TV review: “The Strain” better than the recent glut of vampire shows

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From the July 10, 2014 edition

FX’s new series “The Strain” is yet another vampire tale, but its conception and most of its execution make it better than the glut of the genre in recent pop culture. “The Strain” was originally conceived as a television series by Guillermo del Toro, but when he couldn’t find a buyer for it, he partnered with author Chuck Hogan and turned it into a trilogy of novels. After the books’ success, FX got on board.

“The Strain” treats vampirism as a virus, with an outbreak hitting New York City when a Boeing 777 mysteriously arrives at JFK with all occupants seemingly dead. Following the head of CDC’s emergency response team, Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the series’ first four episodes essentially detail how the CDC must come to terms with a completely unknown outbreak. Eph quickly realizes this virus is extremely dangerous, but doesn’t quite grasp how it exists or its potential for disaster.

A survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) who owns a pawn shop in Harlem does immediately recognize what’s happening as he’s seen this before. He attempts to tell Eph, but ultimately just winds up in jail for his efforts.

Rounding out the cast are: Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez and Sean Astin as Jim Kent, members of Eph’s CDC team; Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichhorst, a vampire orchestrating things; and Miguel Gomez as Gus, a felon on the periphery of the story who’ll surely get sucked in eventually.

Where “The Strain” exceeds typical vampire tales is the quality hands of del Toro (who directs a number of episodes) and the writers telling this story. The vampires here are a wonderful del Toro creation that are both gross and fascinating, and the narrative unfolds nicely over the first four episodes, creating both human moments and some exciting action/sci-fi pieces.

The only knock I have on “The Strain” is that while it’s enjoyable, I didn’t feel utterly compelled to watch the next episode once one ended. I’ll surely keep up with “The Strain,” and recommend it, but I’m not hooked yet.

Photo courtesy of FX