Tag Archives: Vampires

“The Strain” and a Shrug


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After the return from my Virginia City internship, a fleet of DVRed episodes awaited me. So how else to celebrate my return than binge-watching a ton of episodes and work on a crochet project? Well, probably unpacking… But where’s the fun in that? I won’t be able to immerse myself in B-movie creatures and crazy subplots in my suitcase. One would hope.

I won’t go into full-summary territory as I usually do, but rather comment on aspects of the episodes as they appear. This will hopefully be followable for watchers/readers, or it will be totally confusing and I’ll be kicked off WordPress for my audacity. Let’s find out! So here’s the pattern: ( file:///C:/Users/Elise/Downloads/Hot_Blue_Shrug2.pdf ) and off we go!

Note: Spoilers for the books and series abound. Be warned, dear readers.

1: Night Zero

It’s been quite some time since I read Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s book series The Strain. I mostly remember loving the dark, body-horror reviving of the vampire, taking the creature back to its roots – before Bram Stoker gave it the romanticized edge we know so well today. And I don’t think I’ve gone into it much, but book-to-film adaptations make me nervous. Luckily, I had almost forgotten that this was in the works for a series, so it didn’t give me much time to fret until it actually came out. This also gave me very little time for a re-read. Thus, I’m remembering things about the books, yet not remembering them. Some things are familiar as they appear in the series, and some leave me questioning my sanity.

The Strain opens much as I remember. The description of the “dead airplane” was in fact the bit of writing that stuck with me the most, even after so many years. The heaviness and mystery that was almost palpable in the books is done somewhat of a disservice already, as it is being investigated by airline personnel shuffling their feet and muttering clunky dialogue.

Also, it seems like they’re laying the foreshadowing on pretty thick already.  I don’t think we found out who was responsible for the outbreak of vampirism until much later in the books. But I wonder if they are trying to do the entire three-book series in one sort of miniseries/extended seasons event, so the shuffling makes some sense. I don’t agree with it from a storytelling perspective, but it makes sense.

Can I just say how much I love the multi-racial and multi-lingual cast in del Toro’s works?  The only thing that would make it completely unique would be if our main protagonist (Ephriam Goodweather) wasn’t a white American male, but he has a strange enough name that I kind of give him a pass. Speaking of characters and casting – Sean Astin is here, y’all! I don’t actually remember his character much, but he’s now played by Sean Astin, so my day is a little brighter.

The introduction of Abraham Setrakian, Elderly Vampire Hunter Extrordinaire, is very well done. As is the intro of Gus. Most of our Scoobies are coming together, some earlier than others.

Meanwhile, it’s my mother’s birthday as I write and watch, so I’m belatedly making her a present from the previously mentioned  pattern she chose off Ravelry, and from some a pile of yarn she bought because she liked the color… and it was on sale. So I’ve got a light grey shrug being worked up, and here’s my progress at the end of the first episode:

Shrug 1I would have been farther, I think, but I unraveled a bit to add more stitches to the base chain. It’s going to be pretty interesting, methinks!

2: The Box

Rat guy is here! I freakin’ love Vasily Fet. Besides Abraham Setrakian, the gigantic exterminator is my favorite character in the books.

For real, they seem to be moving the Palmer plot along rather quickly. And Vampire Nazi seems to be given a bit more character development than in the books already. Well, maybe development is the wrong word. Character backstory?

The misleading of the media is very well portrayed, as well as the public reaction. Everyone wants immediate answers. Often, the public will not accept a “we do not know, but we will keep researching” when there is a far easier target for blame. It’s a fascinating commentary, and shows how easily facts can be turned and obscured with falsehoods. It’s been done before, but I enjoy the way it plays out as the insidiousness of the virus parallels that of certain corporations.

Favorite quote: “I’m passive-aggressive and actively aggressive, which I’m told is a rare combination.” – Eph. Who is also awful at understanding people. And is kind of an idiot sometimes.


Shrug 2

3: Gone Smooth

We’re going all Phantom of the Opera at the beginning of this episode with a prolonged makeup scene. In fact, our favorite resident Nazi Guy bears a striking resemblance to Lon Chaney. But in all seriousness, there are some pretty great practical effects for this part.

The horror is really starting to kick in, and the show remains in good form in the hammy acting department: “I’m home now. I’m fine. We’re going to be fine.” Haha! Nope.

Meanwhile, parts fall off. Captain gets head bashed in. Seems to be a theme.  Soooo many brain spatters.


4: It’s Not for Everyone

What you need to take away from this episode: Errbody’s genitals be gone.

One of the things I appreciated about the book was the scientific aspects. Not that I know much about science, but I like at least the attempt to explain the transformation from human to vampire.

Just.. the whole autopsy scene is great. Do I just really like dissections, either of prose or of bodies? Maybe. Don’t judge.

The close up of the vampire stinger looks awfully similar to another campy horror appendage… Tremors, anyone?

