After a second season finale that marked a major victory for our heroes while also serving up the loss of one of its most significant characters, FX’s brooding, blood-soaked vampire drama The Strain returns to the airwaves tonight, kicking off a 10-episode third season that promises to streamline the storytelling – a welcome change, as too much of Season 2 felt like treading water.
After acquiring the Occido Lumen, Professor Setrakian (David Bradley) has retired to a facility under the protection of Councilwoman Faraldo (Samantha Mathis), spending his waking hours poring over the pages in search of The Master’s weakness while half-breed strigoi hunter Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) paces restlessly in the background. Meanwhile, Fet (Kevin Durand) has been putting his knowledge of sewers and subway tunnels to good use, assisting a crack team of US Navy Seals as they raid “muncher nests” across the city.
As for Eph (Corey Stoll), he’s dealing with the death of Nora (Mía Maestro) and the loss of Zack (Max Charles) in the only way he knows how. If you thought Eph’s drinking was spiraling out of control last season, just wait til you see him sitting alone in his old house, pistol in one hand and bottle in the other, waiting for his family to come back home. It’s a bit heartbreaking, and the fact that the bioweapon Eph manufactured last season is becoming increasingly more ineffective probably doesn’t help his fragile state of mind.
Elsewhere, Eichorst (Richard Sammel) is still gleefully tormenting Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), whose health is steadily declining now that he’s being deprived of “the white;” Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) has linked up with a group of her former hacking pals; and Gus (Miguel Gomez) has returned home to his family… or what’s left of them. The Strain adopts a leisurely pace over the first three episodes of the new season, gradually bringing you up to speed with each character without trying to stuff too much information into a single episode.
Of particular note – at least during the episodes we previewed – was a renewed focus on action, and an even more impressive display of gore and creature effects. Some viewers may consider The Walking Dead to be the pinnacle of horror violence on television, but there are quite a few scenes in these early episodes that put that theory to the test, including an extremely tense infiltration of a massive nest beneath an old church, and a frightening encounter with a group of strigoi in a luxury high-rise apartment.
That being said, if you’ve already made the determination that The Strain isn’t for you, then the first few episodes of Season 3 will do very little to change your mind. This is a series that has grown comfortable with its identity, and is more concerned with continuing its narrative than trying to win over new viewers. But for us fans, we couldn’t ask for anything more – except maybe the death of Zack. Seriously, that kid is the worst – can we wrap things up with him yet?
The third season takes its time bringing the audience up to speed, but a renewed focus on action and a marked improvement in gore and creature effects should be more than enough to give fans "the thirst" and keep them returning each week.