“I know my cause seems hopeless, but I’ve seen what happens when people stand by and do nothing. Inaction is the greatest evil.”-Abraham Setrakian
I could probably sit here for at least an hour just typing my favorite quotes from The Strain. After four initial episodes that were only acceptably entertaining, in my opinion, the series has now moved into a fierce evolution that undoubtedly makes it addictive. The intensity has been turned up several notches and characters are already being pushed to extreme limits. Once again, if you are behind on viewing, this review does contain some spoilers.
As far as del Toro’s signature creature innovation goes, there has been no lack of its presence so far. The transformation from human to vampire seems to be shown in the most brutal way possible. Not only physically brutal, but also mentally and emotionally. It’s explained that the vamps keep some part of their former selves, which causes them to go after the ones they loved the most. This aspect of the story line adds to the paranoia of the characters as well as intensifies the psychological horror from the viewer standpoint. At first glance, many of the “new” vamps just look like your typical zombie. I admit that has bothered me to an extent, especially in the two most recent episodes. I do however appreciate the fact that they have the parasitic, worm like organ that protrudes from their mouths when attacking. I think that simple feature makes the vamps seem so much more threatening and dangerous than the majority of what we normally see.
Character development is quickly moving in the right direction. Ephraim, or “Eph” as everyone calls him, is not so much a leader anymore as he is gradually learning that everything he has doubted is indeed fact. His meeting Abraham, the vamp hunting pawnshop owner, has thrown him into a world that doesn’t fit into his scientific and biological expertise. I like the fact that although he’s seeing this supernatural apocalypse occur before his eyes, he’s still holding on to his belief that it’s simply a new viral threat. I feel this adds to the realism as characters in a similar position in most shows and films seemingly accept everything after a brief initial display of shock. Eph is now a fugitive as the FBI and authorities are still more concerned about containing the flow of information than the outbreak itself. Not to mention, his wife and son are still in the city. As I mentioned in the previous review, he has his hands full and it doesn’t appear that the load will be getting any lighter in the near future.
I expressed in the previous review that Eph’s partner, Jim Kent, intrigued me. He intrigued me because with everything that’s going on, his main focus and motivation is getting help for his terminally ill wife. I believed he would be a big wild card because he’s genuinely fighting for both sides. Well the most recent episode threw me, and probably most viewers, for a complete loop. I liked the fact that even after his betrayal of the CDC, Eph still fought to save him. I think that even with it’s short run, Kent’s storyline may be one of the most tragic I’ve seen. Let’s not forget he and his wife parted in anger and she’s still out there somewhere without knowledge of her husbands fate. I’m still not so sure we’ve seen him for the last time though….not with the twists the series seems to be prepared to make.
We are now getting an in depth look at Abraham Setrakian, played by David Bradley. (It actually took me about 3 episodes to realize he’s Walder Frey in Game of Thrones.) His story is being told quite fluidly through flashbacks. I appreciate the way the flashbacks are being tied into his current predicament at the particular time….reminds me a lot of LOST. I mentioned in the previous review that Abraham and Eichorst appeared to have a history. We now know that Abraham is a Holocaust survivor and was under the watch of Eichorst. He mentions at one point that Eichorst was not yet a vampire at that time, but he was still a monster. I’m impressed with the fact that I don’t even care that he’s not a vampire in the flashbacks. He is still just as menacing and intimidating.
“I warned you to stay in jail. Fitting that we should end our journey where it began….on a train platform.”- Thomas Eichorst
“This time, I’m the one with the weapon.”- Abraham Setrakian
Once I heard those lines, I couldn’t help but feel like I was about to see a super hero level showdown. That definitely wasn’t the case, although I think that was an awesome scene after the flashbacks leading up to it. That scene along with the flashback showing Eichorst go on an epic, drunken rant about power and fear really raised the intensity level more so than any of the
action. His words about how Hitler came to power are profoundly scary for many reasons, in my opinion. I look forward to seeing more showdowns between those two.
We are also now seeing more of Vasiliy Fet, played by Kevin Durand. I’ve been waiting to see more from this mysterious Russian exterminator and have been pleased with how his character has started developing in the past four episodes. After his meeting with his father, it’s clear that Vasiliy is definitely not the goofy guy he appeared to be in the beginning. I like his character mostly because of how he seems to have a good heart, but appears to put on a jerk façade for his own protection and survival. I’m sure he lost some fans after episode 8 though.
Each episode has a different director and with a lot of action/drama series, that usually makes the show have an uneven overall tone. Normally I feel that’s a big negative, however the past four episodes have shown that it can definitely be a positive. I was completely caught off guard by the intensity of episode seven, which is titled For Services Rendered. It opened with a pretty tense vamp attack at the home of Joan Luss, one of the plane “survivors”, and never really let up after that. It was refreshing to have such a steady build up in a non finale from this type of drama series and the ending was nothing short of stunning. The group of “hunters” that appeared out of nowhere got me even more excited to see what lengths the show will go in order to shock/surprise the audience.
As much as I enjoyed episode 7, I have to say that episode 8 has been the absolute best so far. It’s titled Creatures of the Night and directed by Guy Ferland. Ferland has directed for dramas like The Unit and Nip/Tuck, so the episode was in good hands from the beginning. I think the best way to describe it is as a hybrid of The Walking Dead and The Mist. I honestly don’t think anyone can make any show sound more appealing than with that description! The episode placed the viewer under siege with Eph and his crew. Once they drove away and the screen went black, I could almost hear other viewers exhaling along with me. It’s definitely a roller coaster experience from the growing number of vamps arriving under The Master’s command to the surprising demise of Jim. The remaining installments of season 1 definitely have big shoes to fill in order to even maintain the intensity.
I haven’t even touched on some key characters, but I will undoubtedly do so as the season progresses. I’m honestly having trouble finding any negative criticisms about The Strain so far. At this point, I’d describe it as a brief horror film that airs weekly. Combine that with some pretty good story telling that seems to be evolving by the episode, creature effects that are getting more and more gruesome, and great direction. It’s safe to say that I’m now a fan.
Really Liked It
At this point, I feel The Strain offers a near perfect combination of drama, mystery, action, and horror. Episodes 5-8 have been a steady climb in intensity. Let's hope it continues.