Following the surviving passengers again, I like how you wouldn’t expect Ansel to take the heroic route once he realized what was happening to him. It was a sort of fascinating character progression, and the secret badassness of his wife doesn’t hurt either. This progression is even more strange when they are really just super-secondary characters.

It was storming during the end of this episode on my DVR, so bits and pieces are missing. But I gathered that the plot thickens as Palmer throws yet another veil over the eyes of those in power. Those guys will be able to take part-time jobs as gypsies with all of the veils they’ve got over their eyes.


5: Runaways

Plane Survivor Gabe has gone off the deep end and bloodily kills a couple of people. Haven’t seen the lawyer survivor in a while…

Op! There she is! But by the end of the episode she’s off to crazyville and poor Nanny Eva is now saddled with two kids who can’t cook.

During flashback: Does the master really have to be so frickin’ noisy while he’s eating? How has no one else in that tiny, confined place woken up from his slurping racket?

Meanwhile, the secretly badass religious lady could only last so long. With the addition of her death, there are now two sets of brother-and-sister orphan teams with very few lines of dialogue running around, and it’s only the fifth episode.

6: Occultation

Aww hell, an eclipse is coming! Not the crappy book/movie, but rather the solar event. And you know what that means!  That’s right – The un(?)dead walk the earth and do the bidding of The Master! Whee!

Also, there’s a random guy in his underwear chained up in Nazi Lon Chaney’s basement. He doesn’t serve any purpose other than to remind us that Nazi Lon Chaney is a vampire… But at least it’s not a nubile young lady trapped in a basement for once.

Clueless Boyfriend goes into straight-up asshole territory as he calls the authorities on Eph.

I quite like the scene of Abraham reaching out to the cab driver – he knows he can’t keep working alone. They don’t pile on his elderliness too much – in fact, I remember times in the books where he’s swinging away with the sword and you completely forget how old he is. But every once in a while, his fragility wins out, and David Bradley plays it with just the right amount of pathos.

I love that with the cell phone problems, people are using the increasingly rare public telephones. And telephone books! And Nora even tore a page out of one! Hooray tropes!

Fet’s boss has the distinction of the first critter to have death by sunlight! His fiery, crackling demise is followed by my favorite line of the episode: “Okay then…”

It would have been nice to see more of the extent of the damage the strain has caused, but I suppose it’s still gradual. But we’re losing observers from outside the Scooby group left and right, narrowing our focus on the scope of events. That’s a bummer, but maybe that will help the writers focus on developing the main characters a bit more.

As for the project, I’ve attached 2nd skein of yarn, and am trundling away at the shrug. This is a pretty neat pattern, but I’m worried about the length…

7: For Services Rendered

Poor Husband-of-Lawyer didn’t last long. Neither did the nanny’s nurse/daughter. It’s a rough time to be a newly introduced secondary character; you’re pretty much guaranteed to be vamp fodder.

Flashback: Abraham is crafting the infamous box, and it looks fabulous. This particular episode is heavy on the flashbacks, which I am okay with. In many ways, I prefer it to the modern day (Not the least reason is because Abraham is the main focus instead of Eph.)

Later, Nazi Guy jumps on the side of a train like a Third Reich Spider-Man.

Random vampire vigilantes? Not sure I remember them…

Favorite line: “This is New York City. Weird shit goes down out there all the time.”

8: Creatures of the Night

Finally, they’ve run into Fet! The dream team is almost complete.

Sean Astin has rotten luck and is infected.

I’m pretty sure this Walking Dead scenario did not happen in the books. However, the pacing is good, and it’s kind of nice for the gang to be out and about, rather than skulking in the basement. I could have done without the broad racial stereotype of the Indian guy, though. But at least the show acknowledges Indian people exist…?

Side Note: Computer Lady looks like Ke$ha. But in a slightly less bedraggled/hungover way.

9: The Disappeared

The gang finds Clueless Boyfriend as a zombie, kill him, light his body on fire. Eph and Nora then have a sex scene. NOW IS NOT THE TIME.

Best line, as everyone arrives back at Setrakian’s, Nora’s mother pops up behind the counter. “Who are these people? I’m not cooking for them!”

Everyone is always saved at the last minute in this show… well, in almost every show. It’s kind of trite and clichéd, but boy is it entertaining. That’s a pretty apt description of the entire series so far –

Tying off:

The writing and dialogue of The Strain has several struggle spots, and a few of the characters are awful people who are difficult to root for. But the effects and design of the creatures, as well as the fight sequences and flashbacks are entertaining enough to (mostly) bypass the rough stuff. The rough can be distracting, but not every series has to be Avatar: The Last Airbender (as an example of TV done right). As long as it is entertaining without insulting the intelligence of the viewer, I can get behind it. The Strain has succeeded in that respect.

So here is the crochet project so far! I have a quite a few rows to go yet, and hopefully it will turn into something usable by that time… Its size is making me nervous.

20140907_190357 (1)


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