September 6, 2016 The Strain – New York Strong (Season 3/ Episode 1 Review)
Cliffhangers are written to leave viewers wanting more in order for them to return. When done well, fans will conjecture on the fate of the characters or the possible outcome of a story arc. When done poorly, viewers flame the show’s creators on social media for leaving them hanging over the long off-season. The Strain’s season two’s finale, airing October 5, 2015, provided a little of both. To the anger of some, two of the show’s strong female characters were given the strigoi sendoff.
Briefly recapping it all, Coco Marchand (Lizzie Brochere: One to Another 2006, The Wedding Song 2008), the woman who finally brought love into the life of the formerly bedridden Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde: Titanic 1997, Crimson Peak 2015), was killed by the Master himself (Jack Kesy: 8:46 2012, The Throwaways 2015). Her death was payback for Palmer’s reneging on a deal to finance the auction for the Occido Lumen; the book that could lead to the Master’s defeat.
The second death was not expected. Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro: Poseidon 2006, Twilight series), CDC colleague and “Eph” Goodweather’s (Corey Stoll: The Bourne Legacy 2012, Ant-Man 2015) closest ally, had become infected when battling his estranged wife, Kelly (Natalie Brown: Cracked series, Being Human series), to keep her from taking her son, Zach (Max Charles: Mr. Peabody & Sherman 2014, The Lion Guard series). Martinez had been an integral part of the attempt to create a biological weapon to use against the army of monsters set on devouring New York City.
In addition to the main character deaths, there were some unexpected alliances formed. Chugging up the East River on a stolen tugboat, Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand: X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2009, Real Steel 2011) and Professor Setrakian (David Bradley: Matchpoint 2005, Persuasion 2007) were fleeing with the stolen Lumen after purchasing it with gold provided by the Ancients. Joining them were gangbanger “Gus” Elizalde (Miguel Gomez: The Domino Effect 2012, Southpaw 2015) and half-Vampire Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), who had been sent to retrieve the book. They had united forces after realizing that the Ancients would have no intention of using it to stop the Master.
With the viewers’ mind refreshed, the season three opening of The Strain, did not disappoint the series fanbase, in fact, bringing in new followers. Airing on August 28, 2016, the episode entitled New York Strong opens with Setrakian’s voice-over of a video montage of past events. Viewers are brought up to speed on what has happened in the twenty-three days since an airplane mysteriously landed with everyone on board apparently dead. The National Guard had been called in, but due to outbreaks in other cities, they have been severely cut back, leaving the forces already there, along with the citizen militias alone to fight the plague.
The audience learns that Fet is helping to guide heavily-armed military personnel through tunnels he knows from his time as a city rat exterminator. They are trying to track down the Master, nicknamed by them as King Rat. These scenes will look familiar to fans of First Person Shooter (FPS) video games. Fet watches a monitor with a quad shot of the soldiers, as would participants in a multi-player FPS match. This effect is done very well and adds to the allure of the show.
Right from the start, it should be dully noted season three of The Strain features a new, flashier, opening credits, showing more connection to where we are now in the story. Eph, still technically a federal fugitive, is staying at his old house in the hope that his kidnapped son returns, either as a human or, in a short dream sequence, one of the infected. Continuing to work on the bioweapon in the old Red Hook warehouse from season two, he is visited by Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) – the NYC councilwoman heading the fight to take back the street – and is concerned when he learns that his creation is not as effective as it had been only a week earlier. Are they becoming immune? Viewers will have to wait and see.
Setrakian and Quinlan continue to decode the Lumen. Anxious to use it against the Master, Quinlan argues whether or not to take the translation literally since their work is taking longer than he would like. Fet updates Feraldo in the City’s Office of Emergency Management, the headquarters of the resistance fighting the infected. Feraldo asks Fet to talk to the National Guard for more help in securing the city. Fet tells her that he has no pull with the men he works with. A couple of short scenes are next, which do not do anything to move the story forward, but showcase the talents of the makeup and effect group’s integrality to the popularity of the show.
While siphoning gas in an underground garage, Eph is attacked. The only point of this seems to be to watch him dispatch several Strigoi. Two of them are killed in interesting ways, complete with the well-done special effects viewers have come to expect. One is exposed to sunlight in a wonderfully well-done internal flame effect. Gus has returned to his pre-plague home to care for his infected mother. She is restrained in a straightjacket and chained to a wall. In an act of love that is both touching and grotesque, Gus feeds her his own blood in a dog’s water bowl and vows to get justice for her.
Quinlan visits the lair of the Ancients—in their phenomenal full body makeup. Through a mind-controlled slave, they voice their displeasure with not being given the Lumen. Quinlan says he is still deciphering it and when pressed, declares that he is not their servant. He suggests that maybe they want to know the secrets found in the book because they are concerned that the destruction of the Master will spell doom for them also. He infers they had a hand in the missing members of the ancient group of seven, and assures them they have a common enemy in the Master.
Meanwhile, Setrakian is continuing to work on the book when Fet stops by, excited to tell the Professor of his successes with the Navy Seals. Setrakian seems bored with the conversation, his mind engrossed in his work. Quinlan appears behind Fet, who is quick to voice his disdain for their half-Vampire ally. Quinlan requests that should Fet locate the Master, he is called since he is the only one strong enough to defeat him. Fet refuses, foolishly confident the men he is working with are good enough.
Before Fet’s team goes underground, they tell him that not only is there not any chance of getting more help, they will be pulling out soon and the government will be writing off Manhattan. This is the scene with the FPS body cams, unlike other shows that have used this technique, it is easy to follow and is a lot of fun to walk along almost as one of the soldiers. The Seals find Eichhorst in a subway tunnel and Fet orders them to pursue him. This decision has dire consequences as Eichhorst leads the best fighters at Fet’s disposal into a trap orchestrated by the Master himself. Fet manages to save only two of the Seals and is mocked by Eichhorst for the futile attempt to catch the Master.
Kelly Goodweather, wearing makeup to appear human, returns to the hideout she has taken her son Zach to. Although now under the control of the Master, she appears happy to have her son again. She tells Zach that they can stay together if he agrees to do something for her. Eph, back in his home to await his son’s return, is visited by Kelly with her army of infected children. Their clicks and chirps, while bouncing around like spiders, is truly creepy. Still in human makeup, she offers Eph a trade for her to give back their son. The boy for the Lumen.
Overall, New York Strong was a good start to the new season of The Strain. It featured enough pickup-where-we-left-off and enough promise of new threats and danger to come. As viewers have come to expect, the cast does a great job of pulling the audience into their world. In addition, the effects and makeup teams continue to raise the bar for one of the best Horror shows currently on television. Welcome back The Strain, you have hungry audiences hooked all over again. CrypticRock gives New York Strong 4.5 out of 5 stars.