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Series / The Strain (TV series)

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Yeah, you should probably get that checked. Eww.

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 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 thirteen-episode first season was ordered on November 19, 2013. Carlton Cuse serves as showrunner. A thirteen-episode second season, premiered on July 12, 2015. A ten-episode third season aired on August 28, 2016. A fourth and final season aired in Summer 2017. The series finale aired on September 17, 2017.

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.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In Season 3, Eldritch Palmer forms a secret alliance with Setrakian, and eventually openly turns against the Master and Eichhorst. He never does this in the books.
    • Also, in Season 2, Fitzwilliam sides with Setrakian over Palmer. In the books, Fitzwilliam never leaves Palmer's side.
  • Adapted Out: The story of Ozryel (aka The Angel of Death) from the novels is omitted from the show. In fact, the Master and the strigoi's origins are never really explored in the show at all.
  • 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.
    • It gets worse in Season 2, as on top of the looting and violence, there are numerous fires shown to be burning out of control at any given point, and things get so bad that the city ultimately declares martial law.
    • By Season 3, the only parts of the city not reduced to scavengers fighting over the remaining supplies are the ones being run like a Police State.
  • Arrested for Heroism: In Season 2, Fet gets arrested after he blows up a tunnel to contain the strigoi. Fortunately, Nora is able to convince Justine to free him.
  • 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. But both are oxygen- and iron-laden substances and, factoring in the stress and confusion of the victim's turning, it works anyway.
    • A token mention is made that silver has germicidal properties. How this ultimately connects to it producing a violent heat reaction in vampiric tissue is never explained, nor that research has generally found it to be antibacterial, not conclusively antiviral.
    • In order to defeat Eichhorst, Setrakian takes a massive amount of blood-thinners and then tricks the vampire into feeding on him, thus poisoning him. However, taking that much blood-thinner likely would have killed or incapacitated Setrakian via internal bleeding long before Eichhorst got to him, especially considering his already advanced age.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In a couple of episodes of Season 2, Setrakian works with a gang operating out of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd on Roosevelt Island. And while there is such a church, the show places it underneath the Queensboro Bridge, when it's actually much further north.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Considering how close Setrakian's team is to the nuclear explosion at the end of Season 3, there's simply no way they're walking away with their ability to see, any semblance of hearing, or a radiation level below dangerous levels (radiation travels at the speed of light, so they would've been hit the second they saw the explosion). Quinlan may be excepted due to his unique physiology, but Setrakian, Dutch, and Fet should be blind, deaf, and incredibly sick.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Occido Lumen as seen in "The Assassin" is apparently an ancient book of beautifully illuminated Google Translate German/English pidgin.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Trip Taylor, the Barbours neighbour. Not only does he verbally abuse the emotionally fragile Anne Marie for her dog growling in the shed (really Ansel chained up to try to protect his wife from his transformation)and tells her to train her dog while it's locked up, he unnecessarily complains about how the media used his tree to pee on and slyly says (while admitting nothing)that he beat the Barbours' dog for entering his property without permission, all the while being a Smug Snake about it, soon after threatening to call the police for the noises coming from the shed. For someone with about a minute of screentime, the audience sheds absolutely no tears as Anne Marie quickly suggests he discipline her dog because she doesn't know how to. With him removing his belt to do so , she quickly locks him in the shed with Ansel, who we hear proceed to tear Trip a new neck hole. He's found later halfway through his transformation into a Strigoi, withered and weak, with Setrakian promptly removing his head.
    • Sebastiana, the daughter of Neeva (Joan Luss' housemaid). Brushing off all her mother's worries about the weird changes in Joan Luss (whom Neeva has known for years) on the basis that her own medical knowledge allows her judge the health of someone she never met, and do that more reliably than Neeva? Pretty bad, and not made better by her disdain towards whatever Neeva tells her.
    • 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.
    • Dutch's hacker friend from way back, who views the whole "sort-of apocalyptic" vampire infection as a good thing since it supposedly levels social disparities (which it doesn't, for most of the time, the super-rich still have their restaurants and helicopters), insists on looting a non-cleared apartment block for food, then gets so panicky that he abandons Dutch in the building to fight off several strigoi on her own but not so panicky that didn't grab the loot on his way out.
  • As You Know: Happens frequently, and justified, considering the amount of characters, plot twists, events, plans, foiled plans and flash backs that pile up in 2 1/2 seasons.
