There is so much horror on TV now that I just can’t keep up, which is why I just watched the season premiere of The Strain yesterday! I thought it very odd that I missed the sophomore season starter and still remained entirely unspoiled…and then I watched it. Now I know why.
This review contains minor spoilers; TLDR/SpoilerFree: it wasn’t good but I’m still watching.
I have not read the books so any discussion I write has only to do with the show so maybe I’m in for something really fucking great at the end, but the first episode doesn’t give me a lot of hope. The first season introduced us to all of our main characters, bringing in new ones and killing off some (sorry, Sean Astin) while also providing the audience with a deluge of kick ass vampire action. Season two episode one titled “BK, NY”, starts off well enough with a fairy tale origin story of the vampire Master. We listen through the ears of a very young Abraham as his mother spins a yarn about a man who suffered from gigantism and was driven to find a “cure” by all of the terrible townsfolk and even his brother.
Despite his ailments, the giant loved children and for all intents and purposes was a very upstanding young man. One night he and his brother set off to find “the great gray wolf” that they believe can cure him of his gigantism. As you’ve probably guessed already, there is no wolf just a creepy Resident Evil-esque vampire Master who is desperate to find a larger and healthier body. Of course inhabiting the body of a giant would be appealing so the Master spews thousands of creepy vampire worms into his mouth and boom! we have the Master as we know him today. And that, that I enjoyed. The fairy tale theme is always expected when Guillermo Del Toro’s name is attached and it’s a trope I enjoy. I like that we have a reason as to why the Master is so hulking and lumpy, but it would seem that body is going away soon or that it will be the focus for this season.
Unfortunately when the fairy tale ends, “reality” begins and we find our characters pretty much where we left off. The Master is alive but severely injured from his encounter with the sun, Abraham is still a curmudgeon, Fet and Dutch are still carbon copy anti-hero personalities, Eph and Nora are still scientists and potential love interests, and all the evil people are still evil to the core. I mean, they were Nazis so obviously. One thing did change as far as character line ups go and that is the actor who plays Eph’s son, whose name I can never remember so I’m going to call him Carl Grimes Jr., was recast and man is he awful. I’m not going to assume it’s the actor’s fault because the character himself is grating, but I don’t know how much I can take of his “outbursts”.
My main issue with the first episode of The Strain is that no one but these people seem the least bit concerned with the vampire slow-pocalypse that has come creeping up on them. Sure, they can only come out at night but during the 10+ hours of daylight (given the day and season) shouldn’t everyone else be freaking out? It’s the heart of NYC and there doesn’t seem to be a lot in the way of panic. Of course, the vampires do have their own “human” voice and damage control man in Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) but it seems evident the vamps aren’t going to keep him in any position of power for long.
Which brings me to vampire politics and Nazis. Last season we were introduced to a group of well-organized, ninja vampires that seem to be fighting on the side of good. Or at least on the side of remaining in the shadows and not actively hunted. Abraham is “captured” by this group and introduced to the Ancient Order of Vampires, of which he thought were a myth. Turns out they exist and that The Master was once one of them. In hopes of preventing a full-scale vampire war, the Ancients and their ninja advisors want to enlist Abraham and his group to help return The Master to them. Abraham agrees and we get to see the Ancients wake up and feast upon some poor no named naked man.
I don’t have a problem with the notion of vampire politics, but I worry that it could get excruciatingly boring rapidly (looking at you True Blood). But what about Nazi-Vampire politics? In one particularly gripping string of scenes we see a school for the blind is transported on buses to what they think is a safe location. It’s the only glimpse we get of how people other than Abraham’s group are affected by the attack and it’s a doozy. Essentially, this sequence felt like an allusion to Nazi Germany’s systematic euthanization of people with disabilities (along with countless others). The buses pull up and are greeted by head Nazi vampire who obviously plans to use them as breakfast, lunch, and dinner for The Master as he heals. To say the least, it was uncomfortable but it could make for good television.
The Strain is suffering from too many story lines involving uninteresting characters. I noted the kid as “Carl Grimes Jr” because that’s basically what he is without the ability to make me like him or feel for him. Eph is certainly no Rick Grimes and everyone else is just a photocopy of their said character traits. I should also mention that the best part of this episode, being the origin of The Master, was directed by del Toro himself so that explains why I liked it more than the rest of the episode. I’ll stick with it though, what did you guys think?