REVIEW: The Strain (Pilot)

As a fan of programs like Fringe and Supernatural, The Strain seemed right up my alley. Despite peculiar dialogue choices and an unusually paced pilot, I believe there’s definitely some potential here.

I like long pilots. Suits really made this case for me, with a pilot that was flawlessly paced and extremely efficient. The Strain’s pilot may be long, but it doesn’t use its time quite so well. This is not to say that the pilot isn’t dense enough, because it is. In fact, it has an extremely ambitious set of goals to accomplish even for the long running time. The Strain just isn’t as temporally effective as Suits is. I’m not sure whether there was time wasted or if there is just too much to deal with, but I simply found the timing somewhat off.

The dialogue may be one of The Strain’s weakest features. I’m all for unusual dialogue, particularly in shows dealing with unrealistic circumstances. This can all be part of a show’s charm and artistic philosophy. That being said, I think there is a limit. For the sake of specificity that limit is somewhere before a character (who works around planes and is not a child), in amazement describes planes (or perhaps a category of planes) as being “like buildings with wings.” I don’t mean to pick on a specific example, but this line perfectly encapsulates what is wrong with the weaker points of The Strain’s dialogue. More precisely, there are unnecessary words.

Despite what I’ve said, I think The Strain has some potential. The show’s plot introduces certain members of the CDC who find themselves tasked with investigating an incident beyond their ordinary sphere of interest. Much like in Fringe, the task is beyond what most humans would consider possible. However, in Fringe they made efforts to explain that the incidents witnessed by the Fringe Division were simply an extension of the science we understand. In The Strain, they lean towards more supernatural elements completely beyond the sphere of science. This is an intriguing thought. In Supernatural, like in Fringe, Sam and Dean are quite familiar with the kind of opposition they’re dealing with. Now, in The Strain, we may have the opportunity to witness the kind of conflict that arises when people are thrown into the realm of the supernatural without any real grasp on the kind of threat they’re experiencing. I am interested to see what progress is made with this idea.

Even given the familiarity we may have with much of The Strain’s content so far, there is the potential for some more novel elements in the show’s future.