The Strain Rushes To Its Conclusion

The Strain, the FX TV show based on the books by Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan, concluded its run. On the whole, the series was often enjoyable and creepy while its fourth and final season was a satisfying conclusion to the vampire/apocalyptic saga of Dr. Eph Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his ragtag band of vampire fighters. That doesn’t mean that the final season was perfect, but at least the show got to finish telling its story.

The fourth season takes place months after Goodweather’s young son Zack (Max Charles) detonated a nuke near Manhattan. The brat had fallen in with the vampires or strigoi trying to take over the world and he was enraged at Eph for killing his strigoi mother. This stupid, impulsive act caused an off-screen nuclear war and the nuclear winter that followed allowed the vampires to live in a world of constant twilight. From there, it was easy for the vampires to openly rule the world by entering into a false “Partnership” with the surviving humans where human collaborators supply fresh blood in exchange for security. Yes, this does not make much sense, a nuclear exchange severe enough to cause nuclear winter would leave very few people alive and survivors would have some form of radiation poisoning. Not exactly a viable food source for the strigoi. Also the depiction of life after a nuclear war with largely intact cities and environments and where no one seems to be suffering from fallout stretches credibility. But it’s one of those plot devices that viewers have to accept and move on.

As the final episodes of The Strain aired, many dangling plot lines and character threads were wrapped up, sometimes a bit too quickly. This was another problem for the fourth season of The Strain, though the people BTS did the best they could with the short ten-episode season. For the previous seasons, The Strain smoothly flowed in its narrative as people struggled to maintain civilization by confronting the growing vampire threat that spread through worm-like creatures secreted by the vampires into their victims. When the fourth season began there was a large time jump that showed the aftermath of the strigoi takeover as they began implementing their version of the perfect solution; meaning turning humanity into cattle. The fourth season’s premise was mesmerizing, but sadly felt rushed and did not flow organically. Previous seasons allowed themes to play out, but in the final episodes, many promising storylines were glossed over as new characters came and went and plots were concluded quickly.

setrakian kills eichorst

However, the fourth season had its fair share of awesome and disturbing moments. Probably the best one was the inevitable final confrontation between the vampire Eichorst (Richard Sammel), a former Nazi, and the aged vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley). Their conflict took place a couple of episodes before the finale and it was short, brutal and epic. Due to his advanced years and hardship in the season, Setrakian was wasting away, on his last legs. Meanwhile the near-immortal Eichorst was as supernaturally spry as ever. It seemed hopeless for Setrakian after he was infected by Eichorst, who started drinking his blood. But the stubborn vampire hunter was not a quitter; he had overdosed previously on pills that acted as poison for Eichorst. This gave Setrakian the chance to deliver the killing blow, and his cathartic rant as he beheaded Eichorst was truly epic. While those final moments were great, the loss of these two characters before the show concluded was noticeable. The strigoi by now were faceless grunts to be mowed down by Eph, and his partners Fet the exterminator (Kevin Durand) and the half-vampire Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), Fet’s love interest Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), and former gang leader Gus (Miguel Gomez). What kept the show watchable was the solid acting by the remaining cast and the fact that the storyline was ramping up to its conclusion. The show’s heroes had smuggled a nuke into New York City, the headquarters of the vampires’ leader, the Master (Jonathan Hyde), in an attempt to cut off the head of the snake. Without the slimy and well-spoken Eichorst, it was up to the Master and Zack to carry on the villainy and the results were mixed.

Given the rushed nature of the fourth season of The Strain, it was a small miracle that the final episode was largely satisfying as some characters were unexpectedly killed. It perfectly played up the theme of sacrifice for the greater good and sold the point that victory does come at a cost. Still, it is rankling that the BTS people were not given an extra episode or two to properly tell their story. OTOH, at least the cable network gave them the opportunity to conclude the story, which is something that many series do not have.

The Strain was never as popular as The Walking Dead or hip as American Horror Story, but unlike The Walking Dead we got to see how the apocalypse came about. It was disturbing to see humanity and civilization falling bit by bit throughout the seasons with the macabre fate being that humans wind up as a food source. Also, The Strain had a linear story to tell with a beginning, middle and conclusion, which is something that The Walking Dead lacks. It is too early to tell how The Strain will resonate in the future, but hopefully those that haven’t had the chance to see it duirng its first run will get another one later on.

 

Waldermann Rivera 

 

 

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The Strain Finishes Its Third Season With A Literal Bang

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Forget about The Walking Dead, the horror TV show that is on my must-watch list is on FX. No, not American Horror Story, though that show is great. I’m talking about The Strain. Based on Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s novels, The Strain is about a vampire virus that devastates the world today, specifically New York City. Its third season just finished and wow it ended with a literal bang!

One thing I like about the show is that it takes a pseudo-scientific approach to vampires or strigoi as they are called in the show. One of the heroes, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) is a former CDC scientist desperately trying to find a cure or a way to stop the vampire plague while battling the bottle. At the same time, the show dwells a lot into the history of the vampires and that is best shown with the other hero, the elderly vampire hunter but total badass Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and the main villain, former Nazi and current vampire Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel). The two are great foils for each other and the actors greatly convey their mutual hatred. That’s just a mere sampling of the show’s many interesting and unconventional characters.

