Review – THE STRAIN: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
Guillermo Del Toro has a fascination for traditional old school horror that can’t be denied. His films have reached both hardcore and mainstream audiences, developing a relationship with fans that most directors crave. His childhood fantasies have been brought to the big screen in the form of creations like the faun creature in PAN’S LABYRINTH and the Kaiju monsters in PACIFIC RIM. He came up with a concept that involved vampires terrorizing New York City with undeserved characters rarely given a chance to be heroes and turned it into a hit trilogy of novels. These novels attracted enough attention to garner adaptation offers, eventually landing on the FX network, thus providing us with THE STRAIN TV series.
Season one began a plane that mysteriously lands at JFK International Airport with no signal from the inside. Once opened, the presumably dead passengers come back to life with blood shot eyes and head home to their families after an initial investigation. A giant coffin also ends up missing from the cargo hold that happens to unleash a supernatural force referred to as the Master. Throughout the first season, we are introduced to several characters such as Eph, a member of the CDC who fulfills the traditional role of the scientist who knows the truth, but no one will listen to. There’s also Eldritch Palmer, a wealthy entrepreneur who knows more about the plan incident than he lets on. There’s Gus, street savvy parolee who unknowingly gets involved and later becomes part an army that helps fight for mankind. These are just a few pf the many characters on THE STRAIN who watch as New York City becomes infected by a disease that turns people into monstrous versions of sexless vampires.
The recently released on Blu-ray/DVD season two delves into the aftermath of that infection as it is no longer a secret and political parties get involved on how to handle the situation. Eph and company find two live bodies of the infected and decide to use to science to create some kind of biological weapon with their DNA. This decision creates some moral dilemmas between the characters, creating tension in their relationships that complicate their survival skills. During all this, the Master gets his right hand man, Eichhorst, to lure a school bus full of blind children and turn them into a new brand of terrifying vampires called the Feelers. A certain mother from season one becomes their maternal figure and uses them to get closer to her son and fulfill the Master’s wishes.
Season two greatly raises the stakes, but rarely takes advantage of the set up they’ve created. There are some great action sequences, but way too many chances of the good guys winning a fight only to turn away so the show has a storyline to follow. These moments really are frustrating to watch as there’s a larger scope of dilemmas happening throughout that are a more interesting focus. Another issue with season is the recasting of Eph’s son, Zach. Not sure why the casting was made, but along with that change is that the character has become someone entirely different. The smart kid from season one has overnight turned into a snarky momma’s boy who really should just be written off at this point as he feels (and is treated) like extra baggage at this point. Luckily, Kevin Durand and Ruta Gedmintas are given plenty of material to work with as Fet and Dutch in a more interesting subplot and deserve more recognition than they get. Hopefully in season 3, we get more of that and a bit more personality as some episodes become a mere blur with too many “been there, done that” moments.