We’re two episodes in, and Guillermo del Toro’s new vampire series ‘The Strain’ already suffers an endemic flaw that has crippled many other horror movies and TV shows: Most of its characters are idiots.
In episode ‘The Box’, the CDC and our hero Dr. Ephraim Goodweather are taken off the dead plane investigation when a cover-up story circulates that the deaths were caused by a mechanical failure that flooded the jet with carbon monoxide. While it’s marginally believable that the airline, the airport and even the local and federal governments would be under a lot of pressure to end the quarantine and return to normal operations as soon as possible, the carbon monoxide story is obvious, unbelievable bullshit that neither the CDC nor any of the first-responders who saw the plane could possibly roll over and play along with.
How would carbon monoxide explain the parasitic worms all over the plane, or the incisions in every victim’s throat? How would carbon monoxide explain the giant coffin that vanished from sight while being videotaped? How would carbon monoxide explain the ATSC controller guy who was murdered in the airport by having his head smashed to a pulp? These things are all supposed to be written off as carbon monoxide poisoning? No one would buy a story this patently fake. We live in an age when all of those details would be disseminated quickly. Not to mention that Goodweather is running around telling everyone about them. There is no chance in hell that this quarantine would be lifted.
Meanwhile, the flight’s four survivors are released against Goodweather’s wishes. Two of them, the rude bitch lawyer and the douchebag goth rocker, can’t wait to get out. I can believe the rocker being a moron, but the lawyer lady…? C’mon. She’d been on a plane where 200 people around her dropped dead. She was told by Goodweather that she’s been infected with a deadly virus carried by parasitic worms crawling all through her body, yet she insists that she’s fine and knows better than the doctors. She has a cough and her gums start bleeding, and she doesn’t think anything of it or tell anyone? WTF? What part of the words “YOU HAVE A DEADLY VIRUS” does she not understand?
Then we have the French guy who’s dead little girl came home in the middle of the night, her skin completely gray and just generally looking like she’s been possessed by an evil monster from hell. He calls up Goodweather to thank him for sending his daughter back to him. Uhh, he thinks she’d just show up on his doorstep alone? It doesn’t bother him that there’s no mention on the news about any of the other plane passengers surviving? He doesn’t notice how CREEPILY EVIL the girl is acting? For that matter, how did he get Goodweather’s personal cell phone number?
In its favor, the episode has a couple of good scenes where the Nazi vampire visits Setrakian in jail to taunt him, and where the evil CEO meets the Master vampire and is scared shitless by the devil he’s just signed a pact with. The final image of the little girl in the bathtub murdering her father is very artfully staged, yet somehow never quite crosses the threshold into being genuinely scary.
When the series premiered, I read a review by a critic who’d seen the first four episodes. He claimed that the second was a dud, but that the show bounces back in the third and fourth. I hope that’s true. Unfortunately, this episode reminds me of why I disliked the book so much. The plotting here is pretty faithful to what I remember of it. If this show is going to take off, it will need to branch off from the crappy book and start telling a better story.