The discovery of an airplane with only four survivors on it begins a series of strange occurences, which brings Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his team at the CDC face to face with a strain of vampires. They must fight to protect New York City from the vampires’ evil plot.
I went into The Strain knowing practically nothing about it. What I did know was that Guillermo Del Toro was involved in it, and that it had something to do with vampires. This is what got me on board.
It was pointed out to me by a friend that The Strain is also a comic book series; which also led me to the discovery that it started out as a book trilogy. I feel like the former is more relevant to my take on the TV series so far, though – both in terms of what I like about it, and where I think it could use some improvement.
See, The Strain reads to me like a live-action comic series.
In some respects, this is a positive. The camerawork, for example, reminds me of a the kind of framing and story boarding that you would see in a comic; as does the colour palette and tone of the show. Once this clicked into place for me, I actually started to enjoy the show more.
On the downside, I feel like most of the characters in The Strain also come across as generic caricatures, more so than actual people. In fact, I feel like Eph’s ex-wife, Kelly (Natalie Brown), is the most fleshed-out and believable character in the show – and, considering she’s a peripheral character, that’s not a great sign.
There’s also a slightly annoying simplicity to the story – which is largely built on cliches on top of cliches, with some really stupid character moments thrown in for good measure (like when members of the CDC decided to open a big, weirdly marked crate of unknown origins, which had just come off a plane of mostly dead people, without any protective gear or precautions in place). As Tom and Lorenzo point out, there’s also an annoying habit that all the characters have of not sharing important information. I suspect that, if this were a comic (where timelines can be harder to establish, and there’s a tendency toward less complex plots), these things would work fine. It just doesn’t work so well here.
Having said all that, there’s a campy cheesiness to the show that makes it hard to hate on The Strain too much. And, as I would expect from Guillermo Del Toro, the monster designs are pretty cool. There’s something a bit Resident Evil about them – and I can work with that.
As long as it’s taken as mindless entertainment, I think that The Strain is fine. I’m not exactly awaiting each new episode with baited breath, but I’ll stick with it.
Who knows, maybe they’ll iron out some of the kinks as time goes on, and I’ll come to properly enjoy it.