TV Review: The Strain Season One (2014)

The Strain pic 3With the second season having started this summer, here are a few words about a show that I noticed a lot of people are missing out on.  The Strain is a horror drama TV series based on the book series of the same name written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  This particular review covers the entire first series as a whole.

Though I’d heard of the TV series as well as the books, I’d never actually dove into either until Hulu had the complete first season available.  I saw a few mentions of it via Facebook friends, and when I noticed el Toro’s name attached to it I decided to give it the ole’ three-episode trial run–something my wife and I came up with.  Giving a series a three-episode chance should develop the characters enough for you to be emotionally invested in the show and be enjoying the experience.  And if it doesn’t, well then it’s probably not worth your time or anybody else’s and it’s time to move on.  After watching the pilot, there was no need for the three-episode trial.  I would be completing the season.

TV and video streaming series have become addictive, dark soap operas.  The writing and character development in many of these shows in the last decade have been quite impressive.  People are revolving their social and recreational activities around episodes of American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Hannibal, and others like it, more than ever.  Though The Strain may not be reeling in the masses like a few of the aforementioned, in my opinion it rates up there with one of the best made-for–TV horror series to ever grace a living room screen.

The Strain pic 1The show contains all the gore we’ve been accustomed to in today’s modern TV that The Walking Dead brought with it.  The story brings your traditional Nosferatu type and fuses it with a modern-world apocalypse via viral infection–a strain that turns you into a blood sucking nightwalker with a tongue that truly shames Gene Simmons’ own appendage in comparison.

The Strain beings with a mysterious event involving an idle commercial plane that has safely landed but with no signs of life on the inside.  Enter the Center for Disease Control, and the main characters it brings, with an attempt to make sense of it all.  Things slowly unfold, and in the meantime New York City is being taken over by the spread of the evil-born strain.

The series bounces around various characters and their subplots.  And while some shows bore their audience with at least one subplot that feels more like filler than a functional building block, The Strain manages to keep us interested in each person’s life.  The characters in The Strain feel nearly equally exciting as we explore their background, their flaws, and their struggles with each playing an important role in the unfolding of the story.  However, I do have one problem with the show:  The computer hacking mastermind.  This is where using a stereotype would have helped the believability.  I’m more apt to think someone who can take down the internet on a global scale is most likely filled with abhorrently awkward social skills and is probably not all that familiar with makeovers, exercise, or even the sun.  But we’re presented with a toned sex symbol with long, flowing locks and a great complexion.  It’s bothersome, but not enough to change the channel.

The Strain pic 2I’m one of these people who read and watch with pessimistic eyes.  I look for the bad in everything.  I’m just searching for an excuse not to like something.  It’s my own personal test I put things through.  I have high standards.  I’m drawn to loop holes and weak characters and stereotypes that don’t work; the whole time longing for originality, particularly anything that takes me for an unsuspecting ride.  The Strain provides a very enjoyable ride.

The show’s overall concept isn’t exactly innovative.  It takes our fascination with a zombie apocalypse and gives it to the vampires in the form of a visible contagion that at one point gave me an actual nightmare with the strain’s infectious worms burrowing in my own flesh.  The cursed worms…quite possibly the most disturbing element of the show.  For fans who have taken to The Walking Dead and are looking for another horror series, this show does not hold the same dark tone, and perhaps it’s even a bit more unbelievable.  But I think you’ll find that by even attempting to apply that three-episode trial run you’ll want to ride it all the way to the end.

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