Series: The Strain TV Series

aka: The Strain

The Strain is a vampire horror television series that debuted July 13, 2014 on FX. It was created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, based on their novel trilogy of the same name. Del Toro and Hogan scripted the pilot episode, which was directed by del Toro. A thirteen-episode first season was ordered on November 19, 2013. Carlton Cuse serves as showrunner. The show has been renewed for a thirteen-episode second season, which will air in 2015.

A plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport with its lights turned off and its doors sealed. Epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his team are sent to investigate. Once on board, they discover two hundred corpses and four survivors. The situation deteriorates when the bodies begin disappearing from morgues. Goodweather and a small group of allies find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the entire city, from an ancient threat to humanity.

The show includes examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Jim Kent, a fairly minor character from the books is played by Sean Astin and given a wife. He's still The Mole and he still gets killed.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In "Last Rites", Eichhorst leads an attack on Setrakian's shop, forcing the heroes to flee. And to add insult to injury, in the following episode, Palmer takes possession of all of Setrakian's stuff.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: As the vampiric plague spreads, New York collapses into chaos, with multiple scenes of looting used to demonstrate this.
  • Artistic License Biology: One of the people turning into a vampire drinks the red fluid that leaks from thawing meat in his refrigerator. However, this substance is not blood. Meats sold in the United States are drained of blood before packing. The red fluid is myoglobin, not blood. However, considering both are oxygen and iron-ladden substancies, it's possible that it's edible for vampires to some extent.
  • Asshole Victim: Joan Luss and Gabriel Bolivar - both of whom are rude, ungrateful, and are trying to sue the CDC team for doing its job — are asking for what eventually happens to them.
    • Gus' mother's landlord, who in his one pre-vampire scene is a total Jerkass to her. As such, no one complained when he got turned and Gus proceeded to decapitate him.
    • Those two looters who harassed Zach and moments later get attacked by a vamp.
  • Author Appeal: Setrakian's shop and basement are filled with Guillermo del Toro's usual assortment of antiques, religious icons, clockwork devices and preserved things in jars.
  • Badass: Abraham Setrakian. Vasily Fet. Mr. Quinlan.
  • Badass Grandpa: Abraham Setrakian.
    • Cool Sword: His silver-embroidered sword cane with a handle in the shape of a wolf's head, that he apparently nicked from the Master himself.
  • Big Applesauce: The setting.
  • Big Bad: The Master.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Setrakian saving Ephraim and Nora from the Barbour Vampires, later on Mr. Quinlan and his squad, when they save Neeva and the Luss children in "For Services Rendered."
  • Body Horror: It's based on a book co-written by Guillermo Del Toro, what were you expecting?
  • The Cassandra: Abraham Setrakian. He warns the group flat out what they need to do, but nobody listens to him.
  • The Charmer: Vasily Fet, somewhat surprisingly, turns out to be one of these, managing to charm his way past the receptionist at the Stoneheart Group.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Even with the Stoneheart Group's interference taken into account, the show goes out of its way to pile up coincidences to explain why no-one in a position of authority is able to discover the vampire plague before it's too late. Practically everybody aside from the main protagonists, who try to solve everything on their own, conveniently has a reason not to call the doctor or the police when all the common sense and reason says they should.
    • The hacker who was hired by Palmer to bring down the internet just so happens to be shopping at the same convenience store that the protagonists go to after they've stolen a bunch of UV lights.
      • On that same note, Fet just so happens to have picked the very same medical supply store to loot for UVC lights as the others on that very same night.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Eldritch Palmer, who's orchestrated the whole thing to become immortal.
  • Cruel Mercy: In a flashback to the concentration camp Setrakian decides to attack the Master but is easily overpowered. The Master does not kill him but instead breaks all of his fingers. A concentration camp inmate with broken fingers is no use to the Nazi's so the Master merely postpones the death sentence by a few hours.
  • Deadly Hug: Palmer hugs Maggie Pierson right before he throws her off a balcony.
  • Death by Adaptation: Mrs. Martinez., who dies in the first season when Eichhorst and Bolivar attack the pawn shop. In the original trilogy she doesn't die until the third book. Most book-readers weren't too broken up by this.
