Vampires take over New York. Very slowly
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
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