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Thoughts On The First 3 Episodes of “The Strain”

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain” is infecting FX once again, hoping to track down “The Master”.

Most of the first season was phenomenal – at least until the final few episodes fell flat on its face.

The show was trying extraordinarily hard to keep the realism intact, although the DP’s color palettes, bad wigs, and cheap stages were doing everything in their power to derail such a plan. In fact, “The Strain” became comic book-like by the finale, with convenient things happening constantly in order to progress the story. And let’s not forget the poorly written and choreographed finale that was so infuriating that I thought about giving up on the series.

As a rule, I always give a show two seasons to catch my full interest, especially when it’s one I’m excited about. And even though “The Strain” limped to its finale, I kept hope that the filmmakers would find a way to glue it back together by Season Two.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed. In fact, it’s as if the filmmakers behind the series never even cared to see what the public was saying as all of the bad things about the show remain so.

I caught the first three episode of “The Strain’s” second season and, while the premiere is actually quite riveting, what follows is more feet-dragging nonsense that bored me to tears.

The season premiere begins almost immediately after the finale, where time is spent juxtaposing Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and The Master (Robin Atkin Downes). There’s a huge struggle throughout as the theme seems to be is it right to kill one in order to save the many?

One of the things I loved about the first season was the backstory about Abraham and the Nazi. Season 2 opens strong with a phenomenal origin story of The Master that dates back to 1873. We learn that he was once a wonderful person who was afflicted with a disease. He travels with his brother in an attempt for a cure, only to become infected by an ancient vampire seeking a new host. When he returned to town, the children started to go missing. This is an important plotline that is revisited in the later episodes…

There are some impressive creature effects used to show a wounded Master, who is now seeing a new body to replace the one damaged by sunlight during the Season One finale.

Devices introduced are the Master’s original walking cane (to prove his existence), as well as a book – the “Oxinal Lumen” – that’s rumored to know how to kill the vampires. Some new story arcs include Corey Stoll’s Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (and his awful, awful wig) working on his own virus to infect the infected, and spread his own disease that would kill all of the vampires. He does this by experimenting on a newly infected couple, which pushes the boundaries of ethics – and even causes his son (Max Charles; one of the worst child actors to have ever lived) to turn on him.

We also watch as a group of blind children are transformed into creatures (they get really dark in this season) to help serve The Master’s super secret plan.

The season premiere came out swinging, setting up the stage for multiple storylines that could catapult us through Season Two. And while the second and third episodes became increasingly unwatchable, there’s enough going on to keep faith alive that it’s all building to something volcanic.


29 Comments
  • brewers_rule

    I don’t see how you think it’s getting worse. I see it as getting better. We’re seeing more of the backstory of Abraham & The Master in the last episode moving into the 1960’s now to the point of including Stoneheart’s background in the process. We’re crossing the ethics bridge of not only experimenting on infected but the alcohol angle of Eph getting stronger w/each episode. The fact the city’s beginning to wake up to the horrors at night as the bureaucracy struggles to come up w/a plan for it’s definitely revealing some of our own societal struggles in the same vein in the real world so that’s good.
    I was even thinking about the complaints of ‘how can no one know this is going on’ which were relevant & it occurred to me that if the creators gave us what we wanted (more of that explained in each episode) you’d wind up w/less character development overall which would suck. I guess sometimes you just have to put those pieces together w/your imagination a little & enjoy the trade off to learn more about the characters, which is a good thing because not many shows bother w/that kind of development anymore imo.

    • cb30

      Completely agree! In the books they fast forward and don’t explain how Palmer and the Master were able do it. Here they are explaining it and showing an accurate view of what’s happening in the city as well as giving us insight into character development. Trust me when I say the series is setting up characters for what is to come better than the books.

  • KTM444

    I enjoyed the first season but it bordered on being extremely bad with the unintentionally hilarious bad acting and bad dialogue. I was hoping things would change but they haven’t. You are right – the show has gotten worse. The producers show that New York City is under siege by vampires and this outbreak is all over the news, but then they show people walking the streets as if nothing is happening. But thats not even the worst part. Take, for example, the beginning of last night’s episode. The Nazi vampire guy is talking about the wooden box to the goth rocker from last season (who inexplicably is now working directly with the Nazi guy?). The goth rocker vampire still takes the time to apply his white goth makeup and put on his long black wig? You’re a vampire! Why are you doing that?? Or that tall exterminator guy continues to wear his inspector badge around his neck? Why? Do you think the vampires are going to verify your authority before they let you enter? Dumb. Even more stupid is the totally out of place flirting and eventual skinny dipping in a pool. Or Eph tying down the old man who just lays there and doesn’t even attempt to fight back even though his other hand is free. He just lets Eph tie him down. Or people of the city continuing to attend press conferences and ribbon cutting ceremonies. You’re city is overrun with vampires and you want to attend these ceremonies? What? The show is just dumb.

    • suffering

      You think too much dude…..Just enjoy the serie

      without looking at the pointless details

      • KTM444

        Its not thinking to much when its right there in your face. I’m not looking for the problems – they stand out immediately.

      • J Jett

        suffereing, KTM444 is right. the show is fun but there’s NO reason why the writing is this bad. KTM’s examples are exactly what many people (go to IMDB’s The Strain discussion board) are bringing up. there’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s characters behaving in ways that are SO unrealistic/pathetic that it takes one out of the moment/scene. even though it’s a vampire show, the characters have to behave in a somewhat realistic manner in the universe the show has created and that’s been the show’s big problem since season 1.

