The Strain: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Blu-ray released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Various writers and directors
2015, 546 minutes, Rated TV-MA
Blu-ray released on August 23rd, 2016
Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather
David Bradley as Abraham Setrakian
Mía Maestro as Dr. Nora Martinez
Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet
Jonathan Hyde as Eldritch Palmer
Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichorst
Robin Atkin Downes as The Master (voice)
Jack Kesy as Gabriel Bolivar
Miguel Gomez as Augustin 'Gus' Elizalde
Ruta Gedmintas as Dutch Velders
Natalie Brown as Kelly Goodweather
Max Charles as Zach Goodweather
I have to admit, prior to The Strain: The Complete Second Season hitting my mailbox for review, my only knowledge of this universe was the first two books in the trilogy: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain and The Fall. The only excuse I can give for having never watched the show based on two novels I quite enjoyed is that I really don't watch a ton of TV. Why I haven't yet finished the third novel in the trilogy is simply I haven't had the time yet, but that's neither here nor there.
So, naturally, I went on a Strain binge thanks to Hulu, and was able to knock out the first season in a matter of days. Thankfully, I enjoyed it quite a bit and it wasn't a chore. As I finished up season one and its cliffhanger of an ending, I hoped that the second season was as pleasing as the first, and overall, it pretty much is.
If you've never watched any of The Strain, go...go now. Go get caught up and watch season one; I'll be here when you are come back. But for a refresher, the super-short synopsis is a master vampire has arrived in New York City and now there's an infestation of some nasty bloodsuckers throughout the city. The first season of The Strain puts all of the characters on the board, establishing their role in the world, and this second part puts those pieces into motion.
There's a lot to like about The Strain. I'm not a fan of the charisma-driven vampire like Bela Lugosi portrays in the classic Dracula, or the pretty boy combo of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. I'm a bigger supporter of the nasty, dirty, filthy vermin that you'll find in 30 Days of Night and The Strain. One of my favorite things about this series (and the books, naturally) is the evil beings are considered both a biological problem and supernatural one by our group of heroes, and that's why Eph (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia) go about attacking this problem, by creating a biological weapon that destroys the vamps.
While the two doctors are approaching the issue scientifically, Abraham (David Bradley) and Fet (Kevin Durand) are on the hunt for a book that contains the mythology of the feeders that can possibly give a hint on how to destroy them by using more than just silver and decapitation. The mix of science and fantasy is a good one, and it works to have two sets of characters attempting to solve an issue in two vastly different ways.
The Strain suffers somewhat with the sheer amount of characters this season. If this were a 20+ episode season, there would be enough room for some of these secondary stories to breathe, but with only 16 episodes, that's not enough room. I'd much rather hear and see more from that German bastard Eichorst (played delightfully by Richard Sammal), especially when he's interacting with Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) or Abraham. But instead I have to listen to a bunch of annoying whining by Eph's son Zach (Max Charles) and unnecessary crying and insecurity from the hacker Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), which is doubly frustrating because they're ruining a great character by portraying her as a "typical" flakey woman who can't decide who to love. Christ. It's 2016 already. Speaking of which, c'mon writers, there is no way in hell an intelligent young woman like Coco (Lizzie Brocheré) would go for Palmer. Yes, he's rich, powerful, and charismatic, but he's also in his 70s to her 20s. Stop it. That's gross. And there's a whole lot of character development being missed out on Gus (Miguel Gomez). Gus is absolutely ripe for growth.
However, while there are inexcusable choices made with some of the female characters, there are moments in The Strain that will have you holding your breath because of the suspense. While there are a handful of scenes that will have you gripping your chair, one of my favorites is when that German bastard Eichorst has Dutch chained up and is about to...well, I'll let you see it yourself. Needless to say, I didn't realize I wasn't breathing until I gasped.
The Strain: The Complete Second Season organically moves the story forward from the prior season, and ends with me looking forward to where it's going to take me. The show hasn't quite hooked me to where I'm eager to watch every week, but there's little doubt I'll be doing another binge once it drops on streaming or I pick it up on Blu-ray.
(Side note, you can read Giuseppe's recaps of the first 11 episodes of season two starting here!)
Video and Audio:
Seeing how this season just aired last year, there would be no excuse for a bad presentation. As expected, it's a lovely picture. Considering its topic, a lot of the show takes place in darkness, be it outside, underground, in dusty warehouses, or dimly lit offices, and it all looks great.
On the audio side, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 delivers a healthy workout to the surround speakers, making scenes like when those little creepy blind child vampires are crawling around the room that much more effective.
- Audio Commentary on Night Train
- Deleted Scenes
- Meet the Crew of The Strain
- The White Room
- Gag Reel
- Beyond the Page
- Sentient Strigoi
Considering this is the second season of a popular TV show, the features are disappointingly light. There are 13 episodes, but only one, "Night Train", gets a commentary. If you are a fan of the show, it's worth a listen, but it does fall into that trap of "this person is great, this is a great show, I love everyone I work with" you often find on commentaries. If more than one episode had this option, the deeper in the season you would get, the more tidbits would be available, but sadly, we only get one.
There are deleted scenes available on each of the three discs in this set, and the featurettes ("Meet the Crew of The Strain" and "The White Room" on disc two, and "Beyond the Page" and "Sentient Stigoi" on disc three) are typical of what you'd find in an electronic press kit (EPK). However, "Meet the Crew of The Strain" and "The White Room" are pretty funny.