  • Death by Pragmatism: A few people manage to do the smart thing and still bite it. Notably, Joan Luss' husband makes a beeline for his taxi upon finding his home infested with vampires, intending to get the hell out of his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his cab driver has other plans.
    • Maggie, the head of Health and Human Services, finally wakes up to the true nature of the vampire plague. She decides to ask the President to declare martial law and quarantine the entire city. Obviously, Palmer can't have this, so he throws her off the balcony to her death.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ephraim is accused of this by his wife for their son and for her. Justified, though, in that he's a CDC epidemiologist, whose job means absence might cost lives.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: With Dutch's help, Eph broadcasts a warning about the vampire plague to the entire nation.
  • The Dragon: Eichhorst serves as this to the Master.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ansel's wife.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ephraim's first scene introduces his personality traits to a tee, as does Abraham Setrakian's.
  • Eye Scream: Eph's wife gets infected via a worm in the eye in "Loved Ones".
  • Fingore: In a flashback to the concentration camp, Setrakian attacked the Master but was easily overpowered. The Master, as a form of Cruel Mercy, punished him by breaking all of his fingers.
  • Genre Blindness: It is evident the CDC wasn't prepared for a vampire virus outbreak.
  • Genre Savvy: Abraham Setrakian knows his vampire game. In his introductory scene he also deduces on the spot his current customers are thieves.
    • Vasily Fet rather easily catches onto the fact something evil is brewing. He also needs little convincing from Setrakian that said Evil is of vampiric nature.
    • Joan Luss's maid is sensible enough that when she notices that her employer has grown a second set of eyelids and begins to act really creepy around her children, it's time to take the kids and get the hell out of Dodge.
    • In episode 7, Eichhorst very quickly deduces that Jim is trying to lure him into a trap.
  • Ghostapo: In Setrakian's and Eichhorst's flashbacks, it's revealed that the Nazis were collaborating with the Master in a concentration camp.
  • Gratuitous German: In the WW2 flashbacks. Contrary to the usual applications of this trope, it's without a notable accent.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Vampires here are something else entirely, being monstrous, inhuman parodies of their former selves. But the best one out of all of them is The Master himself.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Emma (the young French girl from the plane) and one of Zach's young friends are both turned and subsequently killed. There are also several child vampires seen.
  • Informed Judaism: Aside from Eichorst calling him "Jew" all the time (and carving a hamsa while in the concentration camp), Setrakian's Judaism is downplayed. He even prays in Latin instead of doing the Mourners' Kaddish over dead people.
  • Ignored Expert: Abraham. He shows up to Ephraim and Nora with obviously privileged and classified knowledge. He warns them to destroy the passengers, survivors, and coffin, but he warned them he'd sound crazy. He does, so they ignore him.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Setrakian and Eichhorst speak English with a German accent in the WWII flashbacks. The concentration camp guards bark orders in actual German though.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: All but guaranteed in a show where your loved ones come back and actively try to hunt you down.
  • Last Name Basis: Nobody calls Vasily Fet anything other than "Fet". He even introduces himself as Fet.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Barely Averted. The group follows the Master... and find that he is on the other side of a cavern. The only problem? The cavern is swarming with hundreds of vampires. Setrakian still wants to charge at the Master. The rest of the group stops him, knowing what will happen.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Master is very large and strong, but also incredibly fast.
  • Locked Room Mystery: A plane filled with dead bodies certainly qualifies.
  • Looks Like Orlok: The vampires lose their hair, get pointed ears and their teeth become sharp and rat-like as they change. Eichhorst covers up his deformities with extensive make-up to pass for a normal human.
  • Married to the Job: Eph. The main reason for his wife divorcing him. Vasily as well.
  • The Master: The Master can, obviously, now be counted amongst the ranks of this prestigious trope.
  • Meaningful Name / Shout-Out: Eldritch Palmer
    • "Eldritch" is an Middle English word popularized by H.P. Lovecraft, who used it to describe terrible things. note  It could be meant to signify what Eldritch Palmer is in league with.
    • Palmer Eldritch is the antagonist of Philip K Dick's "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch". He was a wealthy, deep-space adventurer who returned to Earth infested by (or in league with) an entity who could be interpreted as a either psychic hivemind that inhabits sentient beings or the Anti-Christ... or both. Palmer was intentionally infecting as many people as possible with the entity, but the parallels don't end there. The story played with themes relating to the soul, spiritual infestation, and reincarnation, all of which have analogues in the show. In addition, those actively affected by the entity bear Palmer Eldritch's "stigmata"; namely, they appear to have his artificial eyes (analogue: red eyes with second eyelids), steel teeth (analogue: that horrifying worm-thing they drain victims with), and robotic arm (possible analogue: the entire rest of their bodies).
