Can Season Two Of “The Strain” Fix Season One’s Problems?

Strain

It’s no secret that the first season of FX’s vampire series The Strain was a disappointment. It was a case of the advertisements being better than the show itself, which is disappointing but not surprising, considering the novels the series is based on are no great works of art themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the books were a fun summer read, but in no way would I call them good. What irked me about the series is that many of the problems that the books had are still present in the series. To me, one of the goals of a film or television adaptation of a series of novels would be to take the worst parts of said novels and improve upon them. The Strain only did that in one area: they killed off Nora’s mother way before it happened in the books (and she was awful in the books). Now that the series has had some time to think about what it’s done, it returns to us with a second (and hopefully improved) season.

First, let’s look at some of The Strain’s most crippling problems:

The Humans Are Boring, Unrealistic And Make Stupid Decisions

I kept trying to convince myself last season that I liked the characters in The Strain. The Season 2 premiere made me realize how wrong I was. I actively despise nearly every human character on the show (Setrakian and Fet being the only two likable ones). With the premiere, the majority of the focus was on The Master’s origin (in a sequence expertly directed by Guillermo Del Toro) and Setrakian. Once anything shifted to Nora and Eph, the episode turned to shit (and I’m an Alias fan, so I love Mia Maestro).  We all know characters makes stupid decisions in horror movies, but The Strain overdoes it. It took weeks for people to start noticing there was a vampire virus infecting people all over New York City, people hang on to their loved ones knowing their chances of survival would be better if they left them behind (Nora and Zach), the show expects us to care about certain characters we’ve barely spent any time with (I still can’t believe we got an entire late-season episode devoted to Kelly Goodweather’s demise), and, worst of all, the characters are annoying.

There Is Too Much Wheel-Spinning

I fully believe this is a consequence of stretching out a 400-page novel into a 13-episode season, but that is why The Strain should have 10 (or less) episodes in a season. Under the Dome is over 1,000 pages and even that could barely mine enough material to fill a 13-episode season (much less the 2 seasons that followed it, which deviated heavily and are still terrible). That being said, there were so many scenes in the first season that could have easily been cut. I’m all for a slow burn, but let’s not kid ourselves here: Hannibal this is not. The Strain is a glorified B-movie, and when it embraces those aspects of itself, it can be great. When it tries to be serious (which is where a lot of the aforementioned wheel-spinning comes into play), it’s actively terrible. Part of my impatience with these scenes may be because, as a book reader, I know where the show is going. Seeing it waste so much time on meaningless characters (or romantic sub-plots) is frustrating. What do you think? Am I being too harsh?

The Master Looks Terrible

I’m all for practical makeup effects, but The Master is embarrassing. It looks like he just had his lips done. Seriously, just look at this thing:

Strain Master

Zach

What irks me about this one is that they actually recast Ben Hyland,who was terrible in the first season (I’m sorry! I know he’s a child actor, but he was bad). So they were actually trying to improve in this particular area, but if Max Charles’ performance in the season 2 premiere is any indication, he might actually be worse than Hyland. Granted, this is mostly because the character of Zach is written as the most insufferable pre-teen to ever exist on film. This kid has seen his mother in vampire form, yet still insists that his father go find her so they can be a family again. Um, what?

These are just some of the most obvious issues plaguing The Strain (sorry), and I think they’re easy to fix. I actually enjoyed the Season 2 premiere more than Jess did, but the show still has a lot of work to do. It’s on the right track, but it essentially boils down to making the humans relatable, likable and, most importantly, smarter. A faster pace wouldn’t hurt either (or a shorter episode order for next season). Oh, and get rid of Zach, stat. Those of you who did read the books know what’s in store for him though…

In conclusion, I have this to say to The Strain: It shouldn’t feel like a chore to watch a TV show, and sometimes you do. Fix yourself. I want to like you. I really do! Please stop making it difficult.

What do you all think? Did you give up on the first season like I did (I stopped watching after seven episodes and only recently binged the final six)? Or do you think I’m completely in the wrong and that the show is brilliant? Let me know in the comments below?

