The Strain S1E1, “Night Zero”

Strain Poster 2

Lisa is now with The Horror Honeys as their resident TV Honey, which means you can still read her terrific write-ups.  Read her take on “Night Zero” here.

I tell people that I’ve read these books, but, in reality, I listened to them as I commuted from Cincinnati to Lexington.  The first book was read by Ron Perlman.  I liked the book, but it was unclear if I really liked it or if I just liked the idea of Hellboy telling me a vampire story.  Probably a little of both.

It has been a while since I’ve read the book, but I’ve read the comic book somewhat recently, so I have a pretty good working knowledge of the plot and how all the characters connect to each other.
Without that knowledge, I feel like I would have been a little lost.  It seemed like they threw a bunch of random scenes together and didn’t even try to explain how any of them fit together.  I understand that’s part of the mystery of the story, but the execution was really sloppy.  It felt less like building intrigue and more like mass confusion.

The acting was uneven.  I generally like Corey Stoll, and, while he was the best actor here, there were times when it seemed like he’d rather be somewhere else.  Sean Astin wasn’t terrible as Turncoat Jimbo, but he wasn’t given much to work with.  David Bradley was fine as Abraham Setrakian, but, honestly, I’m a little disappointed that role wasn’t filled by John Hurt (although I suppose that’s a personal issue).  The rest of the cast fluctuated between “somewhat passable” and “soap opera”.  I’m hoping that the addition of the always excellent Kevin Durand (as my favorite character, Vasiliy Fet) will help to gloss over some of those issues.

Overall, I thought this episode showed promise, but I had quite a few problems with it.  I think it could turn into a really good series.  It needs to improve for me to get really excited about it (something I’m sure the big wigs at FX are concerned about: “How can we get Dusty excited about this show?”), but I know it can get there.  The story is there.  They just need to get better about making it more coherent and being less cheesy with the relationship aspects.  I know that the relationships are what drives this – especially as the story progresses – so it’s more than a little concerning to see those scenes being completely fumbled.
Right now, I’m firmly in the “cautiously optimistic” camp.

And now, some loves and hates about this first episode.


1. Corey Stoll’s terrible wig.  I assume the script is riddled with lines like, “Eph runs his frustrated fingers through his FULL HEAD OF HAIR.”  It’s really distracting.  I’m hoping he shaves it in the second episode.  “No hair for the vampires to grab, you see.”

2. The scenes between Eph and Kelly.  I understand needing to establish that storyline, but it was a really slow scene that really dragged the episode down from a very early point.  Also, Kelly kept using the phrase, “You get straight As in your job.”  Who says that?

3.  Eph and his milk-drinking while investigating.  Seemed like they were trying too hard to establish him as “the eccentric genius of the CDC”.  They drew attention to it at least 3 times in a short timeframe.  I hope that goes away.

4.  Kelly’s boyfriend, Matt.  He comes across as a total jackass.  I don’t remember him being like that in the book.  What’s the point?  To give us another reason to cheer for Eph?

5.  Setrakian showing up and pulling the whole, “I know what’s going on, and time is of the essence, but I won’t tell you what’s going on because you’ll think I’m crazy.”  Here’s how to handle that situation: “I know what’s happening.  I’ve seen it before.  There’s a coffin, right?  Now, let me explain what is going on.”  If Eph doesn’t listen to that, that’s on him.  Ranting like a madman never helped a situation like this.  That’s a pretty dope swordcane, though.

6.  The scene with the father of the little girl slapping Eph in the airport.  Felt really forced, and the father was a terrible actor.  Just an annoying scene.


1. The intro.  Short and creepy, with terrific music.  There are very few long intros that I like, so I always appreciate a short, well-done intro.

2. Setrakian feeding the heart.  Really creepy.

3.  The Master going for the blood drain/neck snap/head smash combo.  It was like watching a Mortal Kombat fatality.  I kept waiting for an offscreen voice to say, “Finish him!”

4.  The “Sweet Caroline” scene.  Really well done.  Very creepy.  I loved the contrast of a happy song over the creepiness and carnage unfolding on the screen.  Probably the best scene in the episode.
Even then, though, I have some problems.  All of those bodies were brought from the plane.  “Triple-bagged” Eph said (they don’t know where those hoes have been).  Whatever killed them was unknown and lethal, and they had no idea what it was.  So what does the guy doing autopsies wear?  Regular latex gloves.  No hazmat suit.  Just gloves.  No wonder the worms got you.

And finally, my word of advice: if a loved one that you presume to be dead shows up with a blank expression and sunken cheeks, do not hug them.