Monday, March 05, 2018

The Strain: Season 4 – review

Director: Various

First aired: 2017

Contains spoilers

I have reviewed the previous seasons of the Strain: Season One, Two and Three and, of course, was a fan of the novels.

Season 3 ended with a nuclear devise being detonated in New York, which allowed the Master (played in this season by Jonathan Hyde, Supernatural: Dorabella, and, in a period flashback, physically by Robert Maillet, Mortal Instruments, City of Bones, whilst vocally by Robin Atkin Downes) to escape his fate of being permanently entombed. This season starts considerably forward on and here I had my first issue with the season. We are told that the detonation led to a nuclear war (this is not in the novels) and an event called Illumination Day.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Quinlan
What we do discover is that the US didn’t fire all its missiles (though we don’t exactly know why) – hence half-strigoï Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand, Dark Angel: Love in Vein) searching for an unfired warhead. However, if even some of the US yield was fired; and China, and Russia, and North Korea, and Europe, and Israel, and India, and Pakistan all fired back at each other, then the world was in an unrealistically remarkably good shape. There is still a fairly together infrastructure (buildings are still mostly standing it would appear, vehicles have fuel, there is electricity and there is still TV - albeit old repeats and propaganda), we see one individual who might have radiation poisoning (but it turns out to be rickets) but everyone else is mercifully radiation free – including those near the original blast zone – and nuclear winter seems really mild (OK, its clouded enough to allow the strigoï to go out during the day, but it isn’t that bad). In short – the setting seemed unrealistic.

the Partnership in control
The government seems to have been replaced by the Partnership – which is meant to be a strigoï/human co-existence thing but is clearly the Master with Vichy humans doing his bidding as he establishes blood farms, type B (the strigoï’s favourite blood) breeding programmes, forced labour etc. The human resistance (which other than a couple of new people later, seem made up of our main characters – though they are splintered) are repurposed in propaganda as terrorists and there is a whole ethical discussion that the series does its best to avoid (it can’t totally, and has to address it occasionally but it is superficial at best).

Zach and the Mastre
Now, the general direction to finally destroy the Master makes the season worth catching for those invested – despite heavy flaws in the setting. That said the very Judeo-Christian heart of the Strain mythology that the book series eventually revealed is absolutely missing. When the series started I hoped it was expunged, when it was expunged I realised that there was a big gaping hole in the centre of the mythology (and one that makes all the fuss about the special book, the lumen, utterly pointless). The books also had a side that explored del Toro’s oft-used theme about father figures – this maintained that but was so melodramatic and ham-fisted you could tell the writing was not by him.

flashback moment
There was a sub-story set in flashback about Quinlan that was actually rather good fun and a better view than, perhaps, the rest of the season and certainly better than the coda to the series. The coda was so blooming anti-climatic that it was, possibly, one of the worst end of series moments yet and (massive spoiler) the speed at which civilisation (and the climate) got itself back together from dystopian nightmare to sunny hopefulness was beyond optimistic and into ridiculous. 4 out of 10 because, if invested, you need to see the story through (and it did, at least, finish the story).

The imdb page is here.

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