The Strain: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

The Strain: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)Something exciting actually happened here this past summer in Austin, TX.  Hooray!  The pilot episode of The Strain premiered at the ATX Television Festival here in June this year.  Now although I wasn’t present for its festival premiere, I was able to catch the pilot episode the night it aired this past July on FX networks and I was shocked by just how much fun I had with the show.  However, soon the shock wore off and was instantly replaced by a thirst for each Sunday night to come and usher in a new blood curdling episode.  Before I knew it, thirteen weeks went by like that and I’m left now holding the Blu-ray of Season One in one hand, pecking on the keyboard of my laptop with the other and drooling out of the corner of my mouth for more to come in Season Two.  So where shall we start?  I know!  Let’s talk the basics first…the beginning.

The Strain The Complete First Season


So I already talked about the series premiere of The Strain and the fact that it airs on FX Networks and consisted of thirteen episodes in the first season, but I did not mention the big guy’s name yet.  It’s time to name drop, guys!  You ready for this one?  The show was created by Guillermo del Toro.  I’ll let that sink in for a brief moment before we move on.  You ready?  Okay!  Cool!  Here we go.  Guillermo did have help though.  He created this television show with Chuck Hogan, based on their novel trilogy of the same name.  The first episode in this series, “Night Zero,” was also written by the two gentlemen, which del Toro directed.  Hell to the yeah!

The Strain: The Complete Season One stars the likes of Corey Stoll, David Bradley and Mia Maestro in lead roles.  I can’t say enough good things about the chemistry between these three, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  In supporting and recurring roles we find Richard Sammel, Sean Astin, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde, Natalie Brown, Ruda Gedmintas and more.  Don’t worry.  I won’t spoil anything and tell you who lives and who dies, or if they all die (insert evil diabolical laugh here).

So our modern day story begins when a “virus” kills all but four passengers on an airplane that landed at JFK.  Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), head of the Center for Disease Control’s Canary Team, is immediately called to the scene to investigate with his team.  Things just aren’t what they seem and Dr. Goodweather wants to call for a quarantine, but things don’t go exactly as planned with the well intentions he has.  In the meantime, under everyone’s noses, a plan many years in the making is unravelling.  An ancient evil has been woken.  Yes!  This is where we get to the good stuff.  Vampires!

With help from a NYC pawn shop owner and Holocaust survivor, Professor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), Eph and his beautiful colleague and closest ally, Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro), moves mountains to uncover the outbreak’s ties to vampirism and attempt to thwart its spread.  Now, the only way to stop this “virus” from wiping out mankind is to track, hunt down and face its source, a sinister supernatural creature known only as “The Master.”  And that ladies and gentlemen is as much as you’ll get out of me about the plot details as I don’t want to ruin one fun and/or terrifying moment for you.

So what I love about this show is the chemistry between the main characters, the diversity amongst them and the sense of humor this show has despite the dark and scary times.  The fact that it’s rooted in biology is another bonus for me.  Guillermo del Toro has been hitting home-runs as of late and this series, despite being on television and not on the big screen, is no exception.  Risks are taken and boundaries are broken as del Toro bypasses the traditional vampire cliches and paves the way for something fresh and fun with his spin on the undead and their unworldly appearances, think Nosferatu, but with a venus fly traps for a mouth.

So let’s get back to those colorful characters I keep talking about.  Corey Stroll (House of Cards) does an outstanding job at portraying Ephraim.  He’s a significantly flawed character in every way, which makes him such an interesting protagonist.  He has so many things going on in his life, plus add saving the world to one of them.  Think a kind Jack Bauer.  David Bradley (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) plays Abraham Setrakian perfectly.  I have never read the books, but I couldn’t dream of a better interpretation of the character now.  Sorry Guillermo.  I’m really spoiled by this show.  In the extras below it is discussed del Toro really wanted everyone’s favorite sidekick, Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Goonies) and he landed him!  Sean may surprise you a time or two this season.  Just watch!  Mia Maestro (Alias, Twilight) rounds out the cast as another one of my favorites here not only for her beauty, but her conflicting flaws here as well.  I said it before and I’ll say it again.  The cast rocks here and this chemistry and layers they all have, including the villains, puts this show over the top, but let’s not forget what it’s all about…vampires!