P.S. What happened to Bolivar’s manager (Regina King)? Did they really bring her on board for 3 episodes and not even kill her? She just got away? What a waste of a talented actress.

  • Yakushiji Tenzen

    Would hav been best if they NEVER showed the Master. Leave it up to our own imaginations. That would’ve been best

    • Daniel Baldwin

      That can work wonders in a film, but sustaining it for an on-going series that is supposedly meant to go five or six seasons would be practically impossible. Eventually, you have to “give up the goods” and show things. Such is the nature of serialized television.

      • Yakushiji Tenzen

        I agree, but they showed him right off the bat in the first season. They could’ve waited longer, give people a sense of wonderment and another reason to keep watching. Never show all your cards. But yeah such is the nature of serialized television.

  • TheWorst

    I can’t believe that the second season of this show even exists.

  • GinsuVictim

    We gave up halfway through season one. The writing, acting, effects were so bad, we just couldn’t devote any more time to it.

  • Cappy Tally

    The Master looks great. He doesn’t look so great in that one shot but every appearance since then he’s looked just fine. The lighting was terrible when they shot the reveal, even Guillermo Del Toro has acknowledged that.

  • Breno

    I gave up after season 1 and have no plans on coming back. It was so boring and hateful characters, I had to drag myself to watch the whole first season.

  • J Jett

    i don’t know why anyone would hate Nora this season. she’s actually very cool now and a badass (and i say that as someone who couldn’t stand her last season).
    -Kelly’s episode where we saw her get attacked & turn was easily one of the best eps the show has had. Natalie Brown was fantastic in conveying the horrifying transformation.
    -i agree 100000% regarding Regina King. she’s awesome and they only have her in a thankless cameo basically. WTF?!
    -The Master is this show’s biggest failure (that & the overall writing). i can’t wait for him to jump bodies into Boliver. Boliver actually looks freaking scary looking (even though it makes no sense why he still has his rocker wig and goth make up on).
    -Zach….jesus christ is this new kid bad. season 1 Zach was pretty bad but he was infinitely better than this new kid. they also have him acting 100% differently than season 1’s Zach behaved (season 1 Zach was never an angry douche bag kid).
    -Samantha Mathis’s new character Justine Feraldo (in the meeting with the mayor & crooked CDC guy, etc) was awesome and she was saying what many fans were saying (there’s vamps attacking left & right and everyone is acting like it’s no big deal, etc).
    -season 2 seems better than ssn 1 but it still has terrible bits of writing (Dutch & Vas going swimming AT NIGHT in a public swimming pool with no locked doors and one door’s glass completely smashed, is IDIOTIC).

  • suffering

    Please just kill the Kiiiid!!!he remembe r me All those Shity kids in jurassic park XD

  • PsychoMantis18

    Hated season one and not tuning in for two, sorry Del Toro.

    Trace is sooooooooo much better than Brad.
    Go Ms Disgusting!

  • Anstro76

    Trying to make myself like it for the simple fact it’s a Del Toro product..I’m still struggling through season one.

  • Bobby1181

    I actually started reading the novels after the first few episodes of season 1, thinking the books couldn’t have more insufferable dialogue and insipid characters than the show….I was so wrong. I want to like this premise, I wish it’s B-Movie roots would show through more. The Master’s origin in the first episode of this season was cool, I don’t even mind his make up design. I just want more fun and more feeling from this show. When The Strain is bad it’s almost “Under The Dome” bad with the melodrama. I think a lot of the reasons people have taken to GOT so fondly is because the show writers really trimmed a lot of fat from Martin’s novels, whether it was needless support characters, useless dialouge or main characters in disguise playing a wholly different character, that’s all stuff that works fine and well in the confines of a book but need to be streamlined when presented in a visual way.

  • Givi Machavariani

    “It’s no secret that the first season of FX’s vampire series The Strain was a disappointment” WHAT!? Go fuck yourself! THE STRAIN WAS GREAT!

    • http://www.twitter.com/tracedthurman Trace Thurman

      While my opinion is just that, so is yours! Also, read some of the comments here. It’s a pretty popular opinion.

      Of course, I’m not saying you’re wrong. An opinion can’t be wrong. But I respectfully disagree!

