You definitely want to catch THE STRAIN: SEASON ONE!

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There isn't enough epic horror in the world. Almost every horror story is a killer offing the cast one-by-one, or it ends up with a small group holed up somewhere trying to survive. When I say epic, what I'm talking about is a work like Stephen King's THE STAND, a continent-spanning adventure with multiple settings and dozens of characters. Some would say that's THE WALKING DEAD, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that assertion. It's just a group of characters hiding in various places talking season after season. It's not grand or epic in any way.

Horror is also generally downhearted, negative. Shows like the previously mentioned THE WALKING DEAD and most horror films rarely ever present a truly happy ending with a successful resolution. These are major shortcomings the genre faces, and a reason that I'm just not that into the horror work being done these days. On the other hand, THE STRAIN gives me that same wonderful feeling I had when I first read THE STAND. There's a tremendous mythology at work and the story is immense.

So you might ask, what's it all about?

The Plot

The series begins with an airplane landing in New York City under mysterious circumstances. 206 passengers are dead but there are four survivors. Those survivors end up as pawns to spread vampirism into a citywide pandemic. What follows are attempts by members of the CDC to control the outbreak, but there is also a giant conspiracy at work. The mixture of horror and conspiracy is fairly original, allowing some of the tropes of the genre to play out in a fresh way, thus THE STRAIN is like nothing you've seen before.

The vampires have a tiered order which makes them exceptionally formidable. Most of the creatures are relatively mindless creatures with a hive mentality. They behave a bit like zombies, but their wicked tongue with a stinger at the end makes them quite a different beast. There are also higher order creatures that can think, act on their own, and even pass for human. At its core, the vampires are fresh because there's a fabulous mythology explored through flashbacks that enhance the main storyline.

The Cast

The series is led by Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and Mia Maestro playing Dr. Nora Martinez. This CDC pairing recognizes that what's going on is not a typical pathogen but some type of supernatural event. They are joined by Professor Abraham Setrakian, played by David Bradley, who is a Van Helsing-esque vampire hunter who has been fighting the scourge for decades. Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet is a rat exterminator who takes very well to his new form of killing, vampires. Finally, there's Miguel Gomez's as Gus, who's a gang member that also finds his true calling as vamp hunter. What the series does best with this eclectic core group characters is use the loss of loved ones and destruction of family units as a driving force behind their actions. There's a lot of disbelief and cowering early in the series, but the cast has a chance to grow over 13 episodes to become humanity's greatest hope.

No show of this ilk could survive without interesting villains. Robert Maillet plays the hulking villainous lead The Master, whose makeup and effects could have been better at times, but is still an imposing foe. He's joined by the former Nazi Eichorst played by Richard Sammel, Jack Kesy as rock star turned vampire Gabriel Bolivar, and billionaire vampire wannabe Jonathan Hyde playing Eldritch Palmer. It's a kooky mixture of villains that all have their own distinct agendas, rationales, and featured moments.

Heroes or villains, it doesn't matter. It's really a tremendous character arc for each person in season one. THE STRAIN is definitely a story-driven show about the collapse of society, but it's got some wonderful character exploration as well. You really can't ask for more.


First of all, the set comes inside a plastic bust of The Master. It's a pretty nice piece that will look cool on your shelf. More importantly, there are a number of featurettes that center on the story, the books, the characters, and settings. You also get a couple of commentaries, if that's your thing, and deleted scenes and bloopers. It's a loaded set with a lot of extras to enjoy.

Why You Should Buy 

After watching the first episode I went out and bought the first book it was based on. By the time the season was over I had read, and loved, the entire trilogy. The books were written by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro, but they're also key contributors on the series. Thus, the show followed the book's beats pretty closely, yet still expanded the printed work. Knowing where everything is going makes me even more excited to watch this opus play out.

THE WALKING DEAD fails in my mind because it's a downtrodden story with no hope in the end. It's not even a glass-half-empty form of storytelling. The glass is not just empty it's been stomped into oblivion. It doesn't mesh with my view of the world.  THE STRAIN has an air of fun, not a lot but just a bit. Using the books as a barometer, I can tell you it's not just about a society crashing. Instead, it's also about a rebirth and a finding a solution to the cataclysm. Season two begins soon, so you owe it to yourself to go out and catch up on one of the best shows on TV. This set is fantastic, so you won't be disappointed.

4.0 / 5.0