The golden age of television continues as networks attempt to double down on programming that demands the audience to suspend disbelief in an effort to push the limits of storytelling. While there is no shortage of post apocalyptic stories in the world of television from ‘The Walking Dead’, and ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, to ‘The Last Ship’, ‘The Strain’ is an interesting take as it is a slow burn of development that views a potentially world ending plague from the ground level. Created by Guillermo Del Toro, ‘The Strain’ is the tale of vampires taking over the world by force beginning with New York City. This is told through the eyes of two CDC doctors who mistake the effects of vampire poisoning for an unknown virus. Their research plus the plotting of the actual vampires is what sets forth the events of the show.
A few thoughts about ‘The Strain’:
- Intriguing premise – In the first season the story unfolds slowly with much mystery. It is obvious that the first episode was filmed and produced with great care. As the story unfolds and the “plague” begins to spread the viewer becomes engrossed in the questions raised by the plot that are purposely left to unfold as the show continues.
- Unsteady plot – These questions, however, are only answered at a strangely unsteady pace. At times the story takes strange turns that initially appeared to be deliberate however as the series continues it becomes obvious that being deliberate is not something this show does well. From the strange and untimely love triangles to the fluctuation between being a fantasy show vs. science fiction it becomes hard to understand how the story is being told. While some will read this and posit that perhaps it is in both genres, it would seem that the story would have been best serviced by firmly placing itself in one lane or the other.
- Poorly written – From the horribly contrived dialogue to the flat out nonsensical decisions made by some of the characters at times an otherwise fine show left the viewer puzzled. The show is based on a novel by Guillermo Del Toro who originally envisioned this as a television series but was unable to garner interest until it was completed as a novel. This originally for television novel turned television series, feels at times lost in its own creation. At times bearing the gravitas of a work with high ideas and thought provoking questions about humanity and at other times devolving into a puzzling mess of blood and tears.
- Unlikable characters – Not all of the characters are unlikable. This would be an appropriate time to note that perpetual typecast character actor Kevin Durand has a main role as a exterminator turned vampire slayer. (He is a friendlier version of the darryl character (from the Walking dead) of this series) It is nice to see him play a protagonist for once as well as be able to see him do more than simply look menacing on screen. Outside of him many of the other characters have problems of likability. This show seems to double down on the “flawed” character. Some of them are so flawed they are difficult to root for as they continuously get in their own way. There is a child character in this show that rivals the Carl character (from the walking dead) in terms of nonsensical rationale. Nonsensical enough that it could cause a viewer to actively root for a child to die as he continuously leads other characters to their demise.
- Interesting take on vampires – While preserving some of the commonly accepted beliefs about vampires such as aversion to silver and sunlight this show paints an entirely new picture of these mysterious demons. (words of this writer not the show) For instance people who are attacked by these vampires are shown as being infested with parasites (worms to be specific) that actually change their biology. This new biology includes a “stinger” which extends out of the mouth of the vampire that opens to reveal teeth to suck out the blood of its victims. This leads to the next point.
- Unnecessarily gory – The choices made by the creators to depict vampires in this way makes for some excessively gory scenes. This show is in the 10pm Sunday slot on FX, and it takes full liberties with its abilities to be as gory as a cable television show can be. With graphic deaths of humans and vampires alike, horror fans and those who like gory movies will enjoy a nice treat without going to the theater. However for those squeamish viewers who do not like squirmy worms wriggling literally everywhere inside and outside of people as well as red and white (vampire) blood liberally spilled everywhere, gratuitous head shots and copious amounts of machete/swordplay (for the sake of decapitation only for the most part) this may be a bit much.
At first glance this post may lead you to believe that this would be a lowly rated show in the opinion of the writer. However despite its many glaring flaws the show was perfect for binge watching and is pretty entertaining. Currently the first two seasons are available on Hulu and as of this post the third episode of the third season has aired on FX. Definitely not a show to watch with your kids, at all. 3 of 5 stars.