is more approach is injected in season two again.