  • Mercy Kill: "Creatures of the Night" has Vasily shoot Jim Kent, at his own request, after he's infected by the blood worms but before he can turn into a vampire completely.
    • In "Last Rites" Nora is forced to decapitate her mother after she's infected by Bolivar.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Poor Peter Bishop. Has his blood drained, then his neck snapped and then has his head mashed into mush.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Eph and Nora's immediate boss and the HHS Secretary, both of whom think good PR and serving business interests should take precedence over trivial things like public health, safety, and the nightmarish national security situation an unpragmatic approach will cause.
  • Obviously Evil: If you're applying to a company called the Stoneheart Group run by a guy named Eldritch Palmer, you're probably already prepared to check "YES" on the application's "Are you evil?" section.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: This time around they spread their disease via worm-like creatures that crawl from their body, their organs seem to have individual sentience (or at least sapience) of their own, they have no genitalia and their excretory organs have fused together to create a cloaca, and they suck blood via a giant tongue stinger.
  • Police Are Useless: Due to Palmer and the Master's manipulations, the authorities are completely oblivious to the vampire virus spreading across the city, and are instead wasting their time persecuting the few people who are actually trying to stop the plague.
    • Even the FBI is completely useless. When the two agents transporting Eph see a vampire assaulting a woman and dragging her out of her car, one of them actually tells his partner that it's Somebody Else's Problem and does nothing while his partner goes to help and gets killed anyway.
  • Poor Communication Kills: All but guaranteed. In 01X03, Setrakian turns away Nora's attempt to gain insight by telling her she isn't ready to do the necessary things to battle the Master, and that the only way to do so is to burn all the diseased bodies and anyone who have come into contact with them. Now keep in mind, the scene occurs before the CDC Canary Team's encounter with a newly turned vampire, so to any normal person, telling them to kill others to stop an unknown epidemic sounds a bit extreme to say the least. However, had the old man just led her to the basement of his pawn shop and shown her the freakin' beating heart with stuffed with tiny worms that feed on blood, Nora (and co.) would have been much more quickly accepting of the crisis.
    • Justified, in that Setrakian didn't think Nora had the stomach to do everything necessary to stop the spread of the infection, even if confronted with the truth. As the ending of 01X04 shows, he was right.
      • Also, as "Last Rites" reveals, the vampire heart belonged to his wife, who he was forced to kill when she was turned. In that same episode, when Nora discovers the heart and tries to ask Setrakian about it, he angrily refuses to talk about it.
    • All over the place, really. Mostly of the "Let's leave / Why? / No time to explain / Why not? / Let's leave / Why?" variety, with vagueness and refusals to just plain take action already without knowing every single thing about the situation leading to all kinds of trouble.
    • Setrakian isn't much for telling anyone much of anything unless they're right in front of him volunteering to help out. In the real world, this might give one pause, but given that in this particular series, telling someone has the exact same effect as not telling them, takes a lot more time and generally has more negative effects than positive — such as being arrested and wasting even more time — he might just be right.
  • The Power of Love: Subverted. Setrakian states that love is an unstoppable force, but a negative one, a parasitic impulse that leads the vampires straight to their loved ones to spread the virus.
    Setrakian: It feeds on us, and we feed on it. Love is our grace. Love is our downfall.
  • Product Placement: A particularly jarring one for Apple in "Loved Ones".
  • Quit Your Whining: In Episode 7, when Eph expresses skepticism that killing the Master will kill off all the other strigoi, Setrakian tells Eph quite bluntly that he knows what he's talking about, and Eph doesn't. Setrakian also points out that so far, he (Setrakian) has always been proven right, while Eph... not so much.
    Setrakian: If you wish to defeat this evil, you must trust me. I understand this! You do not! At every turn, everything I have said has proven to be correct. Is that not true?