    • One of the first scenes in season 3 premier has Fet ripping into Quinlan for being a half-strigoi, having a stinger and drinking human blood. Which is no news to either Quinlan or the only other person present, Setrakian. It's also somewhat out of character for the easy-going and likeable Fet, but it does give new viewers the cliff notes on Quinlan.
    • Episode 3x04 has a nice one, with Eph reiterating major reveals and events from the last two episodes for Quinlan, who was present and instrumental for all of them. It manages to be both funny and touching. Probably because Quinlan is unconscious and near-naked on a kitchen table while Eph is picking bullets out of him during their one-sided conversation.
  • A-Team Firing: When faced with the Feelers or Eph's wife, everyone, even crack shots, start firing wildly off target.
  • 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Palmer allied with the Master to gain immortality. He ultimately receives it... as the Master's new host, which destroys his own mind in the process.
  • Big Applesauce: The series is set in New York City.
  • Big Bad: The Master.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Setrakian saving Ephraim and Nora from the Arnot vampires.
    • Later on Vaun and his squad, when they save Neeva and the Luss children in "For Services Rendered."
    • 2x13: Quinlan, Gus, Angel, and their gang save Setrakian and Fet from Eichhorst's forces.
    • In 3x03, Setrakian and Fet return the favor by saving Quinlan and Eph from the Master's strigoi-fied Navy SEALs.
    • In 3x07, Dutch and Eph try to defend a family against a group of thieves. Quinlan ends up having to save everyone, much to his annoyance.
    • In 3x09, Angel - along with a reluctant Gus - try to save Justine and her remaining police in 3x09. It ends with everyone except Gus getting killed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Master is destroyed and all his spawn are either exterminated or captured. Nuclear winter is subsiding and the sun is slowly returning. Humans have retaken control of the world and are rebuilding society. However, the casualty list is enormous: Eph, Zach, Quinlan, Setrakian, Nora, Justine, Angel, and Jim, along with millions of others are gone.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Rats being unable to vomit up rat poison. In Season 4, Setrakian takes an excessive amount of blood thinners and then tricks Eichhorst into feeding on him, thus poisoning him. Unable to vomit up the contents of his stomach, a incapacitated Eichhorst is powerless to stop Setrakian from executing him.
  • Les Collaborateurs: All the humans involved in running the "Partnership" puppet government.
  • 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.
    • Dutch just so happens to be shopping at the same convenience store that the other 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.
  • Cool Sword: Setrakian's silver-embroidered sword cane with a handle in the shape of a wolf's head, that once belonged to the Master's old vessel.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Eldritch Palmer, who's orchestrated the whole thing to become immortal.
  • Crapsack World: Season 4. In the wake of the nuclear winter darkening the Earth, the strigoi have taken complete control over society and installed a puppet government "The Partnership." Humans have been reduced to cattle, being forced to routinely give blood in exchange for food and medical treatment, or - in some cases - are simply rounded up and taken away to the blood factories.
  • 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 Nazis so the Master merely postpones the death sentence by a few hours.
    • In 3x03, after retrieving the Lumen from Eph, Kelly asks the Master if she can drink him. The Master tells her to leave Eph alive to suffer.
  • Damsel in Distress combined with Damsel out of Distress: in episode 2x11, Dutch is captured & terrorized by Eichhorst. At that time, she fully expects to die, but she still manages to get her hands on some mace, fight off Eichhorst and escape the restraints and room she's being held in. Since there are more walled-off corridors outside of the room, the gang gets to rescue her.
  • Deadly Hug: Palmer hugs Maggie Pierson right before he throws her off a balcony.
  • Dead Pan Snarker: often Fet, but Setrakian and even Quinlan have their moments.
    • When Fet is warning Setrakian against trusting Quinlan:
      Fet: What happens when you wake up one morning with a stinger in your neck?
      Setrakian: If I do, your "I told you so" will be a source of great comfort before you dispatch me.
      Fet: Don't be so sentimental.
    • When Quinlan and Eph team up on a plan to kill the master, Eph seems to have a moment of doubt, leading to this exchange:
      Quinlan: Still agonizing?
      Eph: Am I fool?
      Quinlan: Well, you are a human.
  • 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.
    • Also in Season 2, Barnes, who is thrown off a moving train by Eph. In the books, Barnes doesn't die until near the end of the third book.
