The Strain: Season 2
In recent years there has been a substantial proliferation of vampire themed entertainment. Between ‘True Blood’ on premium cable and movies dominated by the ‘Twilight Saga’ one of the most iconic monsters of all time have been turned into fodder for dramatic romance stories with a decidedly supernatural slant. While a modicum of terror remained it was typically utilized as the defining character trait for the ultimate bad boy heart throb. For dedicated fans of the traditional creature feature movies including the famous Universal Studio monster movies, this trend of romanticizing creatures that were intended to frighten you out of your wits seems to some to betray those that we watched with the intended purpose of getting scared. The FX subsidiary of Fox Television has brought back a truly horrifying form of vampire directly from your darkest nightmares with ‘The Strain’. Created by one of cinema’s more interesting filmmakers, Guillermo del Toro, the series ups the ante on frightening thrills by enhancing the monsters with a touch of ‘Alien’ blended with s dollop of zombies set against a plan for world domination that has been centuries in the making. In keeping with some of the established tenants of great story telling the first season laid the foundation by introducing the audience to the principle characters on both sides and defining the supernatural parameters that define the context of the plot lines. In the second season considered here, the viewers are taken back in time for a glimpse of crucial backstories and a deeper understanding of the scope of the threat. These vampires are not confined to feeding on the innocent. They are a growing army of the undead enthralled by their supremely powerful Master with the assistance of a cadre of lieutenants, a trusted majordomo and a billionaire acolyte. Opposing them are a small group of individuals who are among the very few that realize the precise extent of the menace and how the entire world is at stake.
The second season begins with a prologue that flashes back to before World War II were a young Abraham Setrakian (Sammy Silver) is told a folk tale by his grandmother (Kathleen Chalfant). the legend details the life of Jusef Sardu (Robert Maillet), a man afflicted with gigantism. Acting on the belief that the blood from an exceptionally large wolf can cure him his brother, accompanied their cousins journey into the woodlands to locate it. When they fail to return from investigating a noise Jusef searches for them only to find the wolf feasting on their blood. When the creature notices Josef it attacks him but rather than killing the young man it subdues him, infesting him the unusual worms. The once benevolent gentle giant now covertly stalks and slaughters local children as his source of nourishment. This establishes a lot point crucial to a prime motivation for the season; the Master is a malignantly evil essence that must reside in a human vessel.as a side note we learn that the stylized silver sword cane owned by the elderly Setrakian (David Bradley).
Back in modern day New York City, Setrakian had dealt the Master a devastating injury during their confrontation but the Master managed to escape. Following a trail of vampire blood, the elderly warrior encounter Vaun (Stephen McHattie) , and his tactical team of ‘Sun Hunters’, vampires fully turned but not under the sway of the master and remaining capable of independent thought, He takes Setrakian to meet with the ‘Ancients’ vampires so incredibly old that they are immobile, exerting their power telepathically and through the Sun Hunters. They offer some information regarding an ancient tome, the Occido Lumen, a detailed account of the initial rise of the Master and crucial to defeating him. The Ancient make a deal with Abraham to obtain the book for them. Although he agrees Abraham has every intension to use it himself. Back in the vampire strong hold the Master is fatally wounded and must transfer immediately. He is attended by is primary servant, former Nazi commandant, Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) and one of the first turned in NYC, former Goth musician, Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy). After many decades of faithful servitude Eichorst had presumed he would be the next host but was angrily disappoint when Bolivar was chosen. The internal resentment is exasperated by billionaire Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) who financed the Masters relocation into NYC and his initial plan to turn the city into strigoi, the vampires.
A similar disruption to unity is experienced in the resistance camp. Eff, former known as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his partner/lover Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro) are arguing because Eff had to kill a human colleague during a trip to Washington. Further discontinuity occurs when the team’s main tactician and most efficient fighter, Vasiliy Fet (begins an intimate relationship with Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas). When they come across Dutch’s former lover, Nikki (Nicola Correia-Damude) it results in Vet becoming distant.
The perennial battle between good and evil is complicated human politics. The city is in a panic with outbreaks occurring throughout. Mayor George Lyle (Ron Canada) finds himself in the precarious position of keeping the population calm and pandering to wealthy supporters with their own needs, of course including Mr. Palmer. The Mayor’s once ally and now increasing in her own influence is councilwoman Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) who has become the public face of the war against the invading creatures. Thanks in part to behind the scenes maneuvering by Palmer the political and financial powerful are kept ineffective by constant in fighting. One of the differences between this series and most vampire driven monster movies is the subtly crafted and highly nuanced additions to the usual central plot, while the foundation is the supernatural attacks, a significant portion of the intrigue is the political machinations and interpersonal conflict that abounds. Such fundamental plot devices as jealousy are among the most powerful motivators on both sides of the conflict. In the classic vampire story, the incentive to act is almost exclusively survival; the vampires kill to feed and the humans are battling for the fate of humanity.
This series works incredibly well not just in the venue of a creature feature but as a character driven drama, political thriller with a touch of romantic drama thrown in. there are conspiracies that go back a millennium. With the David and Goliath theme played out by and ancient evil and an elderly pawn shop owner. Although Eff has a biological weapon the leucocratic morass of red tape and procedural impediments block its deployment. This is a far cry from the science fiction movies we grew up on where a scientist achieves the design of the ultimate weapon and within a day the government and military are giving the learned savior of mankind fine tune the weapon and immediately deploy it. This attention to so many so many realistic plot devices considerably enhances the full effect of the show brining it closer to creating an emotional connection with the audience, now fans need to wait on;y a short time more to see where season three takes us.