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I have to admit, The Strain is unabashedly grade B fare, but it’s rarely dull, and moves along at a fast pace. By the time the third season ended, humanity is on the verge of becoming cattle for the spreading vampires. Goodweather’s idiotic son Zack (Max Charles) nuked the Statue of Liberty in retaliation for Goodweather killing his vampire mom (Natalie Brown). Never mind that a few minutes earlier the mom was eyeing the kid for her next snack. That kid is so annoying, I can’t wait until he gets his, not for being a moron but for killing thousands of New Yorkers. What he did was carry out the vampires’ master plan of detonating a nuke to create a nuclear winter and plunge the city into eternal darkness. Of course, this means the vampires can now roam all over the place without fearing the sun and that is where the show ended.

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Loosely following the storyline in the novels, The Strain will come to an end next year. Unlike some shows, it knew not to overstay its welcome and have a beginning, middle and end. Unlike the meandering zombie show that basically repeats itself, The Strain is often always fun to watch and sometimes creepy and gross. Looking forward to seeing the slurping vampires one more time next year.

T. Rod Jones

The Vampires Of The Strain

eichorst ready to eatVampires have been defanged lately. At least on TV and film. Both medium have been filled with overly romantic or brooding, misunderstood loners that filled the roles of the infamous night creatures. In reality, the vampires in Twilight and True Blood among other presentations were really just metaphors for social and emotional themes like teenage alienation, bigotry and even the gay rights movement. As good (or bad) as these presentations were, it was clear that the vampire mystique was diluted and strayed far from the creatures’ legendary horror roots.

Fortunately, The Strain corrects that problem by presenting the vampires in the TV show as the horrific and repulsive monsters they’re supposed to be.

Based on the book of the same name by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (both of whom executive produce the show as well), The Strain is starts off as a medical mystery but by the end of its first season is a straight up horror tale as a deadly infestationplague ravages modern-day New York City. In just a matter of days, many of the city’s inhabitants are turned into vampires by means of a quick-acting virus spread by aggressive parasitic worms. These tiny creatures are found in vampires and burrow into humans whenever a vampire bites them or simply by coming into physical contact with a vampires’ body fluids.

When infected by these disgusting worms that quickly multiply in the body, a person feels like he or she is suffering from a bad cold. In reality a horrid metamorphosis occurs where sexual organs atrophy and fall off, skin turns deathly pale and gray,  and a craving for blood ensues. By this time, the infected’s personality is largely gone, and are driven by a desire to ingest blood and pass on the virus. Infecting and draining someone else is done through a hideous, long tendril that shoots out of their mouths with grabbers and teeth at the end. Seeing this happen in each episode never loses its shock value and it’s very disturbing.

tongue attack

It’s a unique twist on the way vampires attack their victims and makes logical, pseudo-scientific sense. This method is somewhat reminiscent of the xenomorph creature in the Alien films with its elongated tongue that sports its own tiny, fanged mouth only the vampire’s tongue is much longer and faster. The way the vampires attack their victims takes away any notion of twisted romantic eroticism. The vampires in The Strain don’t try to seduce humans. They have no sexual interest in them and reproduce asexually by transmitting the worms. The end result is that the supernatural aspect of these bloodsuckers are downplayed and instead scientific explanations are given as to how they exist and operate.

Most vampires shown are nearly mindless the mastercreatures driven by instinct. At best, the common vampires display a sort of hive intelligence and carry out psychic commands from the Master, the vampire leader. Meanwhile, a select few retain the personalities of their former lives and possess intelligence and the ability to talk. These special vampires are able to pass themselves off as human through elaborate makeup. That is because a fully fledged vampire has deathly grey skin, no hair, or nose and are bald with pointed ears. They’re also incredibly strong, quick and fast healing.

But Del Toro and Hogan didn’t just toss out all the old traditions with their takes on vampires. They do share a trait with the traditional vampires in that they lull many victims to let down their guards. This happens when a recently transformed vampire is drawn to a former loved one. The intended victim will see that the shuffling creature is acting odd and barely speaking. The vampire will swiftly attack and noisily drain the suckervictim’s blood using its tongue as a fleshy straw and leave the now-infected person in a death-like state. Shortly thereafter, the victim’s DNA is rewritten and the person is now a vampire. Also, the vampires on The Strain  have many of the traditional vampire weaknesses such as being vulnerable to silver and direct sunlight. The show’s heroes use the same tried and true methods of fighting vampires like sunlight exposure, blades for beheadings or silver. But innovative twists are used like UV lamps in the absence of sunlight and nail guns that fire silver nails.

The vampires in The Strain are innovative while being a throwback to their original portrayal across centuries. They’re hideous, disgusting and there isn’t anything romantic about them. They have more in common with the shuffling, mindless and disfigured zombies seen in TV shows and films these days. The end result is that the vampires have become something to be feared again.

José Soto