I am the nightmare viewer of television producers everywhere. I am a binge watcher, worse than that – I am a binge watcher who streams with a box. It is the only way I can watch television; I don’t have the time nor do I have the patience to wade through absurd commercials with dancing housewives and talking appliances.
This weekend my binge was “The Strain”, looked promising; it was co-created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, filmed in my country. Granted it was Toronto, the “New-York-Wannabe“, of the north; my guess is that Montreal and Vancouver were probably booked.
Back to The Strain – it wanted to be an interesting mix of Walking Dead/30 Days of Night/28 Days Later, so I queued it up, settled into my side of the couch and began my binge.
First season was as expected – the premise was being established, actors were looking for their groove and the writers were exploring the recesses of their minds, trying to find their most horrific of muses, (made slightly easier by the filming location). Sentient parasitic worm, sent out by, what we are led to believe is, a vampire of Eastern European origin. The victims, don’t actually “die” in the accepted “worm-farm”state of non-being; they undergo a sort of metamorphosis, poorly described using the very old and very tired caterpillar analogy, early on.
The script starts off with acceptable moments but then begins to take frequent nosedives into shoddy writing.
Whining by cast member and employee of the CDC, Dr. Nora makes you wish she would be the next victim and then the inexplicable, totally unnecessary appearance of her chain-smoking mother with dementia; after about 10 minutes of the mother’s confused mental state and nicotine fits, you can’t help but sit there and ask yourself, “W.T actual F does this have to do with anything??”
Dr. Nora is supposed to be of Argentinian origin and speaks of the “Disappeared”….the problem? The Dirty War in Argentina would have been before she was born and has absolutely no bearing on the story or situation at hand.
These are the small details in a script that can cause viewers to lose interest. Yes, the premise asks us to suspend reality for an hour but small bumps like this have a way of turning into a show cancelling tumor.
Dr. Goodweather or “Eph”, one of the protagonists and the writers don’t seem to be sure if he is key or not, is a monumental pain in the ass. We are shown that he’s an ex-alcoholic, his marriage broken, perhaps beyond repair….or perhaps not but due to the lack of actual character development – you just don’t give a rat’s ass.
His kid, Zach? Needs a firm butt kick and by the end of season one, you are wishing that he becomes one of the infected and shuts, the hell, up. We should be sympathizing with the kid but we can’t…because? The writers turned him into an obnoxious little jerk.
There are other characters making up the merry band of humanity’s saviours…Vasiliy, Jim, Gus, Dutch and of course, Professor Setrakian (the show’s Van Helsing) but they, really, don’t matter and you really don’t care one way or another if they bite it. There will never be a “If Vasiliy Dies, We Riot” t-shirt. There is no emotional investment for the viewer. The writing, the plot, once again, falls flat.
It is, painfully, obvious that del Toro and Hogan were trying to create the same viewing experience as what occurred with “The Walking Dead”.
The Walking Dead had subtle but brilliant character development; each show had a stunning plot, the music, the settings – everything was melded together to offer the viewer a totally enveloping entertainment experience. The Strain? Completely missed the goal, in fact, “The Strain” should have been scrapped after Season 2.