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

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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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.