Martin Carr reviews the season 4 premiere of The Strain…
With a rosy nuclear winter turning daylight to permanent dusk, munchers walking the streets and Eldritch Palmer possessed things could be better. Manhattan is cloaked in a doom and gloom which extends beyond a lack of food, adequate sanitation and makeshift rationing centre. Humanity is dwelling on the aftermath of a battle waged, people sacrificed and middle ground taken. It is an uneasy alliance which exists as humans are subtlety taken, farmed for blood or savaged for sport in plain sight. This is the new reality Ephraim Goodweather must adapt to or die.
With our heroes split asunder and surviving day to day The Strain shares the screen time between Eichorst , Palmer, Fet and Quinlan while Goodweather skirts the periphery. Corey Stoll continues to be the morally flexible centre of this thriller, illustrating a resourceful side which we have seen grow since season one. Fet is equally conflicted in his awkward alliance with an always outstanding Quinlan, at once disrespectful to each other but grudgingly drawn together. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are obvious as coded armbands keep track of everyone, while an air of oppression is evident. Suddenly humans are no longer atop the food chain viewed as nothing more than walking blood sacks.
This type of grooming either for food purposes or something else is what continues to make The Strain an intriguing prospect. Having hit season four there is now a solid back story to every major player which brings an entertainment factor all its own. For those who managed to make it through the slow and painful exposition heavy first season you will understand. There are some solid character moments, an inherent sense of depth and new spin on an old legend working through this adaptation. David Bradley’s Setrakian and Kevin Durand’s Fet stand alongside Stoll as exceptional players in this ever evolving saga of human survival.
With the fight being waged from inside by a resistance movement it is reminiscent of underground freedom fighters making their stand against the Nazis. What showrunner Carlton Cuse has created here is a contemporary show addressing pertinent issues beneath the guise of entertainment. With disparate storylines melded together sporadically it feels disjointed which in this circumstance works perfectly. Time spent with each character boils down to narrative progression and a broadening of individual motivations. Moments between Zach, Eichorst and ‘The Master’ are juxtaposed with desperation elsewhere as Goodweather barters skills for essential survival items.
For an opener ‘The Worm Turns’ is sprawling, exacting, vast but gripping simultaneously. As the fight continues across a country ravaged by nuclear fallout and aliens in power, The Strain not only feels particularly prescient but justifiably dark and foreboding. Meaning this final season has kicked off in fine fashion.