    Eph: Yes, but -
    Setrakian: This is no different. Logic is not the issue here. It's your desire to always be in control.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In a flashback to WWII, a drunk, human Eichhorst dares a young Setrakian to kill him. When Setrakian doesn't, Eichhorst taunts him, saying that it's so much easier for people to do nothing when they're afraid.
    Eichhorst: Why not go down fighting? Right here, right now? Don't you want to try? It's much easier to do nothing, isn't it? Safer. If that God you believe in really existed, what do you suppose he would think of you?
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • Dutch's friend in "Creatures of the Night" does this early on when the gas station is under siege by successfully running past the vampires outside.
      • Then again, they weren't actually interested in her in the first place... The Master had sent them after Abe and the others.
    • Dutch herself does the same after the failed infiltration of the Stoneheart building and being chewed out by Eph in "Loved Ones". However, she comes back a few episodes later.
    • In the first season finale, Fitzwilliams can't bring himself to follow Palmer and his alliance with the strigoi anymore, so resigns and leaves.
  • The Siege: The entirety of the episode "Creatures of the Night" focuses on the main characters as they attempt to hold off a large-scale vampire attack from the inside of a gas station.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Sweet Caroline" plays on the mortician's radio as he is attacked by worms-and then vampires.
    • At the end of episode 2, the nursery rhyme "This Old Man" is heard playing in the background when a fully turned Emma kills her father in the bathtub.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The opening scene and mystery is basically a modern version of when Dracula arrived in England in the original Bram Stoker novel.
    • A character named Peter Bishop is killed early on.
  • Storming the Castle: In the season one finale, the heroes fight their way into the Master's lair in Boliver's theatre.
  • Title Drop: In the sixth episode of the first season ("Occultation"), there's this:
    Vasily: Something evil has taken root, some disease. A horrible, horrible strain.
    • In "For Services Rendered"
      Eichhorst: I give you another day of life, Jew. For services rendered.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: Aside from one or two passing intersections, Gus' storyline has yet to mesh with the rest of the main cast.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • After all the precautions they took on the airplane, the characters open a mysterious casket — that is not on the flight manifest — with their bare hands and without any kind of protection against infection (although it was stated that the casket had been tested prior to being opened). And after they discover the cause of infection, they don't bother to tell about it to the coroner, who is taken completely by surprise by the parasites (though, arguably, they were distracted trying to figure out what happened to the Master's coffin). The CDC almost manages to compete with the scientists in Prometheus in their disregard for common safety procedures regarding a virulent infection.
    • And let's add the surviving passengers to the list. They swallow up the "carbon monoxide-poisoning" excuse in a second without demanding any medical examinations and just go home even though they continue to feel sick, hear tinnitus and get nosebleeds. Because who would want to make sure that they're not going to drop dead and infect all their loved ones the next day just after they've cheated death once, right?
      • Though to be fair, two of them (Bolivar and Luss) are established as fairly selfish and assholish; another (Ansel) is desperate to get back to his family; and the fourth — the airplane's pilot — actually goes behind the airline's back to ask Eph to perform more tests.
    • Emma's father. Because hey, the first thing you do when someone who looks like a deceased loved one inexplicably shows up at your house is to think nothing of it and continue with your domestic life, right?
    • Ansel's wife. Despite overwhelming evidence that her husband is infected, she still stays with him. Even after she learns that he has killed their dog and fed on its entrails.
    • Matt (Eph's ex-wife's boyfriend). One of his coworkers comes staggering into the break room covered in blooding and gasping that "they" did it. Matt runs into the hall, sees two pale, feral-looking people growling with blood smeared all over their faces and clothing... and promptly blusters, "Hey! Did you do that to him?!" while marching towards them. We're not shown what happens, but it's pretty heavily implied he'll be lunch. Two episodes later, he's been turned and goes after Zach.
    • In the Cold Opening of the seventh episode in the first season, a man comes home to find much of his neighborhood has become vampires. Doing the sensible thing, he races back to his taxi in an effort to escape and orders the driver to go. Instead the driver continually asks what's going on instead of driving, and when vampires begin banging on the windows, the driver takes out a gun and gets out of the car. He is immediately killed.
    • Hassan from "Creatures of the Night". Despite getting a front row seat to the siege and evidence of vampires, he's convinced to stay in his cashier cage and get the group arrested for "stealing". Even when they're seconds from tearing into the store in force, he's too damn stupid to join the group and stays behind to (presumably) become a late night snack.