We know the show is ultimately about vampires, but what kind?  It starts out as something completely different as we are led to believe there’s a potentially deadly virus that’s potentially just waiting in the wind to strike at the heart of the U.S. population, but the story takes a complete 360-degree turn as it spins and wields into something completely different, and I love it so for doing that.  It’s quite possibly one of the most interesting takes on vampires in awhile.  I don’t want to give anything away for anyone who has not seen it yet, as I fear I kind may already have, but Hogan and Del Toro try their best to ground this as much as possible in science.  Sure it gets very ludicrous at times with the action, deaths and even plot lines, but that’s where the “fun” I keep talking about comes into play.  And remember me saying up above this is a plan in the works for many years?  Well worry not, they take you into some interesting flashbacks throughout the first season to give you just enough ammo to make you feel somewhat smart and arm you possible misconceptions that you think you know what’s going on.  There’s child vampires, a billionaire trying to achieve immortality at any costs, government manipulation, vampire allegiances, sex and rock’n’roll and so much more.  I think you get the picture.  There’s much more at stake here than just killing off Lycans like in the Underworld series.

Best of all, you know it’s good.  How?  Well, I’m glad you asked because I’m pleased to report that this past August, FX renewed The Strain for a 13-episode second season.  How could a show with a second season renewal suck?  It can’t!  Sorry Firefly.  However, what impresses me the most is the bold approach FX takes with this show.  Like The Walking Dead on AMC, things get very graphic here and FX doesn’t even flinch.  You have to admire that.  Every blood sucking moment is here in all its gory glory for you to relish in and enjoy in 1080p.

For your convenience, before we even get into the Blu-ray vitals down below, I thought it would be cool and courteous to let you know how all the episodes are laid out amongst the three Blu-rays in this set.  The 13-epsiode first season consists of the following:
Disc 1
1. “Night Zero”
2. “The Box”
3. “Gone Smooth”
4. “It’s Not For Everyone”
Disc 2
5. “Runaways”
6. “Occultation”
7. “For Services Rendered”
8. “Creatures of the Night’
9. “The Disappeared”
Disc 3
10. “Loved Ones”
11. “The Third Rail”
12. “Last Rites”
13. “The Master”
The Strain The Complete First Season


For a television show on Blu-ray, The Strain: The Complete First Season looks like a million bucks.  In fact, it rivals that of most movies and the vibrant colors pop reminiscent of del Toro’s Pacific Rim Blu-ray presentation.  Wanna know more?  Read on!

  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC @23 MBPS
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Size: 50GB Dual Layer
  • Clarity/Detail:  It only takes one watch to take notice of the rich production value of this show.  Fine detail is everywhere to be found in this Blu-ray presentation as you can instantly notice such gentle nuances such as all the imperfections in skin and related acne scars, beads of sweat on an actor’s face, smudges on a car window or CDC mask, the intricate markings on the Master’s coffin and even the text on the monitors of the computer screens at the NY airport where this all initially goes down at.  And let’s not forget the gore!  Let’s just say that blood sucking moments have never looked so good in 1080p.  That’s all I’ll say there as I want you to experience this one for yourselves.
  • Depth:  Things look amazing here even when we’re inside in cramp corners.  The three-dimensional pop of the foreground figures gives everything a heaping helping of spacial dimensionality from itself.  You can almost reach out and get lost in the depth here.
  • Black Levels:  There’s a lot of dark moments in this show so thankfully the black levels all look outstanding here.  Let’s examine the first episode for instance, not since the Blu-ray of Drive have I ever seen a night sky line look so perfectly dark and inky when the mysterious airplane shows up at the NY airport.  I can’t explain how good things look here.
  • Color Reproduction:  Like the characters onscreen here, the colors absolutely pop against the contrasting elements throughout.  There are no complaints from me here.  Since there’s a lot dark moments throughout you’ll definitely notice the glow of flashlights, neons, night vision and other colors prominently lit against the deep, inky blacks.  The color palette also changes from sen to scene so for instance, you’ll see sterile blues in the medical or quarantine scenes.
  • Flesh Tones:  Skin tones can be a bit hot in some scenes and as a result they do appear a bit orangish when this happens.  I’m feeling a bit generous here so I’m not going to ding an otherwise outstanding video presentation we have going on thus far here.
  • Noise/Artifacts:  I did not notice any specks of dirt, noise or debris in the print within the presentation.

