FX premiered its ambitious new series, The Strain, an adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s 2009 horror novel. The opening sequence wastes no time building tension and establishing the primary conflict.
Problems begin when a large, powerful figure bursts through an airliner’s cargo bay and reeks havoc . The CDC, lead by intensely wry Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), responds to the grounded, dead plane only to discover four survivors. But that’s not all they find.
A tremendous Gothic box filled with soil somehow made its way, unchecked, onto the flight from Berlin to the US, suggesting a highly orchestrated conspiracy among powerful figures. Moments after the box of soil is discovered, its malign contents appear elsewhere.
A large pile of rags, rises and becomes a faceless monster that savagely feeds on an officer. This is a particularly brutal scene. The creature, after draining its victim, breaks the man’s neck and proceeds to crush the man’s head with little effort. Clearly the network spared no expense in the special effects department.
The graphic language and violence of The Strain tests network television’s boundaries, but it works. The brutality highlights the high stakes and creates greater tension when Ephraim ignores Abraham Setrakian’s (David Bradley) warning.
Abraham, a clever, stealthy elderly man, who is also a Holocaust survivor, tells Ephraim that he has dealt with this outbreak before and that the bodies of the airline passengers must be destroyed. True to horror form, Abraham is dismissed- enter grotesque scene number two.
This is a vampire show,after all, so all of the cadavers rise in their various stages of autopsy to devour the unsuspecting coroner. “Sweet Caroline” blares in the background as the likeable coroner meets his bloody end, providing an eerie contrast.
All in all, The Strain’s hour and a half premier moved quickly and cleanly. Most expositions trudge toward the conflict and delay tension, but that is not the case with The Strain. The closing voice over, “love is our grace, love is our downfall,” points to humanity’s vulnerability and explains why some of the show’s characters unwittingly contribute to the potential downfall of humanity.
The Strain is a return to smart horror. No sparkling or love lorn vampires here. No detail is arbitrary or gratuitous.
Previews for next week’s episode promise increased action and tension. Will you tune in to next week’s episode of The Strain? What moment did you find most shocking?