TV Review: ‘THE STRAIN’ Infects TV With A Darker, More Chilling Season


11057516_989884887697347_4043292073993649037_nPreston Barta // Features Editor

Ever since BUFFY and ANGEL put the nail in the series coffin over a decade ago, creativity in the vampire department has long since been absent. Enter Guillermo del Toro, whose wonderfully inventive mind has brought us such works as PAN’S LABYRINTH, HELLBOY and BLADE II. His dark, poetic view of the sci-fi fantasy world has always been a treasure to behold. Now, while THE STRAIN isn’t the strongest in his bulk of work, it’s certainly far from his worst.

The show’s first season started off a little shaky, but it kept the fangs in us by presenting an interesting world of creatures. It took us back to the true mythology of vampires, where the bloodsuckers had a peculiar way of drawing blood from its victims and sexual identity was out the window. But it wasn’t until we hit the half-mark did the show truly find its footing in season one. And while things did pick up, the show was far from reaching its full potential. Characters were still thinly written, the powerful aspects were too short and far between, and the Master… well, his physical appearance was more silly than threatening once his face finally popped into frame. But you needn’t worry, as his appearance improves in this latest season.

Overall, season one was a bit of a mixed bloody cocktail. Thankfully, however, season two (based on its first three episodes) seems to be heading in a darker, more compelling direction.

Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and his old enemy  Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) face each other in season one, episode seven of THE STRAIN. Photo courtesy of FX.

Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel). Photo courtesy of FX.

The show’s greatest strengths has always been the origin of the “virus” and the history between Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel). There was just something so infectious with the idea of mixing vampires, the Holocaust, and Nazis, and I think del Toro and his co-creator Chuck Hogan recognized this by the end of first season.

This season starts off with a riveting origin story of The Master (Robert Maillet). We learn how he came to be, and also discover the next phase of his plan: creating a new breed of creatures and placing them under the control of the now-infected Kelly (Natalie Brown).

However, on the other side, Eph (Corey Stoll), Nora (Mía Maestro) and the rest of the rat pack work towards a tactical/physical approach to take out the Master and his bloodthirsty posse, by creating a biological weapon. Meanwhile, Abraham takes a more literal approach, by searching for an ancient text he hopes will reveal the strigoi’s history and maybe even a way to kill them.

Fans can also rejoice when it comes to action and story. There is more comic book style of action that we love, captivating folk tales, ugly bloodsuckers, strigoi squad, and blood– lots and LOTS of blood (So, in other words, plan your snacking around this show).

It finally seems THE STRAIN is becoming the show we always wanted it to be: a gory fun-time. And that’s all you need to know.

Season 2 of THE STRAIN premieres tonight at 10 p.m. only on FX.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.