‘The Strain’ Episode 1 Review: “Night Zero”

By July 14, 2014
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Last night, FX premiered its new horror series “The Strain.” Based on the book trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, the pilot “Night Zero” proved to be a great (yet cheesy) start to what looks like a new program for all you horror fans out there! And if you’re a fan of del Toro’s work, this series is definitely something you should check out – Guillermo himself directed the pilot. If you haven’t yet, check out our conversation with del Toro and Carlton Cuse about the show here!

There’s a lot to cover so here’s your official warning: DO NOT READ ANYTHING BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!

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The show opens on an flight heading to New York from Berlin and already it was feeling very “Twilight Zone”-y. I suppose showrunner Carlton Cuse (“LOST”) missed beginning shows on an airplane! Anyway, after some bonkers event happens in the sky involving something big and dastardly hiding in the bowels of the plane, the airline is found dead and cold just sitting there on the tarmac with all of the passengers presumed dead.

It’s after this ominous beginning when we are introduced to Dr. Ephraim Goodweather from the CDC (Cory Stoll from “House Of Cards”) and his team, Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin). After a brief glimpse into Dr. Goodweather’s crumbling family life – his ex-wife is with another man and the custody of his young son is in jeopardy – Ephraim and team arrive at the scene. They are granted first entry into the dead plane where we quickly discover tracks that can only be picked up under UV light. Further, there are 4 survivors.

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The slow-moving investigation is underway. I say slow-moving because even though the pilot is well over an hour long and our timeline in this episode takes place from roughly 10pm until 5am, there are points in “Night Zero” that simply dragged.

The bodies from the plane are sent in for autopsy but due to the strange circumstances thus far, Ephraim has his own trusted morgue attendant do the work alone. As I said, this episode happens all within one night and the guy has at least 20 bodies to investigate and autopsy alone. Impossible! But when we’re dealing with a vampire show, sometimes you have to disregard some elements of logic.

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The team soon discovers a 9 foot tall box that somehow made it on and off the plane without being checked by customs. This large crate is covered in carved images of skulls and whatnot. OK, it’s a coffin! But when it’s opened, they only find soil and not much investigation is put into the thing upon its discovery.

Hello, Logic. It’s me, Aaron.

Still, I was already invested in the story thus far. With FX’s current slate of television shows, “The Strain” seems to be breaking whatever mold they had created for themselves as this is definitely off brand. However, the series is set to air on Sunday nights and will probably fill the void currently left bare by the hiatus of “The Walking Dead.”

And yes, I mentioned this is a vampire show. In this day and age, there really isn’t much new that can be done with vampires on TV but thankfully, these beasts don’t shimmer and they ain’t looking to bang fairies.

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But back to the story. In a somewhat predictable plot twist, the dead bodies being examined by our one poor schmuck in the morgue rise up. However, they are not noticed immediately as he finds some tiny worms coming out of one of the victims’ hearts. As any idiot would, he picks up said heart as it is beating because this dude has never seen a horror movie and seems to lack the common sense to get the f*ck out. But that’s fine, I’m not watching for him anyway!

About those worms…they are the parasitic beings that get inside the human body and turn them into mindless blood-sucking vampires. You’ve all seen the posters by now (I put one at the top there just to remind you. You’re welcome!) and it’s an interesting take on the vampire genre. Also, pretty damn gross.

Earlier in the episode, we’re introduced to Abraham Setrakian who runs a local pawn shop. He’s a pretty big character in the first book of the series and it’s pretty cool we’ll be seeing David Bradley weird a sword against vampires at some point down the line.

Sidenote – can someone tell me how this old Armenian Jew with a sword in his cane walked right past airport security?

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Mr. Setrakian has the answers they are seeking but Ephraim and company have yet to reach the point where they are willing to listen. Abraham has confronted this enemy before long ago. We’re only given a taste of the history he had with the monster that was hidden in the giant box, but by the time the team wakes up to the reality of the situation, it’s too late and the coffin is gone.

As the first episode of “The Strain” ends, the team is left with the four survivors, some scary worms and soil samples, and a crazy old man to investigate the case of the dead plane. And to make matters worse, it looks like we have a traitor on our hands! They better get to work because something evil has landed in New York and it looks like the entire world is in grave danger. Get it? Grave!? I’ll be here all week, folks.

Based on the three book trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan with a 5 season plan in the works, FX has given the team here a huge amount of creative freedom which makes for a very dark and unique looking show. As I mentioned earlier, “The Strain” serves as a departure for the network from the gritty and heavy subject matter they are known for delivering, and maybe that’s a good thing. And given their Sunday night time slot, they may just be able to give HBO a run for their money.

I found “Night Zero” to be a fun and creepy beginning to what looks to be a great summer horror series. Even with the sometimes hokey writing and performances, “The Strain” looks like it’ll be just what we all need on Sunday nights.

What are your thoughts? Are you looking forward to episode 2? Embed your thoughts into my eyeballs below.

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.
  • The dialogue and much of the acting on this show are downright terrible…but it was strangely compelling. I’m in…at least for another few episodes.

    • I was super excited about the show. I even loved it after I watched it until I realized the main reason I loved it so much was the feeling of childlike nostalgia I got because it reminded me of something I’d have loved when I was a kid. I’m going to stick it out but it’s damn silly.

  • Uncle Shant Ötuzğüleer

    Can someone tell me what an “armenian jew” is?