I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed in the first season of The Strain. Being a reader and huge fan out the book, as well as writer/producer Guillermo del Toro’s overall subterranean body horror oeuvre, I couldn’t help but bemoan the meandering pace of the previous episodes, which felt like a lot of filler despite being an adaptation of a very tense and plot driven vampire horror story. I’m glad I decided to give the series a second try though, because last night’s season premiere, despite its bloated 90 minute FX run time (masked butcher of Sons of Anarchy), was a relentless burst of modern vampire terror, everything I expected from the first season and more.
In case you slept on, or actually fell asleep during last season’s finale, we’re given a recap: Scientist turned reluctant Vampire Hunter Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Pawn Shop owning Van Helsing stand in Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) corner the Master and beat him back into the sunlight, but it doesn’t automatically kill him like they thought it would, and he retreats back into darkness, battered but not broken. We join Setrakian searching for clues in the building where the Master disappeared to when he is beset by Vaun and his mysterious vampire SWAT team from last season who bring him before three of the vampire elders. See, these vampire elders are three of the seven, seventh being The Master, and they’re none too pleased with his recent apocalyptic actions and well aware of Setrakian’s lifelong and current fight against him, so they propose an alliance, which Abraham, after witnessing the three awaken and devour a man just for fun, is powerless to refuse.
I love you thiiiiiiiiis much!
We’re treated to the origins of the Master, as told to Abraham as a boy by his Grandmother in a flashback or a flashback. Turns out he was an outcast in his village for being a giant, think like, Andre the Giant. So that’s why he looks so fucking weird. An ancient evil being with big, puffy lips? Feasting on the blood of innocents? I thought maybe he was just the first Kardashian. He was transformed into a vampire himself when his entire hunting party was devoured by one and he was cornered by the dying beast himself, parasites vomited into his mouth. Lovely. Damaged beyond repair in the fight against Abe and Eph, the Master plans to do the same in present day, aided by Ichorst, transferring his essence into, you guessed it, Ephraim’s wife. That’s bound to be awkward.
As described by the vampire elders, there is an ancient text that may help in the fight against The Master, and Abraham might just have it! In a Storage Locker! Hey I said the show got better I didn’t say it was perfect. What follows is either the best or worst episode of Storage Wars ever and before you can say ‘Yuuuuuuuuup!” our heroes are inundated with undead attackers. The action here flows much better and more realistically than anything in the first season, where the vampire encounters always seemed very stiff and staged, the effects are much improved as well, making it hard to tell between the practical and CGI effects, everything flowing smoothly and entertainingly, nothing awkward to downplay the threat of the series’ iconic enemies.
Hopefully this episode is a sign of better things to come and not just a positive glimmer before the action once again gets mired in season one’s stagnancy. Like I said, I loved the source material and would be really happy to be able to recommend this show to people. Hey, it took The Walking Dead a long time to get great, right? Maybe The Strain can eventually reach the heights that series has recently been able to achieve, and it’ll be a great time indeed to be a follower of episodic basic cable horror.