[Spoiler alert, 6/10]
Guillermo Del Toro writing a television series packed with vampires trying to take over the world should have been a hands-down, fan favourite winner but it’s taken me one and a half seasons to finally get there.
“That’s not what happened in the books” is said too often but, for most of its run, The Strain has remained faithful to the first novel. And therein lies my problem. A book’s plot doesn’t always work for television and it wasn’t until the show’s writers unshackled themselves from it half way through season two did the show really take off for me.
What they got wrong
The Bechdel test should be an easy pass for an hour long TV drama over a dozen episodes but until they introduced a lesbian couple (“That’s not what happened in the books”), it’s telling that the most profound relationship between two women was Nora ‘the other woman’ Martinez and Kelly ‘unspeaking, mindless vampire’ Goodweather fighting over Kelly’s son.
Thankfully though, at least these two characters got to meet. By mid-season two, most of The Strain’s cast didn’t even know each other. It’s unfair to make comparisons between Games of Thrones and pretty much anything, but what that show has done brilliantly is manage parallel story lines for YEARS and not make it feel like a chore to follow (except Dorne, thank god they’ll all be dead soon).
Unlike GoT, what The Strain doesn’t have is a huge roster of characters who deserve their own shows. For the most part, this has been a story about bad things happening to good people filled with villains who are far more interesting to watch.
What they are getting right
The character changes compared to the book were needed a season ago: Councilwoman Justine Feraldo, although laughably unrealistic at times, has been a ballsy breath of fresh New York air (and played by Samantha Mathis, WTF?!?); Eldritch Palmer’s new, equally ambiguous, morally corrupt girlfriend; Nora’s [huge spoiler] track side suicide; and Eph’s murderous desperation have all added depth, shade and colour. Finally, Eichhorst and his expanded relationship with Sertrakian is TV gold, anchored with calm precision by Richard Sammel’s ruthlessness.
My favourite character, hands down, is Quinlan – half vampire, expert assassin with a mysterious past. Why even bother with the boring human love triangle? Quinlan for president.
I’m looking forward to season 3 because I enjoy the trajectory the show is now on but my desire to know how they’ll change it compared to the books will only last so long.