July 16, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Strain”


THE STRAIN:  Sunday 10PM on FX

The decision to make Season 4 of FX’s THE STRAIN its last (a year earlier than the originally announced plan) meant that there was a lot of story to cram into 10 hours, and tonight’s season premiere was all plot and set-up.  The show’s canvas has become wider and even more dystopian than it had been already, as it turned out that the atomic bomb that exploded in New York at the end of Season 3 had kicked off a nuclear winter effect, blocking UV rays and allowing the vampiric strigoi hordes to walk in daylight.  The strigoi’s leader, known as The Master (voice of Robin Atkin Downes), now uses the body of billionaire Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), and between his evil resources and the sunlight, the strigoi are taking over what’s left of the world.  Through an organization sardonically known as The Partnership, they obtain the blood of humans through deception or force, and they have other evil plots brewing.

Our remaining heroes are scattered.  Eph Goodweather (Corey Stoll) is based in Philadelphia, where he barters his medical services while trying to figure out what The Partnershp is up to; former exterminator Vasily Fet (Kevin Durand), former hacker Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) and half-Strigoi Quinlan (Ropert Penry-Jones) roam North Dakota, in search of nukes they can launch against The Master; strigoi expert Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) was visible only in one of Fet’s nightmares.  Meanwhile, not only is The Master hatching diabolical evil in general, he’s made it personal by taking Eph’s son Zach (Max Charles) as his human protege, much to the discomfort of The Master’s second-in-command, Nazi war criminal Eichhorst (Richard Sammel).

The season premiere, written by series co-creator Chuck Hogan and showrunner Carlton Cuse, had its hands full setting all this out, as well as having Eph abducted by one group of human outlaws and Fet and Dutch taken by others.  Unhappily, the only character who got something like a story arc was Zach, whose seduction by The Master is just making the show’s most annoying character more so.

Although The Strain‘s scope is larger, its budget apparently stayed the same, and director J. Miles Dale wasn’t able to disguise the soundstage look of the sets, or make the streets of New York and Philadelphia look anything but generic.  The strigoi make-up is also somewhat less impressive when seen in daylight.  (Those four-legged strigoi “pets,” however, are still plenty disturbing.)  Stoll, a very fine actor, led a cast that mostly looked grim (the heroes) or arrogant (the evildoers).

Unlike most of FX’s original programming, The Strain has never been particularly prestigious TV, despite the initial involvement of co-creator Guillermo del Toro (who with Hogan co-wrote the source material novels).  It’s a horror potboiler that could run as easily on any number of other networks, and while FX has been extremely patient with some of its auteurist series, when the ratings started running out on The Strain, it was time for the show to go.  It would be too much to expect the series to elevate itself in its final hours, but with much territory to cover quickly, hopefully it will take viewers on a fun ride.

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."