August 28, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Strain”


THE STRAIN:  Sunday 10PM on FX

FX’s goofiest drama, THE STRAIN, is back for its third season, long-tongued vampiric monsters and Eastern European mythology intact.  Season 2 may have been less notable for killing off leading lady Mia Maestro than for finally letting Corey Stoll discard his awful toupee, and while there’s no sign yet of a new female lead, Stoll remains resplendently hairless.

Despite a fair amount of Strigoi vs. human action, the season’s first hour, written by series co-creator Carlton Cuse and showrunner Chuck Hogan, and directed by J. Miles Dale, hardly moved the story forward at all.  Much of last season revolved around our heroes fighting to obtain an ancient book called the Lumen, which supposedly held the (encrypted) secrets to destroying the monsters, and that book is still at the center of the action.  Crotchety Setrakian (David Bradley) and half-monster Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) were working to decipher its secrets while the evil Master hunted for it.  His central weapon, not surprisingly, will be the fate of young and stupid Zach (Max Charles), son of CDC hero Eph (Stoll) and Kelly (Natalie Brown), who unwisely threw his lot in with his mom last season despite the fact that she’s essentially a zombie controlled by the Master.  There was less characterization in the premiere even than plot, unless you count the fact that Eph is now firmly off the wagon, swigging down vodka as he agonized over Zach’s whereabouts, and that Gus (Miguel Gomez) is draining himself of blood to provide sustenance to his monster mother, whom it failed to satisfy.

Although, as the opening narration reminded us, only 23 days have passed in the storyline of The Strain, we’ve been watching it for over 2 years, and it’s starting to feel like the Rectify of horror thrillers, glacial in its pacing.  Every so often a regular character is killed, or The Master switches human hosts, but even with the copious bloodshed and a measure of fun hammy acting from Stoll, Bradley and everyone’s favorite bug hunter Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), at some point the show is going to have to feature real forward movement, instead of just more scenes of people hunting through sewers.  Viewers don’t have the eternal patience of the Ancients, who have been waiting for centuries for Quinlan to defeat The Master–and even they’re getting jittery.

Although The Strain was still a fairly successful show last season in the world of basic cable, its finale was down by almost half from the year before (0.54 compared to 0.97 in 18-49s), suggesting that it’s time for the series to find something more than extended tongues to display.  The plotting, or lack thereof, is starting to make the title all too appropriate.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."