Much like Fringe, our story begins on a dead plane. The plane has landed at the airport and all of the passengers are deceased. All but one of the windows are closed and the plane powered down in an unfeasible amount of time after landing.
As Bishop ( is this foreshadowing much like Jack Shepherd from Lost? Carlton Cuse is part of the team behind this...) begins barking out the protocol of how to proceed with such a conundrum, the pace of the episode is immediately set and it is a brisk one. So far, so good.
Enter our hero, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, an epidemiologist who gets excited over a Hanta Virus outbreak at an elementary school. He is introduced to us while being chastised by his estranged wife and their counselor. While they are concerned about how much time Dr. Goodweather (what is the deal with these names?) spends away from the house, I am extremely concerned about the hair sitting on top of Goodweather's head. Played by the excellent Corey Stoll ([House of Cards](series:726551)) this is a travesty of male beauty and an insult to all bald men. Corey Stoll does NOT require a full head of hair for him to be taken seriously as a tough, outspoken expert on viruses. I realize that this is not a big deal to everyone, but I find this hairpiece to be extremely distracting. The only thing that should be distracting me when it comes to Stoll is his outstanding dramatic skills.
At least I have David Bradley to be awesome and not weighed down by a bad rug. Most people know this character actor from the Harry Potter series as Argus Filch, but in [The Strain](series:936019) he plays Abraham Setrakian and he owns the screen the moment he is introduced to us. In a quaint shop that feels very reminiscent of Cronos, Abraham shows a couple of thugs just who is boss and then he has a lovely moment with a worm infested heart. Abraham is the man who knows what came in on that plane and how to fight it.
Again, much like Fringe, the airplane is carefully looked over as Eph and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) try to figure out what has gone down on this flight from Berlin. Not surprisingly, not all of the passengers are actually dead. In following with what I now believe to be the golden rule when it comes to jump scares (thank you to Scott Weinberg for this golden rule) I jumped when the jump scare came and so did the character, therefore, it is a legitimate and fun moment. Not a cheap ploy to frighten.
So, basically, what we have with The Strain is a virus/vampire story with the Germans behind it. I think. Of course, the only person who is up to the task of fighting this mysterious, infectious German vampire is Abraham because he is a concentration camp survivor. If, like the man on the subway, you did not know what Abraham's tattoo is from, we are no longer on speaking terms.
If it has not been made clear already, I have not read the books from Guillermo del Toro that this series is based on. I adore Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth. The "other" Guillermo that brought us Mimic, Hellboy, Blade II and [Pacific Rim](movie:204401), I am only a little partial to. His take on vampires in Blade II was inspired and a breath of fresh air, especially at the time, and this is what keeps me optimistic about The Strain, despite a mildly boring and uneven pilot episode. With all of the usual suspects in place (i.e.) estranged wife, cute kid, mistress, two faced government agent, creepy guy with a nictitating membrane, mysterious box from Germany, an inevitable outbreak and a future event being foreshadowed in all of the background advertising, this is a lot to keep straight and I haven't even mentioned every story thread that was introduced.
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The head bashing scene was exceptionally fun and lovely and who didn't love the scene in the morgue? As a gigantic Neil Diamond fan, I am conflicted by the use of Sweet Caroline being used in a fun, yet negative, fashion. I do appreciate them producing an overwhelming need to sing out, "so good! so good! so good!" as a group of infected corpses descend on the unsuspecting medical examiner, though. Very cheeky.
There is a reason all of these elements are so common in so many movies and television shows; because when done correctly, it is compelling and engaging. On the other side of that, are the number of examples of all of these story elements just being a big, murky mess. I mostly enjoyed this premiere episode of The Strain, but I fear it can only go two ways. That of smart and intricate storytelling or it will shit the bed just like [True Blood](series:200767) did.
I would love to know what you thought of The Strain. Please let me know in the comments section