      • shpinkis

        Givi knows Whatsup.

  • Penance

    I stopped watching halfway through the season as it turned into a fucking soap opera. Pretty much like ALL shows of this ilk do. They can never just get on with and tell the story. We always have to buried in pathetic and completely irrelevant “sads” and “drama” to pad the shit out. I see no reason to think S2 will be any different.

  • Jeremy Wade

    the only problem i have is the kid that’s it. everything else i’m ok with, the kid annoys me and a cliche tv show/movie kid that ‘ive seen over 100 times.

  • Kenzo

    Well , I didn’t finish the first season , but im reading the comics and they are awesome..

    • http://www.twitter.com/tracedthurman Trace Thurman

      Good to know!

  • Hubidy Wutsit

    I saw less than 1 episode. Silly gel lighting, dorky acting and stupid, hackneyed creature design. Never went back. There’s little reason these days for horror fans to settle for so little. I’m not going to waste any more of my time.

  • Alan Scott

    I could not disagree more. The Strain feels fresh to me, and unlike most shows, this one has always felt like its going somewhere, and it knows where. Some of the characters seem unevenly written at times, and the recent conflict with Zach does feel more forced and annoying. But the problems are minor. This show is groundbreaking. It makes vampires scary again, and I can’t recall ever seeing a vampire apocalypse like this! Also, getting to finally see some of the government ineptitude in episode 2 was a real treat (my fav scene, actually). I hope we see more of the collapse of the political structure in this season.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tracedthurman Trace Thurman

      The show DOES know where it’s going because it’s adapting a trilogy of novels. With the exception of some minor deviations (Nora’s mother’s fate), it’s sticking pretty closely to them. So I can’t fault it for not having a plan.

      I wouldn’t call the show groundbreaking though. I actually find the vampires laughable at times rather than scary. That’s just my opinion, though!

      • Alan Scott

        I don’t know. There have been movies that have made vampires scary, there have been movies that take a scientific approach to monsters, and there have been apocalyptic movies about big cities like New York. But this has all three. Plus, I can’t remember the last outbreak story I saw where the whole thing was being covered up.

        I think you are being too harsh overall. A good fairy tale (and that is what del Toro is going for) is a story that is believable in that time period. CS Lewis also said this. Hence all the science-y stuff. How many good fairy tales have been brought to life on TV? Maybe you don’t think it’s groundbreaking, but you gotta admit that this is an ambitious project that is unlike anything currently on TV. What would you compare it to?

        • http://www.twitter.com/tracedthurman Trace Thurman

          I wouldn’t say I’m being THAT harsh. Look at the AV Club’s D/F reviews for that. At least I’m hoping for something better.

          I think an apt comparison would be American Horror Story, which is a show that hasn’t been good since Season 2. Things just HAPPEN on both of these shows. I did like S2E2 on Sunday though. I thought it was one of The Strain’s better episodes. Hopefully it keeps up the momentum!

          • tomcat76

            To be fair, the AV Club half the time consists of a bunch of elitist snobs that take certain shows far more seriously than they actually should.

          • Alan Scott

            Fair enough. AHS Season 3 was terrible, rehashed girl power drama. Kathy Bates was amazing, though, as she always is. I stopped watching Freak Show because I couldn’t take it anymore. The differences between these two shows are vast, but I see why you would make the comparison. Do we have any idea how many seasons The Strain will be?

          • http://www.twitter.com/tracedthurman Trace Thurman

            I believe they said 3-5 seasons. But based on how they’re having to drag out the first and second novel, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just 3 seasons. I can’t imagine them having to stretch it out for 3 more seasons after this, but who knows?

  • Angie Martinez

    I TOTALLY AGREE WITH EVERY WORD IN THIS ARTICLE! The first book hooked me but the other two was a drag. As for the tv series, I am really trying to like the show but its hard to get excited about this show when the master looks like a joke (loved the description of him in the book, he was way more terrifying in my head) and I can’t stand the human characters too and the acting is so bad! Wahhhhh! I’m also glad they killed off Nora’s mom because she is super annoying in the books lol. Good call Guillermo! I am right with you…watching and hope the show gets better and does not end up like True Blood.

