FX’s “The Strain”: A Bit Formulaic, but Damn Entertaining

FX is certainly having a banner year. Between the heavily-favored Fargo and the controversial The Tyrant, and with the final season of Sons of Anarchy coming to us this fall, the network hasn’t failed to live up to the high expectations it has set ever since the glory days of The Shield.

Looking for something else to keep your DVR busy this Summer? Check out FX’s The Strain, and I promise, you won’t be disappointed (provided you don’t think about the story too deeply). 

The Guillermo del Toro-helmed thriller, based on the novel he penned with writer Chuck Hogan, debuted this Sunday night with a hefty influx of commentary on Twitter to the combination of mysterious monsters, head-bashing special effects, and star Corey Stoll’s epic hairpiece.

The Strain is, essentially, a vampire story, but we’re not talking about Twilight and teen angst here. Though I haven’t read the books myself (because those always ruin TV shows & movies ;)), the premise is this: a mysterious disease kills a bunch of people; there’s a giant monster in a creepy coffin, capable of smashing people’s heads in; and, nobody (except for an old man that everyone ignores) seems to have the slightest clue what killed hundreds of passengers on a flight from Berlin to NYC (but, strangely enough, spared 4 on board).

Formulaic? Sure. In just one episode, we’ve seen our main protagonist (Stoll) battle with his soon-to-be ex-wife for custody of their son. We’ve been introduced to an evil, corporate organization that for some yet-to-be unveiled reason, wants to keep the “monster” alive. And, as mentioned, we’ve witnessed the “crazy old man” be dismissed, realizing that eventually, he’ll probably end up saving everyone.

That aside, The Strain doesn’t hold back on gore or jump-out-your-seat terror. Subtle, this show is not. I must admit, though, the first episode played out like a movie– the visuals were stunning, and while the storyline so far isn’t all that original, body-invading worms and creepy old guys and vampires with superhuman strength is still more entertaining than anything you’ll find on network television this year.

The Strain isn’t a television show that will inspire Lost-esque examinations; but, for an hour a week, just being scared shitless might be enough.

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