On Sunday, July 12 the second season of The Strain (based on the trilogy of novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Logan) will begin. Like season one, it will consist of only thirteen episodes and continue the story of a vampiric takeover of New York City, along with a small group who’ve learned this is underway. These undead of course have far more in common with Brian Lumley’s Wamphyrie or the creatures from 30 Days of Night that with NBC’s Dracula or the still essentially human immortals of The Originals.
The trailer (below) gives some hints. Having viewed the first three episodes (made available to members of the press), a few hints and details can be offered. As you might expect, the action of the series has been ramped up. By now, the nearly mindless strigoi (an old Romanian word for the undead) have infected enough of the city to pose a genuine threat to nearly everyone. Government has noticed and is trying to act. But, as we saw in season one, Palmer Eldritch (Johanthan Hyde)–about whom we learn more and more– already had means to impede those efforts in place. Fortunately, sunlight remains deadly to the creatures.
We do see The Master (Robert Maillet) reeling from his encounter with our intrepid hunters, while Setrakian (David Bradley) regroups. Here is not someone who gives up, and in the process some idea of how far he’ll go emerges. Quite far, as it turns out. On the other hand, an important clue in how to defeat the vampires emerges.
Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), as we all know from season one, has fallen off the wagon, not least after learning his ex-wife Kelly (Natalie Brown) has succumbed. Among other things this puts their son Zack (a re-cast Max Charles) at increased risk. In terms of what we should expect, Zack is not reacting well to the current situation. Not at all. So although the series does increase the violence and action involved, it remains focused on the human drama as well. In other words, we still retain reasons to care about what happens. Ephraim of course is on a very troublesome road that spells little good for the future.
Without giving too much away, every single storyline left dangling at the finale last October continues. At least one continues in a way this reviewer found disappointing because it was a cliche lots of viewers saw coming and groaned in anticipation. But mostly the stories expand in interesting, logical ways. You’ll be glad to hear more flashbacks from the lives of Setrakian and Eichorst (Richard Sammel) begin answering all kinds of questions about events past, including that amazing cane! New characters make appearances (honestly, some of them not for long) but not at all haphazardly. Plot twists emerge non-readers of the books will hopefully not see coming, no matter how much sense they make. More, our regulars don’t remain identical to what they were before. How could they? In the face of a vampire apocalypse or indeed any kind of huge trauma, people change.
In this case Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) we can see evolving before our eyes, becoming less supportive but far more effective, less passive but also less nice, many times more focused and increasingly close to Setrakian. This varies from the novel, incidentally, but not in a bad way. Rather, the show’s writers seem to be taking their cue from the fine performances of their actors. In particular, it does seem the now-motherless Nora is finding a father figure in the vampire-hunting Holocaust survivor–or, as Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) describes him, a “silver-sword wielding Albanian ninja.” In this she is joined by Vasily Fet (Kevin Durand), who actively worries about the man (with reason–although perhaps not for the reasons he might think).
Finally, we do see some events from the vampires’ points of view, up to and including The Master and his various new disciples–some of whom frankly are cringe-worthy. The Ancients who recruited Gus Elizalde (Miguel Gomez) their lieutenant Mr. Quinlan (Stephen McHattie) have their own goals in mind, and we slowly begin to learn more.
The titles of the first eight (out of thirteen) episodes of The Strain have been released so far: “BK, NY” July 12, “By Any Means” July 19, “Fort Defiance” July 26, “The Silver Angel” August 2, “Quick and Painless” August 9, “Identity” August 16, “The Born” August 23, and “Intruders” August 30.