  • Lamont Smith

    I really don’t know what you’re expecting out of this show. If you’re thinking, ‘The Walking Dead’ with vampires instead of zombies, that’s a tall order for this show to pull off. I loved the slow burn of the first season. It showed how deadly a virus, ever a vampire virus, can be. Also, after those ‘cute’ vampires from Twilight, it about time vampires look scary again and that what’s the Master is suppose to look like, scary and evil. Now, I haven’t read the novels but we all know that adaptations take some liberties with the characters. They will rewrite or totally change characters that will make them either better or worse. In Zach’s case, he seems to be worse but we’ll see how his story progresses as Kelly searches for him (loved those the Feelers).

    • http://www.twitter.com/tracedthurman Trace Thurman

      See I like slow burn. I can handle slow burn. It’s “boring” that I can’t deal with, and all too frequently I find myself bored during The Strain.

  • Jake Collis

    I disagree with most of what you said here I thought It was refreshing compared to most horror shows on tv now. yes the master looks like a bald desperate housewives character with botched surgery, and yes zach sucked balls but in no way did I feel like the humans were boring the way they presented everything was slow and could feel that way but in the end it all came together. Now as for this being compared to TWD there can be no comparison they are 2 different kinds of shows not just ones vamp ones “zombie” but in the fact that one is a survival horror while the other is a proactive war horror.

  • gozonuts

    I agree with the Master looking ridiculous! My wife is afraid of the lamest of horror movies, but when she walked in the room at the very moment the Master was revealed, she fucking laughed out loud. That says something.

  • bjkjoseph .

    I like it,and i don’t like anything on the crap tube.

    • shpinkis

      You said it, everyones going to have an opinion and those on the Web will just have more outlet. More then a few people I know told me about it and in turn I told more people, the show isnt perfect but it Awesome.

  • Stonker

    I agree with all the points made in this article although I have a few more issues with the show myself. My biggest issue is the lack of any tension or horror in the show. Take episode 2 when Fet and Dutch break into fitness center to clear out a nest. A decent set and location ruined by a combination of bad acting/writing and terrible direction. The 2 of them just seem to be having a bit of laugh and appear to be in no danger at all which equals no tension. Dutch is particularly terrible in this scene. Compare this treatment to how the walking dead characters would clear a building. It’s in a different league. I’ll keep watching the show because even as bad as it is i’m still enjoying it. It could be so much better though. The only character I’m really enjoying and care about is Eichorst and maybe Setrakian. Everyone else is terrible.

  • ThunderDragoon

    I never thought anything could look worse than Freddy in the Nightmare remake. I was wrong. So glad I didn’t watch past the first episode.

  • Davidaja

    What kind of strikes me is that the back-stories (Setrakian’s first encounter with Eichorst in the concentration camp, the “fairy tale” told by the Grandmother to a young Abraham about the transformation of the Master into the giant Sardu ,and the initial meeting between Setrakian and Palmer and his recovery of the cane/sword ) are actually sort of cool and a lot more interesting than the present day stuff…

    Sidenote: It was a pleasant surprise seeing Samantha Mathis pop up in this; always had a thing for her, lol…

  • brewers_rule

    Zach is a big sore spot for me. We’ll see where this goes but so far, this kid they replaced him with is annoying the crap outta me.

  • news junkie

    It has actually not been weeks since the outbreak began. Season 2 begins maybe in week 3. Add that to the purposeful efforts to hide the outbreak and manipulate cdc and public officials, I think it is understandable. If you have worked with government bureacracies (I have) you know that things run at a snails pace. I think this part of the show is very true to life.

    • mrkphil

      seriously…did you not hear about the Ebola outbreak last year. They wanted to cancel all flights into the country last year. after only one person died in the US.

  • ProwlerInTheYard

    Haven’t seen any of season 2 but I agree with EVERYTHING here about season 1 (especially about the characters, I hate almost everyone other than Fet). There’s also one huge problem that’s been missed; a fault it shares with American Horror Story. It’s not scary. The bodies-in-the-plane scene in episode 1 has a low level of atmosphere, but aside from that there’s nothing. To be honest, it’s pretty fucking boring.

