26 August 2014

The Strain

No, I haven't read the books so I am new to this... universe. I had no idea what The Strain is until I started watching it, but I took some time to read about it. It was first imagined as a TV show, but Guillermo Del Toro was unable to find  a TV network that would finance it. So he decided to "transfer" it into a book trilogy that also spawned a comic book series that follow the same plot. The trilogy made some positive comments so Del Toro was finally able to find a partner to make a TV show and here it is - The Strain, hosted by FX network.


The whole world is in a big danger as a mysterious infection turns people into mindless beasts that feed on humans and turn them into even more mindless beasts. We know them as vampires, but they are called Strigoi (from Romanian mythology) by Abraham Setrakian, one of the show's main characters. Being an Armenian Jew who lived in Romania, he is aware of the presence of these beings but as usual - nobody believes him. I was actually very surprised when another main character actually said "So you are telling me that we are fighting what? Vampires?". Oh my God! Someone in a vampire TV show actually knows what vampires are? Unlike The Walking Dead where everyone seems to be living in a world where zombies never existed in popular media!? This knowledge of vampirism by one of the characters is a big plus!

I am still having mixed feelings about The Strain. It started great with a mysterious death of 200+ passengers aboard an airplane on JFK in New York City. Actually the whole first episode was rather dramatic and mysterious as it introduced us to its main characters and gave us hints about what they are about to face. It was obvious that the "enemy" is supernatural (probably a Noferatu kind of a vampire, but it was still unclear) and very, very dangerous. However, after the great first episode, the following 5 were rather... stretched. It's hard to explain, there's quite a lot going on with the internet slowdown, global mobile phone problems, mass murders on streets of New York... You could even say that a lot of disturbing things are happening while most of the New York residents are unaware of the incoming doomsday. I don't know if they are ignorant or stupid, but it just seems very abnormal, even for a horror/fantasy TV show. Also, there are so many "oh come on!" moments that force you to make a facepalm ala Picard thinking "why so stupid, why, why???" People checking out weird sounds in complete darkness. A guy going into a shed to beat up a neighbor's dog (surprise, it's not a dog!) with bare hands. A regular office guy trying to be a hero after his colleague comes in bleeding... by yelling at TWO obviously dangerous persons (who don't look human any more) - "hey... HEY! Why did you do this?". I don't think he survived that. Then a taxi driver who was rather safe in his car and completely able to drive away decides to go out and shoot his firearm at very dangerous looking pack of human/beast unknowns. Not to mention the 4 survivors from the airplane tragedy who deny medical help and insist on going home while they are obviously not well at all with bloody eyes, high pitched noises in the head... Anyway, you get the idea.

There's also a flashback story going to World War II concentration camp where a Jewish prisoner (who happens to be one of the main characters in present day New York) gets to meet The Master and his most loyal servant who just happens to be a Nazi officer. That story seems rather interesting, and I really hope it stretches over seasons. I know, I know, I am a WWII fan, I can't get enough of it.

Overall, The Strain is still a bit of a mystery but it has a lot of potential. Having the original book author (Del Toro) working on TV show (the original idea) is a big plus and if he can't make it good - no one can. I also have to mention the current last episode (episode 7 of the first season), or at least the final minutes of it and the introduction of a very strange unit that seems to be fighting the vampires on their own. Why so strange? Because they are vampires themselves! That episode restored my faith in The Strain and I hope it gets even better from this moment on.

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