Spoiler Alert: avoid reading if you haven't seen the latest episode.
From the promising teasers, it looked like "The Strain's" latest episode, "Creatures Of The Night", would kick things up a notch for what has been (thus far) a spotty, haphazard show. But the episode, which aired on August 31, 2014 feels like another false start; an empty promise for a horror series that feels subpar on every level.
Things started in the right direction at least; our cast of heroes decided to load up on U.V. lamps, an efficient way to fry mutant vampires holed up in the New York City subway tunnels and sewers. Upon breaking into a medical supply store and securing said lamps, Eph, Jim, Nora and Abraham bumped into exterminator Vasiliy. They then decide to join forces when trapped in a gas station besieged by vampire hordes.
Vasiliy is by far the best character on the series, and bringing him into the fold gave the series a needed jolt, because he's the only character making wise decisions without taking too long. Our other protagonists are just a drag.
After Jim gets slashed by a vampire, Eph and Nora check him for worms. Seeing a singular beastie, they cut into his cheek and remove it. But the average viewers knows this is foolish, and soon enough we realize that Jim is infested and therefore doomed. By now, our heroes know the stakes, yet they somehow decide that he can be cured. Leave it to Vasiliy to do the necessary work and put him out of his misery.
It's these foolish choices that constantly undermine the show's credibility. Not to mention the lack of scares. In what should have been a terrifying episode; characters besieged in an isolated, confined setting, we only get occasional jolts. And between Abraham's delayed expository delivery, Nora's whininess and Eph's inability to focus, we're confronted with an every present reminder: with the exception of Vasiliy, every character on this show is a simpleton. This negates any empathy we might have if they were to perish. Such was the case with the repellant Jim, who's demise was most welcome.
In this way, "The Strain" mirrors "The Walking Dead", another show that has been wildly uneven, with a cast of overall blah characters. But "The Strain" stumbles in an area, where "The Walking Dead" exceeds: scares. There are genuinely terrifying moments in AMC's zombie series that allows one to forgive it's at times annoying characters and sub-plots.
"The Strain" always seems to stall out in second gear. Every time we think we're gonna get scared, it's over all too quick. There are no anguished moments of unbearable suspense. We're left with moments like the last episode, where a housekeeper returning to danger because her uninformed daughter tells her to. Or Jim's wife leaving in a childish huff without taking reality into account.
Director Guillermo del Toro is the ringleader for this series, but it appears to lack his quality control. While some of his film projects are also victims of questionable characters/dialogue, at least they make up for it in action and visuals. His series is deficient in both.
With "Creatures Of The Night", we're still stuck in this muck where suspension of disbelief evaporates. The episode ends with our heroes escaping the gas station in a bread truck, where Vasiliy appears to take the lead. He'd do well to ditch his new-found friends and strike out on his own. Then we might have a show worth watching.
"The Strain" airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. central on FX.