    • Perhaps the biggest one so far is in the Season 2 finale, when Nora, who survives the entire book trilogy, kills herself after being infected by Kelly.
    • In Season 3, Bolivar's body gets killed, forcing The Master to go hunting for a new one. In the books, The Master is still in Bolivar's body when he's killed at the end of the third book.
    • In 3x08, Gus is forced to shoot and kill his Strigoi mother to save Angel. In the books, Gus's mother dies mid-way through the third book (post-nuclear apocalypse) at the hands of Eph.
    • In the Season 3 finale, Eph kills Kelly, causing Zach to trigger the nuke which covers New York in darkness. In the books, Kelly doesn't die until the end of the third book, well after the Master's nuclear holocaust.
  • 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.
    • Turns out that Eldritch Palmer's father was this. The resentment Palmer felt towards his father is what drove him to become a ruthless businessman and eventually takeover his father's company.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: With Dutch's help, Eph broadcasts a warning about the vampire plague to the entire nation.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: In "Fort Defiance", Setrakian tells Nora that he refuses to succumb to his advanced age. If he's going to die, he's going to go down fighting the Master.
  • The Dragon: Eichhorst serves as this to the Master. The Master genuinely favors him, but wants to keep him in this role, so he doesn't use Eichhorst as his new vessel. Eichhorst is heartbroken, though the Master paternally says that Eichhorst will always be his "special child" (he didn't want to rob himself of a good right-hand man).
  • Driven to Suicide: Ansel's wife. Also, Fet's parents after they are infected. Also Fet's grandfather, who was captured and then conscripted by the Germans during World War II, eventually committed suicide after the war due to his guilt of having collaborated with the Nazis.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Fet, Dutch, and Gus all go through hell to make it out alive in the end.
  • Elite Mooks: The Strigoi Mongrels. See here for a full description.
  • Enemy Mine: Setrakian and the Ancients in Season 2. Later, it's revealed that Quinlan is in a similar arrangement, and by Season 3 he and Setrakian have decided to work together directly, cutting the Ancients out.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ephraim's first scene introduces his personality traits to a tee, as does Abraham Setrakian's.
    Eph: You don't like terrorists? Try negotiating with a virus. A virus exists only to find a carrier and reproduce. That's all it does and it does it quickly. It has no political views, it has no religious beliefs, it has no cultural hang-ups and it has no respect for a badge. It has no concept of time or geography. It might as well be the Middle Ages, except for the convenience of hitching a ride on a metal tube flying from meal to meal to meal. That's how a plague begins. So... you still want to be the first one through the door?

    Setrakian: Listen very carefully, son. I know your little friend has a gun and the hammer is cocked, but I don't care. I can control your entire body weight from this pressure point, and this knife is pointing straight at your radial artery. By the time he clears his coat pocket, your artery will be punctured and sliced wide open from top to bottom. You fall down bleeding, I go under the counter and your friend starts shooting at an empty space. I can guarantee you this: you will bleed out before the 911 operator answers the phone. That is Option One. Option Two is you release the bills, your friend gives me the gun - he can keep the bullets, I don't care - and you leave this store. Now, son... you have a choice.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Although his long-term plan depended entirely on Eldritch Palmer's compliance, the Master by Season 4 shows even he was disgusted by Palmer basically selling out the entire human race, to the point he really didn't like being reminded that he had to take Palmer as a new host body.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The infamous poster depicted in the page image.
    • Eph's wife gets infected via a worm in the eye in "Loved Ones".
    • Justine Feraldo gets it twice. The first time doesn't stick, thanks to Fet and a timely UV lamp. The second time, she's not so lucky, but gets blown up before turning.
  • Fanservice:
    • Right before fighting as a gladiator, Quinlan coats part his head, shoulders, neck and chest with mud to protect him against the sun. Makes sense and is even realistic (in some cultures clay is still used as sun screen). Only: to do that, he takes of a helmet and leather armour which would have protected him against sunlight just fine, but would also have kept the fangirls from getting a good luck at a chiseled upper body. Quinlan stays shirtless for the entire rest of the flashback.
    • Episode 3x4: After an eventful fight, Eph is picking some silver bullets out of Quinlan's upper body. To do that, Quinlan is stripped completely naked except for a towel (which, given strigoi anatomy, would protect Eph's sanity rather than anyone's modesty). Again, once conscious Quinlan is in no hurry to get dressed.
