It’s just… terrible.
See, I had reasonably high hopes, I guess. FX has a pretty good batting average with original programming; I find The Bridge, Justified, Fargo and The Americans to all be quality programming. Plenty of people like Sons of Anarchy and I guess they do some well-received comedies, too.
Not to mention, the first season has several episodes written and directed by respectable horror filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.
And that’s just splendid.
But The Strain is akin to fastening clothespins to your testicles. I mean, it’s something to do, but why?
I took some notes while watching (less than half) of the first episode. I present them without restraint. (Seriously. I tried it out for you because I’m a really decent guy or whatever. YOU’RE WELCOME, KCC.)
- It starts on an airplane. Airline is called “Regis Air” because why the fuck not?
The first thing that jumps out at you is how bad the acting is. It’s INSANELY BAD. It’s not quite, “your-divorced-middle-aged-friend-who’s-trying-his-hand-at-community-theater bad,” but it’s fucking bad.
- It’s not just bad acting, it’s bad OVERacting, which is even worse. There’s a “goth-rocker” on the plane who is NOT ENJOYING HIMSELF and he’ll let the stewardess know it, too. CHARACTERS ARE DEVELOPING, PEOPLE.
Next, there’s a plane monster making noises in the cargo-hold. The male Asian flight attendant alerts the black female flight attendant. I feel like I’m looking at a pamphlet in the doctor’s office. ALL OF THIS DIVERSITY.
- Now we’re in a therapist’s office I guess, and there’s a man and a woman and it’s something about a dissolving marriage and OH WAIT, he’s a doctor. We know this because they do that really great thing where they write really clunky, distracting dialogue to give you the back story.
Seriously, he says, “I’m an epidemiologist, so I HAVE to take these calls.” He says this because his phone is BLOWING UP and his (divorced? estranged?) wife is glaring at him.
- He leaves the session and takes the phone call on the mean-street of New York, which for some reason looks like New York from a 1980’s movie. There are dangerous looking characters all around and a fire burning in a trash-can. Right there on the street. A hobo-hand-warmer. Present day. NYC.
Cut to: the tarmac where Sean Astin appears for some reason. The CDC doctor with the troubled marriage is handed a carton of milk because that’s “his thing” I guess, and it builds unnecessary quirkiness. Astin—the only person in this fucking thing who I actually recognize—is the doc’s assistant.
- For no good reason, now we’re in a pawn-shop in Harlem where some no-goodniks plan to rob the old-man proprietor. I think the guy with the gun is Kansas City Royals’ second baseman Omar Infante, probably. But then the old man is a badass and he pulls out a knife and when the fuck did I start watching Death Wish? Okay.
Old guy heads to the basement and sees a televised news report about the plane where everyone is dead because of a cargo-hold-space-monster. He pulls out a cane-sword with an elaborate, silver handle that has been fashioned to look like a dragon. He says, “oh shit, it’s happening again,” or something, only he’s saying this to what looks like a severed hand (or an octopus penis) that he keeps floating in a glass jar.
- He’s talking to this hand-o-pus as though it’s a person, then he drips some of his blood into the jar and it goes nuts. Because it eats blood, apparently.
Okay, now we’re back on the tarmac and the CDC doc with the troubled marriage is putting on a scuba suit and talking to his hot, foreign female counterpart who is ALSO putting on a scuba suit and I think they talk about how they fucked, but I’m not sure because the pizza shows up at my house and I can’t be bothered to pause this horseshit.
- He drinks more milk for some reason.
They get on the plane and everyone is dead, but I think I see many of these dead “actors” inadvertently moving. Like, they couldn’t hold their breaths long enough or whatever.
- Then a guy’s hand moves, only this time it’s SUPPOSED to happen because the music goes “duh-duh-DUH!” and the camera is focused on his fingers.
Now we’re done with the plane and we’re on a really futuristic looking elevator with a nattily dressed man. The camera focuses on his face and then—BOOM—his eyes do some freaky color-transmorphing shit, only it looks like they made it happen with Microsoft Paint.
- MS Paint Eyes is meeting with an old man who looks like Mr. Drummond but isn’t, and for some reason that is briefly touched on, it’s like, as cold as a Minnesota January in this fancy office. You can see everyone’s breath, and you’re supposed to be like, “WHOA!” but I’m like, impressed that the pizza place remembered to leave the black olives off, because fuck black olives.
Now we’re BACK at JFK—ugh—and all of the plane’s dead bodies are in bags in the basement of the airport. We’re told there are four survivors in a needlessly expository exchange because we need to know shit like this, and goddammit, they’re just going to come right out and say it! WRITING.
- The CDC guy and his probable lover are wearing white hazmat suits now, and talking to the survivors. One is complaining of ringing in his ears; another is the Marilyn Manson-like-goth-rocker! He’s pissed! He wants a drink! He takes off his wig for some reason so we can see that he’s a big phony. Okay.
Do you like big coffin-like things with ornate carvings that are filled with mysterious soil (or just regular soil, even)? Well, here’s one now. We don’t know what it is, but do we care?
YOU BETCHA. Nope.
- Now doc is texting his son and the words are popping up on the screen and what the fuck.
It’s getting too dark in the room to keep taking notes. Who cares? I don’t.
- Oh, now one of the FAA guys (maybe?) is in the basement and HE hears a humming, so he wanders off to find it which is TOTALLY stupid, duh, and yep, there’s a giant alien-monster who might be wearing a cloak? And it pounces on him and sucks his neck until he’s dead. But that’s not enough because NOW it’s smashing his brains all over the floor, and I’m pretty sure I’m just watching a SyFy original movie now. And now the alien is running down the corridor flapping its arms like a muppet or one of those inflatable characters advertising a used-car sale, and I am fucking DONE.
- In conclusion, Jesus Christ, please don’t watch this show.
The Strain airs Sunday @ 8pm on FX.