    • J Jett

      Prowler, i thought the episode (in season 1) where the group is attacked at/in the gas station was kind of intense (in parts). but i understand where you’re coming from. :)

  • GunsOfNavarone

    The replacement Zach is such a bad actor. Props to the casting department for replacing one shitty actor with an other. It’s remarkable.

    • Bennyhill

      Well said. I don’t want to beat on the kid but his acting takes me more out of the series than the master’s laughable make up.

      • GunsOfNavarone

        I watched the 2nd episode before and the kid was in it for one scene, one…. and he ruined the entire scene with his awful acting. You sit there and think, what got him the part ? Take into account that they replaced him because they ‘needed an actor with more emotional range for the story in Season 2′.

  • Thistlegeist

    This show is just another example of how over-rated Guillermo Del Toro is. I read the first two books when I moved to NYC because I enjoyed the scenes in locations I see daily but, the show…..oh man, the show is absolutely terrible and GDT should be ashamed. The books have a great sense of ancient dread that I can only assume Hogan brought to the table. The show is laughably bad and wreaks of GDT’s cheesball sensibilities. Someone please feed Zach to a pack of blind child-vamps already.

  • Travis Uruh Spalding Braxton

    Del Toro is like Burton he has great visual and aesthetic ideas but his movies are fucking so boring. Just be on as visual consultant or something dude.

  • Victor Barrera

    I had not seen the show the first season, until many others had already seen 6 or 8, then I started watching and got caught up in it, the production values are outstanding, and I like the quality, I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far, in other words I’m enjoying the show…

  • shpinkis

    Definitely Not in Agreement with a lot of the article. To each theyre own, off the bat, wouldnt say season 1 was a disappointment. I know more then a few people that got me on the show and its spread…

  • WDfan

    Disappointed in the strain also… Boring, don’t care about or like any of the characters. I would’ve quit last season but my husband is stiil hanging in. He has not watched Walikng Dead, I told him if he wants to watch this genre I would rather re-watch Walking Dead so he could see it, than waste time on this drivel. ,

  • Don

    Omg the new kid is insufferable, never mind his acting, I can look past that — his face just makes me want to smack him. I guess they told him to put on his angry face, makes me want to never have kids. Idk about this show… I keep giving it chances on the strength of Guillermo Del Toro’s name but it just annoys me, too many things I can’t get past. Mainly one thing I can’t figure out… Why aren’t people freaking out lol?!? Where is the fear? Better yet, wtf happened to the rest of the country? World? It seems like a rather serious problem at hand, you got zombie vampires tearing people up in the streets injecting people with worms by shooting tentacles from their throats and everyone is all la-di-da about it, its almost like 99% of the population doesn’t exist. Meanwhile you got a small group of unlikely characters camping in a secret hideaway trying to save the world — a saucy latina chick, an alcoholic scientist, a female British hacker, Aussie? No idea. A Russian dude I think, not really clear on that either, some sort of pet detective. Don’t even get me started on the old guy and then you have the Mexican badass recruited by the rebel vampire faction *Shrug*. Right in the middle of all this they thought it would be a good idea to inject a bj scene out of nowhere. Wtf is this show exactly? Horror? Or…. Is it an attempt at being every single thing at once? The show doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t make me sympathize with anyone, its just a hot mess.

  • mrkphil

    I wanted is show to succeed so bad, but people making obviously stupid decisions for me Is a show killer. I m so ready for the little kid to die already. He is so freaking annoying, got some serious momma issues. Then people are walking around at night like they don’t have a care in the world in the middle of the vamp apocalypse. I wanted this to be the Walking Dead with a twist, but as stupid as people are on the show, they will still somehow figure out to stop it anyway. If you want to see a very intelligent entertaining show, watch the new series Humans. Excellent concept and well written.

    Please strain, higher a realism police. The epidemic on the shows TV news should be 24 hrs. non stop…Ebola coverage in real life got more coverage than this apocalypse. Where is the martial law, Government led vampire exterminators. Watch 30 days of Night to see how peoples should act during a vampire invasion. That is your benchmark.