    • Dutch and Fet get naked for a round of skinny-dipping in season 2.
    • In one episode Coco Marchand wears nothing but Palmer's unbuttoned dress shirt and panties. Thank you writers indeed.
  • 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.
  • Forgot About His Powers: The vampires are frequently guilty of this; they have increased strength and agility, and also possess a proboscis with a range somewhere between 5 and 7 feet. But within a certain radius of a main character (see: Plot Armor), they slow down and often either forget to use their stinger completely, or telegraph it so it can be easily dodged.
    • The Master himself is big time offender. He'll use his psychic powers to incapacitate airplane passengers, Navy SEALs, and Palmer's security guards, but rarely uses those powers when facing the main characters.
      • Finally averts this in the series finale, when he uses his powers to incapacitate all the main human characters. Fortunately for the humans, Quinlan is immune to the Master's powers.
  • Genre Blindness: It is evident the CDC wasn't prepared for a vampire virus outbreak.
    • It's later revealed that the vamps got to the head of the CDC a while ago and convinced him that they would win, so he's a Quisling going along with it in hopes of saving his own hide, by intentionally being an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • Ghostapo: In Setrakian's and Eichhorst's flashbacks, it's revealed that the Nazis (or at least Eichhorst) were collaborating with the Master in a concentration camp.
  • Grand Theft Me: The Master (and presumably the other Ancients, though they're never shown to do so) can do this. He abandoned his apparent original body in the Middle Ages in favor of the larger and stronger Yusef Sardu, which he used until it's severely damaged by the heroes. At this point, he upgrades to Gabriel Bolivar. When Quinlan decapitates Bolivar's body, the Master's essence flees to a generic strigoi soldier, and later takes over a traitorous Palmer. In the series finale, Palmer's body is mortally wounded by Quinlan and the Master forces himself into Eph, though he doesn't live long after that.
  • Gratuitous German: In the WW2 flashbacks. Contrary to the usual applications of this trope, it's without a notable accent.
  • Happy Ending Override: Episode 3x06 "The Battle Of Central Park" seemingly ends with Fet and his team successfully destroying the strigoi nest under Central Park. Mission accomplished, right? Nope! Actually it turns out the Central Park nest was just a diversion to lure Justine's forces underground, allowing the rest of the strigoi to attack the surface and overrun the entire northern half of Manhattan.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the series finale, Quinlan and Eph voluntarily trap themselves along with the Master to ensure he's in range of the nuke, and Zach sets it off knowing he'll be blown up with it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In Season 3, Eph and Dutch build a device that turns the Master's own paralyzing signal against him.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: At the start of Season 3, the Master kidnaps Zach and offers to return him in exchange for the Occido Lumen. Eph teams up with Quinlan to turn the exchange into a trap, only for the Master to do likewise.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Possibly because he thinks its more appropriate to give people prayers from the religion they follow. Also he's garnered a fairly wide knowledge of the occult and other religious practices over years of vampire myth studies.
  • 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. Possibly a translation convention, i.e. the scenes are told from Setrakian's perspective, and Eichhorst is speaking to him in Romanian?
  • 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.
  • Masquerade: For the most part, the recently turned vampires in New York City are practically feral and look like Count Orlok: their hair falls out, their eyes go bloodshot, their skin turns pasty-white, their teeth become ratlike, etc. They're also so mindless that they can't coherently talk (more than choking out a word or two), even given their use of telepathy - the stinger destroys their vocal cords as it develops. After several weeks their nose even withers away. The Master grants some of his favored servants their own free will again, however (though they are still compelled to serve him), i.e. Eichhorst - who manages to blend in quite successfully with normal humans with an extensive masquerade, involving heavy prosthetic appliances, makeup, false contacts, and wigs. He's been doing this for decades so he also moves like a human, without the muscle spasms of recently turned vamps, and has mastered the timing of his telepathy and mouth movements to simulate normal talking. Bolivar, meanwhile, one of the initial infectees from the airplane, just wears a long black wig to frame his otherwise bald head (he wears goth face paint so much in his shock rock performances that people just assume it's makeup). In Season 2, Eichhorst helps the turned Kelly with her own human disguise to get through military checkpoints, helping her out with her own wig, contacts, makeup, etc. She's still new at it, though, so she is visibly resisting muscle spasms (she needs to use two hands to take her sunglasses off), she has to make a concerted effort to speak clearly and her telepathy and mouth movements are slightly off. It fools the checkpoint because they don't think vampires can talk at all.
