THE STRAIN

Vam­pires take over New York. Very slowly

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Viewscreen -

UK Broad­cast Watch, Wed­nes­days

US Broad­cast FX, fin­ished

Episodes Re­viewed 2.01- 2.09

Vam­pires – even the might­ily-tongued Strigoi ver­sion in The Strain – live for cen­turies, so they’re not go­ing to hurry them­selves when it comes to tak­ing over a city like New York. Which is fine for them, but it can be a bit of a strain ( sorry) for view­ers.

Sea­son one of this TV ver­sion of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Ho­gan’s book tril­ogy adapted the first novel. The sec­ond novel, how­ever, is be­ing stretched over two sea­sons and of­ten it’s all too ob­vi­ous. Mo­men­tar­ily, as the sea­son opens with our he­roes hav­ing wounded but not de­feated head vam­pire the Master, this more leisurely ap­proach to plot­ting seems like it might be a boon. As for­mer CDC agents Eph and Nora, along with hacker Dutch, rat­catcher Fet and vam­pire hunter Se­trakian plot anew how to de­feat the vam­pire men­ace from their hide­out, there are some ef­fec­tive char­ac­ter mo­ments, deep­en­ing their re­la­tion­ships and mak­ing the team dy­nam­ics more nat­u­ral.

That lasts about one episode be­fore ev­ery­one goes back to be­ing a col­lec­tion of trot­ted- out- weekly per­son­al­ity traits and it’s up to the gore and the schem­ing vam­pires to keep things in­ter­est­ing.

On a gore level the show re­mains com­mend­ably in­no­va­tive and stom­ach- churn­ing. Barely an episode goes by with­out a cou­ple of full- on gross- out mo­ments: spi­der- kids sliced in half; a vam­pire corpse sculp­ture; end­less wormy ick­i­ness; and many, many, many be­head­ings.

But the squab­bling vam­pires serv­ing the Master seem to spend more time rub­bing each other up the wrong way than get­ting on with tak­ing over the world. The Master takes for­ever get­ting over his ail­ment. The hu­mans’ plot to cre­ate a plague goes on for yonks. And all the while you’re sup­posed to care about whether Eph’s now- vam­pire wife will turn his bratty son. Which you don’t.

There are great mo­ments when the ac­tion be­comes a kind of bal­let in vis­cera, and the mythol­ogy fuelling the show re­mains pow­er­ful and en­tic­ing. But too many ran­dom new char­ac­ters and dead- end sub­plots leave sea­son two feel­ing bloated and gassy like a de­cay­ing corpse. Dave Golder

The Alice Cooper trib­ute starts here!

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