    • And finally Zach in "The Third Rail." In order to get Nora's mother to shut up, he offers to go out and get her some cigarettes. He knows the streets are getting pretty hairy, but ventures into a convenience store anyway, ends up in the basement, where there's a vampire, stays in the basement in order to recover his dropped phone (which is next to useless except as product placement), then goes back upstairs, where he neglects to tell the two looters he runs into about the vampire, resulting in their deaths.
    • Averted repeatedly by Gus, who winds up in a number of horror genre situations and does the exact opposite of what the casket fodder always do. The most obvious example is that he's told not to open the box he's transporting under any circumstances. When it begins shaking and trying to open while he's looking at it, he immediately runs away from the van it's in, runs out of the building, and runs down the street... and runs onto the highway... and is still running by the time the credits roll.
  • Twenty Minutes with Jerks: One of the major criticisms against the series, especially in the beginning, with wormy vampire mayhem put aside in favor of custody hearings and AA meetings.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-Universe. The fact Eichhorst doesn't breathe is remarked upon as being off-putting.
  • Undead Child: Emma, who at the end of the first episode appears at her father's house saying she's very cold. By the end of the following episode, she kills and feeds upon him.
    • Kelly's friend's son, who is actually infected by Kelly, a young boy and a young girl are seen (mostly) undead in following episodes.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Ephraim's wife. She complained that they needed space, so Ephraim moved out and she complained about how he's not around them enough despite the fact that as a CDC epidemiologist, he can't out right quit his job. Ephraim even says he'll quit his job if it makes her happy, and she continues to give him crap over it while mentioning how she is now seeing someone else!
    • Also applies to Joan Luss and Gabriel Bolivar.
  • Vampire Monarch: The Master is noticeably larger, faster, and more deformed looking than his minions.
  • The Virus: The vampires, or strigoi, operate much closer to a viral infection than anything supernatural.
  • Wall of Weapons: Setrakian has an arsenal of guns and blades mounted on a wall in his pawn shop's basement.
  • Watching Troy Burn: The first season ends with an overhead shot of our rag-tag band of heroes driving across a bridge overlooking a burning New York.
  • Weirdness Censor: Partially imposed by Palmer's internet blackout, but by the end of the first season, with looters everywhere, vampires running around in the open during an eclipse, and corpses on the floors of convenience stores, there's really no excuse for the situation to have gone unnoticed. Palmer's news coverup shouldn't even be possible.
  • Wham Shot: In "For Services Rendered," the final scene has Neeva, her daughter and Joan Luss' kids saved from hungry vampires, and their savior is...another vampire. In charge of what looks to be a spec ops squad. It may have been intended as a wham shot when we see the box in Setrakian's flashback as well, but it was pretty obvious what he was working on throughout the episode.
    • The final shot of "The Third Rail". Abe is determined to pursue the Master through a dark archway. Nora and Eph hold him back as Fet tosses a flare through the arch... and reveals the room beyond is packed with what looks like thousands of vampires.
    • "The Master": The Master stands directly in the sunlight and is horribly burned - but not killed. He escapes, leaving our heroes back at Square One in terms of finding a way to kill him.
  • Who Are You?: In the eighth episode of the first season, the group attempts to steal UV lights from a store. They run into Vasily, also at the store, and this delightful exchange occurs:
    Vasily: You look like a bunch of looters to me.
    Eph: We're from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who are you?
  • Worthy Opponent: Palmer speculates this is how Eichhorst thinks of Setrakian, for still fighting them after all these decades.
  • You Are in Command Now: Dr. Barnes (Eph's boss) gets a sudden promotion to Head of Health and Human Services after Maggie Pierson, the original Head, meets an untimely demise, courtesy of Palmer and Eichhorst.
  • You Are Number Six: Eichhorst generally refers to Setrakian as "the Jew", and rarely addresses him by name—choosing instead to call him by his tattooed number from Treblinka, "8230385"/"A230385".
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the concentration camp, after the Master broke Setrakian's fingers, Eichhorst is a bit saddened by the turn of events but a carpenter with broken fingers is useless to him so he sends Setrakian to be executed.
    • Palmer tries to do this to Dutch and Fet only for Mr. Fitzwilliams to let them both go unharmed.

Alternative Title(s):

The Strain