  • The Master: The Master can, obviously, now be counted among the ranks of this prestigious trope.
  • Maybe Ever After: Dutch and Fet in the Distant Finale of the series. Just before Fet tried to sacrifice himself to defeat the Master, Dutch passionately re-declared her love for him, yet five years later they meet with a certain — though still deeply affectionate — awkwardness between them. Did they enter into a relationship but then decided they were Better as Friends? Gradually drift apart? Decide not to get together at all — until now?
  • Meaningful Background Event: In Season 2 the TV news is left playing in the background at the team's base. You often have to check the subtitles to hear what they're saying, but they reveal several details:
    • Episode 2.1: The president announces in the Rose Garden that he is deploying 2,000 more National Guardsmen to New York City, bringing the total number in the city to 10,000. Also, Russia has just annexed Latvia and Lithuania - taking advantage of America's distraction at the "plague" outbreak occurring on its own soil.
    • Episode 2.2: Suicides are becoming very frequent; apparently a mix of newly infected people, and people who think the End Times have begun.
    • Episode 2.3: In Albany, the governor signed an order deploying state police to close and patrol the highways coming into and out of New York State. The dialogue is a bit hard to hear, but it mentions attempts to close the borders with Pennsylvania to the south, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to the east, and the international border with Canada to the north. "Rhode Island" is also mentioned, something about also sealing its borders in precaution. Not clear if the border with New Jersey is also mentioned - it's possible that so many infected spread directly from Manhattan into New Jersey to its west that it isn't worth sealing the border.
    • Episode 2.5: In a previous episode, Palmer and Bolivar staged a brazen mass vampire attack on the gathered heads of all of the national banks as they were walking out of a meeting Palmer organized, ostensibly to try to stabilize the economic sector. Palmer's intention with the vampire attack was really the exact opposite: it caused mass panic, financial chaos, and mass run on the banks. Eph and his allies realize Palmer was in on it, but can't understand why he would want it. First, it was part of just destabilizing society in general to make it more difficult for authorities to deal with the vampire epidemic. But the second reason was explained through TV reports in the background of this episode: when there is a bank run, as in past social upheavals like 9/11, when confidence in the value of paper money plummets, everyone starts buying up commodities like precious metals...i.e. gold and silver. Making a bank run ensured that everyone would buy up as many silver items as possible, decreasing the amount of anti-vampire silver in circulation.
  • Meaningful Name: 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.
  • 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.
    • In "Quick and Painless", Nora euthanizes Justine's nephew after he's infected during a police mission.
    • In "Identity", it's Fitzwilliam's turn to be mercy killed before he turns by Setrakian.
    • In 3x08 "White Light", the Master (speaking through Eichhorst) tells the Ancients he's doing them a favor by killing them.
    • Alex's brother Jason in 4x04.
    • After deliberately allowing himself to be infected by Eichhorst, Setrakian has Quinlan decapitate him in 4x08.
  • Monumental Damage: The Statue of Liberty is destroyed by the Master's nuke in the Season 3 finale.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Poor Peter Bishop. Has his blood drained, then his neck snapped and then has his head mashed into mush.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Eichhorst tries to make this claim with Setrakian, but his argument rings hollow.
    Eichhorst: You comfort yourself with the fantasy that you're morally superior to me, but you're not. First day you arrived, I asked if anyone was a carpenter, and you eagerly threw up your hands! And from that day on, you've labored here, working on behalf of the Third Reich!
    Setrakian: I had no choice!
    Eichhorst: Yes, you have! But you're afraid of the choice.
  • Nuke 'em: The Master acquires two nukes via Stoneheart's connections in Season 3. One is used to kill the Ancients, while the other is used to destroy the Statue of Liberty and block out the sun with the subsequent dust cloud.
    • Fet and Quinlan spend most of Season 4 trying to retrieve another nuke and getting it to New York so they can use it against the Master. It's finally set off in the series finale after the Master's been lured underground, where the blast is contained and doesn't hurt the city.
  • 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.