      • garmcm

        I agree with you suffering. Just put it on and enjoy what’s in front of you. I really enjoyed the first season and I’m really enjoying the second. If your complaints about the show are based on bad acting, bad writing and bad dialogue, then why are you into horror? I can think of countless horror films that I love because of those very reasons. Quiltface, Nut Bag, Dead Heist, all made better by bad acting and bad dialogue. The review was harsh imo

    • J Jett

      KTM444, even though i enjoy this show (it’s a 100% guilty pleasure schlocky show) i agree w/ you 100000000000%. every example you brought up is what i have been wondering about/saying as well.

  • redeyedjedi410

    I thought that last nights episode was a lot better than the premier.

  • J Jett

    i DO like this show but season 1’s writing is jaw-droppingly awful. insultingly bad. the vampire fx (not including The Master who looked unintentionally hilarious and completely non-scary) and the coloring/lighting in each ep was FANTASTIC though. despite the writing continuing to be terrible in some scenes (Vas & Dutch going swimming in a non-secure public swimming pool AT NIGHT was ridiculous times a million) i have enjoyed season 2’s first 2 eps. that being said the powers that be made a HUGE mistake in recasting the Zach role. i always thought the actor playing Zach in season 1 was pretty bad but he is Oscar caliber compared to the god awful child actor playing Zach in season 2.

    • Evans Roberts

      agree with re-cast of Zach, what were they thinking…

  • hacknslash

    BallChinnian Vampires are not cool

  • Bobby1181

    All my complaints of this show involve the contrived human drama that bogs down every episode…I really wonder how much show there would be if people weren’t needlessly bickering with each other. It’s very “Under The Dome” when the show focuses on this.

    • Evan3

      And nothing should be “Under the Dome.” That show was terrible.

      • Bobby1181

        Exactly the only pleasure I got from that show was the person over at IGN reviewing them hated it just as much and would just be making fun of all the characters and silly melodrama in their reviews.

        • Evan3

          Link? I’d love to read that.

  • DBZEROGRAVITY

    I almost bought the season 1 limited edition on bluray just because of that wicked master bust… then I remembered this series is a steaming pile

  • Tryst V. Umbra

    First three? Have you had the third one given to you for early review or something? Because I’m counting two.

  • Sarigar

    The book Setrakian is seeking is called the Occido Lumen. That really would have taken no time to look up online.

  • Evan3

    I jumped off the ship. Frankly, I found the books to be pretty mediocre. Like the show, it just never came together, thrilling scenes interspersed between dull periods of static plot development and increasingly implausible actions. I guessed it would make a better movie/TV show, but instead, it is almost exactly the same – some inspired set pieces surrounded by poor acting and awful pacing. Plus GDT’s vampires are just ripping off his own (and better) work in Blade 2. I can’t be convinced back.

  • Celtic Bull (FutziMcFlipp)

    I liked season 1, but season 2 doesn’t look too promising. The Master’s backstory and the hunt for his cane was pretty cool.. If only they’d stay in the past for a couple of episodes…
    And the whole ‘fire vs fire’-arc is the lamest thing they could come up with. Oh… besides the alcoholic relapse..

  • Shawn Simpson

    What’s is I feel like 90% of viewers and people on this site have zero idea that this show was a book series before it ever became a show. It’s a trilogy and a damn fine trilogy at that. If you find the show is lacking for you but still want to follow the story then go read the books like any sensible person would.

  • Shawn Simpson

    Do people not realize that this is a trilogy of book’s? The book’s are phenomenal and if anyone wants to follow the story to its conclusion but the show isn’t doing it for you then read the damn books. Seriously do people just ignore the obvious.

  • dr.chimrichalds

    The new actor playing Zach might be the most annoying child in the history of the world. I don’t condone violence, especially against children, but I really hope they do something about this little turd.

    • J Jett

      dr.chimrichalds, you are close. there’s a little girl actress on the Lily Rabe/Milo Ventimiglia sci-fi show THE WHISPERS that makes this kid on STRAIN seem like the most likable child ever. lol. the character’s name (to make it even worse!) is “Minx”. i’ve never wanted a child character to die more than i do this vile girl on WHISPERS. lol.

    • bjkjoseph .

      I hope he gets it…but will he be even more annoying as a vampire?

      • dr.chimrichalds

        As long as he doesn’t talk. The kid was fine until he opened his mouth.

  • i always found everything so stiff.. none of the action is thrilling, and it really was a lot better before the apocolyptic era. i think the virus should die down, then slowly begin again in the aftermath of it all. itd be exciting to watch the world turn to rot again

  • Robert a Bb

    I’m enjoying seeing the Origins of the mast and other things like that. I would like to see an origins story of the 3 original vampires that you see that are being fed by the … vampire hunting vampires or w/e the hell their names are. maybe it’ll be where that one rogue one who turned the master was apart of the original vampires there was 4 before he went rogue. maybe h e started feeding on his own kind. and that’s why he had so many more parasites in him compared to the others. I like the show so far so i dont mind that its like 70% slow talk and walking around and 30% them fighting the vampires.
    what i see happening and maybe I’m totally wrong. I think that the master will choose Vaun to become the new master. I think that Thomas Eichorst who is the caretaker for the master will become jealous of the master choosing vaun instead of him and he will join the i call them ELDER vampires . hell join them and then tell the master where they are and the master with the NEW BODY from vaun will kill the 3 remaining ELDERS. and he will also get the book they are looking for and then pow we will have to wait till season 3

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