Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing FX’s show THE STRAIN: SEASON 4 (2017) which was created by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. To best describe the story of the season, I will use a shortened plot summary:
“Nuclear winter envelopes the planet and a desperate, weakened humanity – existing only as slave labor for ‘The Partnership’ – is controlled by the bloodthirsty strigoi.”
While this is the final season, the fallout from the season three finale was so great that it felt like a narrative reset that would actually be friendly to new viewers. We start out with nearly every character divided, trying to make their own form of life in a world where they are ruled by the vampiric strigoi. Through flashbacks or conversations we get a better idea of how each person has gotten to where they are currently and concurrently begin to see some of the dark ideology hiding behind “The Partnership’s” seemingly benign image. Because of narrative move such as this, the season felt like a completely different beast from what came before; which was exciting.
Those worried that they have thrown out the previous seasons continuity for a hard reboot should not worry, they completely respect those who have been loyal the last three years. In fact, I was impressed with some of the passing references made to characters from previous seasons as it was a nice reminder of how the show has grown from its humble beginnings. What also became clear was how the show has grown over the years from a small horror story to a large scale portrait of a city trying to grapple with the unknown. This season respects both of these ideas equally and manages to still feel as if it has a large scope while maintaining a simple, character focused story.
Those who have been following these characters for the last three years should be fairly aware of what to expect. Sure, there are a few changes due to what happened in the season three finale, but overall these are still the people fans know and love (or in some cases, hate). I have always enjoyed that the characters have grown more intelligent when it comes to dealing with the vampiric strigoi and that still comes through this season. Too often shows or movies dumb down their leads or have them make choices that go against things they have done in the past just to achieve some tension or a shocking death, but I have never felt that THE STRAIN pulls this low blow. Even a few of the second act twists stay rooted in the characters so much that some of them will be easy to see coming for the long time viewers.
The majority of the cast this year is the returning survivors from previous seasons, with a few new faces added for good measure. For better or worse, the returning members give the same quality performances that fans would come to expect, while the few new players manage to make an impression in just a few episodes. I will say that one actor in particular was asked to portray more range than he can manage, but that has been an ongoing issue with this particular role. Luckily, this particular weak link is easy to overlook since he is surrounded by a team that turns in performances ranging from good to great.
From a production value, the stakes are just as high as they have ever been. Whether it be a truck top fight sequence or a fateful elevator ride, the show looks just as good now as it did when it began. I also liked the new look of The Master in particular as he seemed less goofy than when he was first shown in season one. Given that he is our big bad; making him seem imposing is kind of a must and this iteration made him more threatening than any other version.
One issue I had was that the conclusion just seemed a little long and I felt as if there was a bit of information missing. Granted, the sequence I am referring to is more of an epilogue than anything else, but I still would have liked to know what happened between a few of the characters. Apart from that one particular nit-pick, the finale itself provides everything a fan of the show could want and a surprise or two to boot.
All in all, this season managed to feel accessible to those who have not seen a single episode while still servicing those who have watched since the beginning. The acting and production values are all in line with previous seasons leading to a conclusion that feels worthy of what came before. Fans of the series or those who want a modern day twist on the vampire genre would do well to check this out.
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