    • Somewhat avoided by the mayor of New York. On the one hand, he's an ineffective pushover who completely trusts that Eldritch Palmer is trying to help stop the plague outbreak. On the other hand, he's too spineless to be "obstructive" when some of his other subordinates push for real solutions. Case in point, Councilwoman Feraldo institutes a shoot-on-sight order against the infected on Staten Island, instead of trying to quarantine them like in the rest of the city. It works so well that Staten Island becomes plague-free, at which the mayor practically begs her to lead implementation of the same policies in the rest of the city...asking only that she give him shared credit in front of the press.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: Pretty much everyone's reaction when Zach detonates the Master's nuclear weapon under the Statue of Liberty in 3x10.
  • Older Than They Look: Setrakian is 94, but looks considerably younger. Aside from the real-world justification of David Bradley being only 73, "Fort Defiance" reveals that Setrakian maintains his vigor by diluting vampire worms into a serum, which he ingests through his eyes.
  • 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 sapience (or at least sentience) 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. Vampirism also causes their skin to turn grey and all their hair to fall out.
  • 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.
    • Averted by Justine's police forces, who seemingly manage to cleanse Staten Island of the infected early in Season 2.
  • 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.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam: When Feraldo and her remaining police try to escape the city, they get held up by a traffic jam. They get out and walk and come under attack by Strigoi. Many of the cars have misted over windows indicating that the occupants turned while inside. During the battle, a gas tanker explodes and only Gus survives.
  • 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.
    • Played straight in the series finale, as despite everything, Zach still loves his father and refuses the Master's order to kill Eph. Fet even remarks at the very end that the Master never truly understood love, and that love ultimately gave Humanity back their world.
      Fet: The Master used the bonds of human love as a conduit for the Strain. He tried to destroy us. But he never understood it - love. And in the end, it was love that saved us all and gave us the world, our world, back.
  • Product Placement: A particularly jarring one for Apple in "Loved Ones".
  • Putting on the Reich: The Partnership in season 4. Uniforms, banners, armbands - all in red, white and black. And just in case anyone somehow still missed it:
    Eph (looking at a perfect replica concentration camp): This is the Master's Final Solution!
  • 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.
    • In Season 2, Eph tries to do this with Zach in response to the latter's constant tantrums over his mother. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much success.
  • "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?
  • Red Herring: In "White Light", Setrakian and Quinlan assume that the mysterious cargo from Egypt is one of the Old World Ancients. It turns out to be a pair of Russian nukes, smuggled through Egypt.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Although silver and sunlight are their Weaksauce Weakness, Strigoi can also be killed by decapitation, headshots or destroying the head completely.
  • 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.
    • In 3x02, Palmer offers to do this if Setrakian will give him the secret formula for the life-prolonging strigoi white; Setrakian refuses.
    • In 3x09, nearly all of Justine's cops decide to flee the city. She and the few remaining eventually (reluctantly) come to the same decision, but by then it's too late and they're all killed.
  • 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.
    • Season 2's "The Battle for Red Hook" is also one of these, on a much, much larger scale.
  • 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.
    • Eldritch Palmer is named after Palmer Eldritch, 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 sapient 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).
    • A character named Peter Bishop is killed early on.
  • Skin-Tone Disguise:
    • As the strigoi normally have paler than normal skin, many of them resort to makeup to pass for human. Thomas Eichhorst, Kelly Goodweather, and Mr. Quinlan have been shown having makeup applied as such.
    • Gabriel Bolivar, on the other hand, inverts the trope by wearing pale skin makeup when performing on stage as a human and going without the makeup after he's turned.
  • Spared By Adaptation: Palmer, whose book counterpart dies after betraying Eichhorst at the auction, survives the auction aftermath in the Season 2 finale because the Master still needs him. It's his girlfriend who ends up getting executed for his betrayal.
    • Setrakian and Eichhorst both survive the Master's nuclear holocaust at the end of Season 3, whereas their book counterparts both die shortly before the nuclear holocaust.
    • Gus survives the entire series; in the novels, he's killed in the final book.
    • The strigoi species. In the novels, they're all vaporized when the Master is killed. In the TV show, the Master's death merely renders them unintelligent. The humans exterminate most of the strigoi, but a few are kept alive in government labs.
  • Storming the Castle: In the season one finale, the heroes fight their way into the Master's lair in Bolivar's theatre.
    • In "Fort Defiance", Gus and Vaun lead the Ancients' strike team in breaking into the Stoneheart tower in order to abduct Palmer. Unfortunately, he had UV light-based defenses prepared for such an event, and all the vampires are killed, forcing Gus to flee.
