I had no prior knowledge of the television series The Strain before clicking A on my Xbox controller to begin the first episode. I had just exhausted every episode of my previous TV show minutes earlier. I was hoping that The Strain would be a show that I could spend some time on and enjoy. In the end, the FX original turned out to be exactly that; enjoyable on the surface, yet lacking underneath all the dead Strigoi.
The Strain * TVMA * 2014 * Fantasy, Thriller
The Strain initiates the metaphoric dark portal to Strigoi hell through an interesting concept that can be unpredictable at times. The show invests a number of episodes before finally introducing the Master. The writers use Abraham Setrakian as the storytelling vessel for building up the Master as a mythical being through Abraham’s, often angry, monologues. The final reveal of the Master does leave a lasting impression yet the show struggles to define his power, especially at the beginning. I was not concerned at that point of the show but I did have a firm belief that The Strain would demonstrate The Master’s powers. The ominous nature of his existence and ability is intriguing but the lack of definition causes problems later in the show as the Master releases his reign upon New York City and the world.
The Strain has a difficult time maintaining the excitement throughout the 46 episodes in the series. The show begins to fall flat towards the end of season 2 after revealing most of the tricks hidden beneath the show’s sleeve. The Strigoi most definitely had a knack for murdering any new characters that would find their way into the lives of the survivors. The Strain did not effectively utilize the characters at its disposal. One such character is Fitzwarren. Fitzwarren is prevalent throughout the series, earning his place atop Eldrith Palmer’s totem poll yet the end to his character was fleeting and disappointing. The missed opportunity to flesh out his redemption arc, or any arc at all, exemplified how the show did not realize the full potential with most of the characters. The characters in of themselves were not developed even after participating in dozens of episodes.
Writing – speech from the blonde lady
The writing struggled at times but excelled for the most part. An especially awful section was the speech from Justine Feraldo which made me feel as though I was personally on the set for that one episode, looking down a top the actors with the cameras surrounding them. The speech removed me from the world and made me question why it was included at all. What was meant as a resounding call of valor and might, instead forced me to reconsider the writing for the entire show. The sentiment did not seem genuine, almost out of place.
I did enjoy that the “good guys” finally won a fight before Justine ruined the episode with her speech. I began to develop narrative fatigue after the good guys continuously found a way to fail at succeeding. This is of course at the heart of all storytelling but in the case of the Strain, the show failed to reinforce the survivors ability to do anything at all. The inner quarrels of the group were unnecessary and unrequited at times. The unbelievable dialogue, especially from the rodent hunter, combined with the groups inability to see past minor differences caused my enjoyment to plummet.
Most of the altercations amongst the humans could be defeated with a little understand and effective communication. The professor continuously said that the Master hoped they would fight, then continued fighting with everyone else for the silliest reasons.
Touting the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, and David Weddle, The Strain falls short of exhibiting a narrative that bobbles above the ocean of mediocrity. The promising introduction to the series was too difficult of a task for the final seasons to overcome, especially the event triggered by Zack. If you’re looking for a way to pass the time during social distancing, The Strain could provide you with decent entertainment that often lacks substance to fill the gaps.