The Strain Is Fascinating, But for All the Wrong Reasons

Illustration for article titled The Strain Is Fascinating, But for All the Wrong Reasons

Although the first season of The Strain was profoundly flawed, I found myself weirdly looking forward to its return. After watching the second season premiere, I think I’ve figured out why—there’s something genuinely fascinating about a show that can make a tentacle-vampire apocalypse so dull.


I know that sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m really not. This is a show that features an ancient, giant evil vampire with superpower with an army of mindless minions who have giant, blood-sucking tentacles in their mouths; a show where there’s a “good” order of vampires who fight the evil vampire and have an elite team of spec op ninja zombies; a show that features the wholesale murder of blind children so they’re turned into some kind of special psychic zombies or something; and somehow the show is boring.

That’s amazing.

Seriously! Despite the fact there are tentacle-vampires who shoot you full of vampire worms that literally make your balls fall off, the show is not at all scary. And despite the fact there thousands of these things marauding around New York City at night, there is somehow no urgency to our heroes’ battle against the Master. They’re in no rush to stop the vampire apocalypse, just like the show is in no rush to get to an epic battle of good vs. evil.

Despite the fact that the premiere is 90 minutes long, very little happens in the bafflingly titled “BK, NY”. We begin with a flashback to young Setrakian’s grandmother telling him a story about a dude with a huge chin which takes 10 full minutes, but boils down to the fact that he meets a strigoi who vomits into his mouth and turns him into The Master. That’s it.

Back in the present, old Setrakian and our other heroes are somewhat perplexed that the sunlight didn’t kill The Master in season one finale. Setrakian follows him underground, only to be immediately captured by one of the Spec Ops Ninja Vampire Squad. This guy takes Setrakian to the Ancients, where we get the most interesting part of the episode in that we learn that there are six Ancients, The Master is the seventh, and the others are trying to stop him. However, the Ancients don’t seem to have noble aspirations, as they indicate by having a naked dude brought up to them and torturing him and drinking their blood in front of Setrakian (and Gus, who is disgusted but apparently totally unconcerned that his new bosses brutally murder humans). Anyways, all they wanted to do is tell Setrakian to let them know if he finds The Master.

That’s the highlight of the episode. Here’s what else happens, and I’m going to include every main character just for kicks:

• Fet vampire-proofs their HQ by welding cages around all the windows.

• Dutch is making something but she doesn’t know what it is.

• Zach is irritated his mother has turned into a tentacle-zombie.

• Eph and Nora decide they should make an infection that kills vampires

• Also Eph continues drinking with no apparent consequence other than Nora giving him dirty looks.


• Eichorst manipulates a school for the blind into sending him a bus full of kids.

• The Master says he’s dying and turns all the kids into some kind of special vampires that may be psychic.


• Vampire Kelly gets her mind back, courtesy of The Master, and is put in charge of babysitting all the psychic kid vampires.

• Eldritch Palmer buys some property, and decides to hire his real estate agent as his new assistant.


This all culminates with a trip to a storage unit, where Setrakian has backup vampire hunting supplies, where a bunch of vampires attack them. But even this feels rote, possibly because the team never looks to be in any real danger, or because every vampire dies with a single bullet, or maybe its because its preceded with a shocking amount of time of the heroes wandering aimlessly through storage building because Setrakian can’t remember his unit’s number. Which is itself merely so that the team finds an elderly couple hiding in one of the units, so that one of them can infected during the attack, so Eph and Nora have a vampire to study over the course of the season.

As a season premiere, it’s perfunctory, to say the least. As the first chapter of a book, which of course the show is based on, it’s probably stunningly accurate, but books have different narrative needs that TV shows or seasons. I’m not sure my fascination will last if The Strain continues its leisurely storytelling, but we’ll see. Happily, on that note, that season preview that ran after the finale certainly looked like things were going to be very action-packed for the rest of the season, so that could be great. I’m a little worried that the video contains the entirety of the action of the season, but let’s cross our mouth-tentacles and hope for the best.

Illustration for article titled The Strain Is Fascinating, But for All the Wrong Reasons

Assorted Musings:

• So I have no idea what the state of the vampire apocalypse is in this show. The show has definitely shown scenes of vampires running through the streets of NYC, and there are thousands of vampires, and yet somehow no but the main characters have somehow noticed there are people with giant mouth-tentacles on the loose. Moreover, there seems to be no panic even though there’s a mysterious plague on the loose, apparently schools are still being attended, and Eldritch can have a press conference with plenty of reporters attending with no one taking any apparent precautions.


• Although thousands of people have been turned into vampires, and thousands more people have been attacked and killed, and even though Eph showed footage of a vampire on TV last season, somehow the vampire apocalypse is still a total secret to the world and even the surviving inhabitants of NYC that is The Strain’s dumbest aspect.

• Well, that and the fact that Dutch “shut down” the internet. I still haven’t gotten over that nonsense.


• Setrakian and the Ancients talk about a book called the Occido Lumen, which apparently has a way to kill The Master in it. But The Ancients also obviously know a way to kill The Master, because Setrakian asks for information how to kill them and they decline. But if he’s going to look for the book, he’s going to find out anyways, right? Why not tell him and save everybody some time? Or did I read this wrong?

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I’m still pretty annoyed/disappointed that the show decided to go all mystical with their vampires rather than going Full Biology with it. It seems a much more interesting concept to hang your show around when the vampires are both deadly, infectious, and yet have the possibility to be cured.

Or maybe I just wish In The Flesh wasn’t cancelled right after hitting me right in the feels.