    • In 4x08 "Extraction", the heroes raid the New York blood farm/baby factory to both capture Sanjay Desai and free the prisoners there.
  • Stunned Silence: In 3x03 after Quinlan decapitates and seemingly kills the Master, the episode ends with Setrakian, Fet, and Eph just standing there, absolutely speechless.
  • Suicide Attack: In 3x04, after the Master's apparent "death", Eichhorst retaliates by sending bomb-laden strigoi to attack Justine's command center. The exploding strigoi spread their worms everywhere, nearly infecting Justine herself.
  • Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious: In Season 4, the strigoi establish facilities to breed humans with type B blood, which they find particularly tasty.
  • Supporting the Monster Loved One: In the third season, it's revealed that Gus has been keeping his Strigoi mother in their apartment and feeding her his own blood. He's forced to kill her when she's about to feed on the Silver Angel.
  • 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, it takes quite a while for Gus' storyline to mesh with the rest of the main cast. It isn't until 4x07 that he finally meets Eph.
  • 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.
    • In the second episode of the second season, in the same building in which they just killed a bunch of vampires (don't forget how the infection works!) Dutch and Fet get naked and make out in a public swimming pool.
    • In the Season 2 finale, Coco and Palmer cut off Eichhorst's funding at the auction for the Lumen, which royally pisses off the Master. Fortunately for Palmer, the Master still needs him. Unfortunately for Coco, the same can't be said for her.
    • In Episode 3x06, Gus and Angel take one of their guards hostage, and demand that the other guard allow them to go free. Instead, the second guard shoots and kills the hostage, and is subsequently shot dead by Angel.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Eichhorst finally corners and drinks the blood of Abraham Setrakian but is poisoned because Setrakian overdosed on blood thinners. This weakens Eichhorst and allows Setrakian to finally destroy him.
  • 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.
    • The Feelers are literally these.
  • 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.
  • Untranslated Catchphrase: Retains the one from the novel, but it's actually said in the show.
  • Vampire Monarch: The Master is noticeably larger, faster, and more deformed looking than his minions, although the first and to a lesser extent third mainly applies to his time in Jusef Sardu, who had gigantism and had held him since the 19th century. Subsequent bodies are shorter (Palmer's body, for example is roughly Eichhorst's height) and haven't deformed as much.
  • The Virus: The vampires, or strigoi, operate much closer to a viral infection than anything supernatural (though the novel, at least, establishes that said virus comes from a Fallen Angel).
  • 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.
  • We Can Rule Together: In a flashback in Season 3, the Master makes this offer to Quinlan. Quinlan, of course, flat out refuses.
  • 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.
    • By the beginning of Season 2, the outbreak is public knowledge, though the government is still dragging its ass on doing anything.
  • 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.
    • "The Fall": The Master's nuclear weapon detonating under the Statue of Liberty, and the subsequent fallout blotting out the sun over the city.
  • Where Are They Now: Five years after the defeat of the Master in the Series 4 finale, Roman became one of Manhattan's biggest property owners; Gus embarked on a mission to help all the refugees who fled from the strigoi, hoping to find the woman he loved; Dutch worked with other ex-hackers to get the Internet going again, and Fet joined the police force — and the new government kept a few of the strigoi alive. For observation purposes. "Because what could go wrong?"
  • 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?
  • The Worm That Walks: The vampires gain their abilities because of the thousands of parasites that infest their bodies.
    • The Master (and the other Ancients) is literally this, as 3x04 reveals that his essence takes the form of a single, large crimson worm.
  • 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 6: 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, "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.
    • As the show goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that the Master has no intention of fulfilling his end of his bargain with Palmer, and is planning to get rid of him once he's no longer needed. This leads Palmer to betray him, which just results in him being body snatched by the Master.
    • In the Season 3 finale, after their car is overturned by the blast wave from the Master's nuke, Eichhorst leaves an injured Sanjay in the wreckage, apparently having no more use of him.
      • Subverted in Season 4, in which it's revealed that Sanjay has recovered from his injuries and is continuing to serve the strigoi.
  • Zombie Infectee: The plane passengers after they came back, although admittedly even they didn't realize what was happening to them. Averted by Redfern, Jim Kent and everyone afterwards, who either begs for a Mercy Kill before they turn or is restrained.

Alternative Title(s): The Strain