Martin Carr reviews the seventh episode of The Strain…
A concentration camp refugee and several members of the CDC response team join forces as ‘The Strain’ continues to spread.
Since its initial broadcast over a month ago I have been looking at ‘The Strain’ from the wrong perspective. For weeks my focus has been on what I considered to be missing. In short this so called shortfall was blamed on a lack of pace and threat alongside ineffectual creatures. This week I experienced an epiphany of sorts. Ephraim, Abraham, Nora and Jim were in attendance along with Eichorst, Eldritch Palmer and other peripheral characters. However there was a moment when it became apparent what Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro have been aiming for.
This thinly veiled excuse for vampirism and inherent blood lust, combined with a six foot projectile proboscis hidden within the human host is mere window dressing. What is being asked of the audience here is something else. Slowly characters are being provided with backstory making them more engaging than the perceived threat from which they are running. Some may consider it boring, superfluous and beside the point, but here’s the thing. As technology has improved attention spans have decreased, meaning that expectations have subsequently shifted. People want instant gratification and everything must cut to the chase immediately. Anything which falls outside this preconceived paradigm is deemed substandard and somehow inferior. What The Strain is trying to do therefore requires an emotional investment.
As the origin slowly begins to reveal itself a pathos and unwanted alliance becomes apparent. It is here as a shared history is expanded upon that The Strain finds a sense of realism. During those portions of present day action the sense of danger, urgency and horror seems somehow lessened as a result. This was always going to be the case however when you compare a real historical monster, such as Hitler, with a completely fabricated piece of mythology. From an audience perspective the reality of mass genocide, death camps and a dramatic look into how humanity can be twisted, is going to make anything else less engaging by default.
However what these flashbacks have done is blur the line between good and evil, demonstrating that such terms are open to interpretation and extremely subjective. It calls into question the very notion of belief systems, whether they are religious, political or otherwise. Notions of right and wrong in this world are dependent upon what you believe in combined with peer pressure and self- preservation.
Ultimately what I am saying is simple. The Strain has a certain amount of blood letting and remains entertaining but has morphed into something else. Vampires are incidental in what is fast becoming a character study with historical ramifications. By the way people do get shot in the head and run around screaming in case this other stuff fails to float your boat. Just saying.