The Strain works best when it knows exactly what it is: pulpy, goofy, comic book-like adventuring with a few creepy ideas peppered in to expand the lore.
Luckily, the first few episodes of The Strain’s second season embrace those qualities and immensely benefit the show after a season finale that left me a bit a bit, well… drained, so to speak.
The first episode, “BK, NY,” opens with a new flashback sequence to an even younger Abraham being told a story by his grandmother, a story that will no doubt be servicing the plot through the season as well as a sense of ultimate goal, but this sequence is the first time a flashback on this show has felt like a piece of old folklore brought to life. Because of that, I really enjoyed it.
Modern Setrakian (David Bradley) feels a bit one-note as a result of this search so far, especially having his self-importance a bit diminished when something, which we as viewers have already encountered, is presented to him.
Doctor Ephraim Goodweather still has a super bad wig, but this time around Corey Stoll is being given much more to work with in the character, but I’m a bit disappointed that it’s based around the fact that Eph has given in to his alcoholisms again, thus being tossed into the corridor of “IDGAF” black comedy. It’s effective, and for once I actually look forward to more scenes with Eph this season, but I’m hoping Goodweather will have more dimension as it rolls along.
Nora is the “Michael Bluth” of everything here on the Strain’s ragtag group of heroes, providing the only sense of logic in desperate times. Having lost both her city and her mother, she doesn’t have much to fall back on other than the bizarre company she shares. However, the secondary plot of this season premiere brings things to a more compelling route, in a place where we already understand the elaborate inner workings of the Vampiric transformations, but now Eph and Nora hopelessly try to work their way to a cure of some kind around the titular strain of disease.
Fet still knows way more about explosives and architecture than I expected, and Dutch hasn’t done much but teach little Zach a lesson in the “okays” of stealing to survive and lie about ramen noodles being awesome. There’s more of them in episode two.
We learn more about The Master’s condition in this episode, particularly that he survived, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t severely weakened. I guess he had to run away so nobody caught him crying on the playground. It appears he’s preparing himself for a new vessel, and Eichorst is tasked with making a certain few vampires as sentient as he is: particularly the goth musician Bolivar, and Kelly, Zach’s mom, no doubt to prey on Zach and Eph’s emotional baggage about her turning.
The most bizarre moment of the premiere was its conclusion, and it is probably the most enjoyably f*ed up thing in the show so far, in taking creatures of the night from a school of unsuspecting blind children because… they have sonar or something? Either way, the production design and makeup in their reveal is completely unsettling, and may be the only thing in the show so far to remind me of Guillermo Del Toro’s best qualities where films such as La Espina Del Diablo come to mind.
Ultimately, I’m still cautious about any kind of sincere attachment to The Strain; I enjoy looking at it objectively, but I think I have a feeling that the second season will be where it gets to show its true intentions and achieve some really creepy and adventurous storytelling if it’s brave enough.
The Strain Episode 2×01 “BK, NY” (7/10)
Season Two premieres tonight at 10PM EST on FX