Worth Watching: The Strain Season 1

(Originally written March 27th, 2015)

I just spent a few days taking in the 13 episode first season of FX’s adaptation of the excellent Strain series by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (the authors serving as producers for the show).  All in all it wasn’t a bad adaptation and while far from perfect was an entertaining ride even for a viewer that had only recently completed the source material.

Let me get my minor gripes out of the way first:

  • The opening scene of the first episode made me highly wary as they dumped the suspense of the novel for more straightforward horror and it fell flat.  The books drug out the reveal of what was going on, building towards a horrible discovery while the show chose to reveal it all within the first five minutes.  Luckily I resisted the nerd-rage impulse to stop the show right there.
  • The existence of Dutch Velders.  Sometimes creating a character on the show who wasn’t in the source can work, Ros in Game of Thrones comes to mind, Dutch is not one of those characters.  She exists entirely to explain how the bad guys cut off the spread of information, a hired hacker to shut down the internet and cell phones in Manhattan but beyond that brought nothing to the show aside from zero presence and a halfhearted tease at romance with another character (not to get too spoilery but said character goes on in the 2nd and 3rd books to have an important romance build with a much more interesting character).
  • The scaling back of the plague.  In the trilogy of books the story is still entirely centered on the collection of characters living in NYC shown in the show.  That much remained the same but unlike the show, which contained the outbreak solely to the island of Manhattan, the book had a near simultaneous spread of the disease worldwide.  The event that served as the starting point in NYC happened at various airports the world over.  At one the show does tease that infected are being “shipped” but beyond the discovery of a container full of the infected it goes no further.
  • Needlessly altering relationships between a few characters.  There are a few case of this like when a man in authority who is a part of the greater conspiracy to allow the plague to spread in the books becomes more or less a bumbling fool who comes on board late in the season but the biggest one involves the caretaker/bodyguard of a major character switching allegiances near the end of the first season when nothing close happens in the books.

Apart from these small issues I found the show to be every bit as entertaining as the books and are as such definitely worth checking out.

-S.Y.

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