Blu-ray Review Drama

'The Strain: The Complete Second Season' Blu-ray Review: Out with the zombies, in with the vampires

September 7, 2016Ben MK

Based on the book trilogy by director Guillermo del Toro and author Chuck Hogan, The Strain is all about the battle for supremacy between humans and vampires. Now, ordinarily, that might not seem like the most unique premise. But if you recall del Toro's Blade II, you'll know that his take on vampiric mythology is anything but ordinary.

Set in modern day Red Hook, Brooklyn, The Strain is the story of a war between several factions. On one side, we have the centuries-old Master (Robin Atkin Downes) and his strigoi (read: vampire) minions, including his right-hand man, Thomas Eicchorst (Richard Sammel), a former Nazi officer, and Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), an ailing business tycoon seeking a chance at immortality. And on the other, we have concentration camp survivor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), who has been hunting the Master for decades, CDC doctors Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), and exterminator Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand).

Season two adds several new characters — including half-breed vampire hunter Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), who's out to recruit human soldiers to fight the Master, hacker Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas), who's out to redeem herself for the unwitting assistance she provided the Master, and councilwoman Justine Faraldo (Samantha Mathis), who's out to rid New York City of the strigoi menace — with an overarching storyline that sees Eph's ex-wife-turned-strigoi Kelly (Natalie Brown) coming after him and their son Zack (Max Charles), while Setrakian strives to locate an ancient tome called the Occido Lumen, which could be the key to defeating the Master once and for all.

What makes The Strain unique, however, is the way the show reimagines vampires, as creatures corrupted by a viral infection, turning unsuspecting humans into undead, feral animals. The result is one of the creepiest, bloodiest shows on television; and it's a series that definitely gives The Walking Dead a run for its money. As for season two's thirteen episodes, here's a taste of what you can expect:

  • BK, NY - Eph and Nora work on a biological weapon to kill the strigoi, and Setrakian risks the lives of the entire group to find information about a closely guarded secret text.
  • By Any Means - Eph and Nora experiment on their newfound patients. Fet and Dutch grow closer as they clear out the neighborhood buildings, and Kelly begins her hunt for Zack.
  • Fort Defiance - Gus and Vaun wage an attack on Palmer as Eph struggles to connect with Zack. Councilwoman Justine Faraldo vows to bring her extermination policies to the other boroughs.
  • The Silver Angel - Eph and Nora finally see their lethal virus in action. Fet takes the security of Red Hook into his own hands while Dutch and Setrakian set off for Staten Island to question Fitzwilliam.
  • Quick and Painless - Eph changes his appearance to leave the city while Nora is left as the reluctant parent for Zack. Dutch and Nora make a deal with Justine to secure Fet's release from jail.
  • Identity - Eph concocts a plan to make and distribute a bioweapon. Gus realizes Angel can be an unlikely ally, and Kelly comes after Nora and Zack.
  • The Born - Setrakian and Fet use Fitzwilliam's info to attack the Master. Eph returns to NYC frustrated but energized to go after the one person responsible for killing his friends.
  • Intruders - Eph must protect Zack against a surprise intruder into Red Hook. Gus convinces the Guptas to make a difficult choice. Fet and Setrakian set out to acquire the Lumen.
  • The Battle for Red Hook - Justine takes drastic measures to counter a surprise invasion. Nora and Fet perform a useful mission while Eph and Setrakian face off against an old foe.
  • The Assassin - Eph and Dutch work together to thwart the Master's greatest ally. Justine runs into trouble with the Mayor while Setrakian tracks down the real owner of the Lumen.
  • Dead End - Dutch fights for her life against Eichhorst as Fet, Nora, and Eph search the city for her. Setrakian confronts an old acquaintance, while Gus helps the Guptas escape across the border.
  • Fallen Light - Eph must choose between Zack's safety and the safety of the citizens of NYC. His relationship with Nora reaches a critical impasse, and Gus and Angel assemble an unlikely gang of Sun-hunters.
  • Night Train - Setrakian and Fet battle for possession of the Occido Lumen, and gain a surprising new ally. A massive attack imperils Eph, Nora and Zack's escape from New York.

Season two of The Strain debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer that will make your blood curdle — but in the best possible way. Colors drip with atmosphere, from the blue glow of the ultraviolet light used to diagnose/fight off the infected, to the dramatic green, yellow and orange hues that punctuate nighttime scenes; blacks are deep and rich, which is vital to a show such as this one, as it contains numerous dimly-lit sequences; and fine detail is readily apparent, revealing such things as the grotesqueries of the strigoi makeup. Turning to the audio on these discs, the show's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix emanates an appropriately creepy vibe, whether it's the strigoi's snarls, shrieks and chitters, or the sound of silver grenades, nail guns or swords tearing them to pieces.

Fox's three-disc Blu-ray release includes the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Deleted Scenes (13:33) - Eleven scenes.
  • Meet the Crew of The Strain (7:31) - Guillermo del Toro and the show's cast pretend to be various crew members on The Strain, in this tongue-in-cheek piece.
  • The White Room (3:54) - Another jokey piece, this time about what Eichhorst does with his white torture room after the turn of events in season two.
  • Audio Commentary on "Night Train" - Showrunner/Executive Producer Carlton Cuse talks about adapting "The Strain" books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, as well as the casting, the process of making the show, filming in Toronto, and more.
  • Gag Reel (2:19) - Flubs and goofs from the set.
  • Beyond the Page (11:02) - A look at the way the show differs from the book trilogy, from the further development of existing characters and the addition of new ones, to the subplots borrowed from the books.
  • Sentient Strigoi (7:08) - A look at the show's more intelligent monsters, what drives them, and their arcs in season two.

The Strain: The Complete Second Season is available from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment as of August 23rd, 2016. Episode synopses above provided courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1 and German DTS 5.1 tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, German and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 9 Hrs. 6 Mins.

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