The Strain The Complete First Season


For a television show I’m doing cartwheels over how impressive and immersive The Strain: The Complete First Season sounds on Blu-ray.  Read on and I’ll tell you all about my happiness.

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
  • Dynamics:  The first thing I noticed, since I started this with my normal movie listening volume, is that this presentation is credibly loud and beefy.    Did I mention that the music here was composed by Ramin Djawadi?  Oh, I suppose I left out that tidbit of info up above, but rejoice because it is oh so true!  The dynamics here are reproduced with the utmost of authenticity.  Every knife hash is faithfully rendered.  Heck, being a lover of money, I even heard the authenticity of two twenty dollar bills fall to the counter when Setrakian successfully thwarts his robber problem in the pawn shop.
  • Low Frequency Extension:  The LFE channel came to life instantly with the roar of the jet’s engine in the first minute of the series.  Unlike a comedy or regular television show on Blu-ray, the green light on my subwoofer remained lit and happy.
  • Surround Sound Presentation:  Djawadi’s score passionately fills the surround landscape here.  Other elements such as a subway train passing by, a jet engine roaring through the sky, the Master’s voice, atmospheric ambient effects and more fill the rear speakers with both aggressive and passive qualities.
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  The dialogue is outstandingly loud, clear and intelligible throughout.  Do you want to hear Eph tell the police off on the NY airport runway how important a virus is and what it can do with the utmost of clarity?  Well if so, you’re in luck because it happens here.  Listen up!

The Strain The Complete First Season


Since there’s not too much to report on here in this section I thought it would be cool to take a few shots at what you’ll find inside this Blu-ray package (see below).  Unfortunately, there are no redeemable codes here for Digital Copies of anytime.  Since there are three Blu-ray discs in this set I guess it only makes sense that these extras are each housed on their own Blu-ray disc.  There’s sadly not much to be found here in the Extras section, but let’s take a closer look nonetheless.

  • In The Beginning (HD, 14:11, Disc 1) – The cast talk about the pilot episode here obviously, the story, their characters and their thoughts about everything else, including the rich production value of the show.  I do love hearing and seeing that!  The goal here I learned was to marry a horror story with a criminal CSI procedural feel to it.  I think they nailed that, don’t you?  Guillermo talks about how The Strain represents the first time he could finally present vampire biology.  For all you fans of dissections, you’re in for a treat here as you literally see the inside of the vampire biology.  Yuck!  Gross!  There’s also much more in this extra to dissect so dive on in!
  • A Novel Approach (HD, 9:38, Disc 2) – Guillermo turns up here talking about his love of reading vampire lore when he was just a young boy.  He says The Strain was created with the notion that your next door neighbor in the suburbs could be a vampire.  The biology of the creatures was figured out over twenty years.  He says the books show a scientific approach to vampirism which turns into spiritual one.  He also says The Strain novel was the most enjoyable piece of writing he has ever done.  Wow!  I thought that would have selfishly been Pacific Rim.  He also goes on to say that he always envisioned this as a television series, but treated the books as books, so there are differences and characters here that are not in the novels (such as Dutch).  The actors all chime in about how they are unsure of how long their characters will survive or of their arcs because they have already noticed the difference between the books.
  • Setrakian’s Lair (HD, 9:47, Disc 3) – Actor David Bradley takes us on set for a walk through of a lair that’s pretty familiar to him, his character Setrakian’s.  He points out objects and various set pieces such as the weapons, a mirror, etc. and what they mean to the show and their purposes.  Actress Mia Maestro also chimes in about Setrakian’s lair, the story, her character and his character too.  We also get treated to a few behind-the-scenes shots here as well, some footage and also some nuggets on Season Two.  It sounds like it will be the beginning of a new era according to Mia.

Last but certainly not least in this Extras section, let’s pause for a quick moment and take a look at the disc art work on all three Blu-rays in this set.

The Strain - Discs 1 and 2

The Strain Disc 3

The Strain The Complete First Season


So I think I gave you many reasons up above as to why this should Blu-ray should not only be in your home media collection, but also why this take on the vampire lore breaks the cliche of most feature films out there today in the genre and is at least worth a look at.  Don’t you agree?  Please do because if you don’t, then that means I did not do my job effectively up above and I need this job to feed my Blu-ray hunger.  Haha.  But seriously, fans of Guillermo del Toro, The Strain trilogy of novels and vampire lore in general should eat this series up.  Best of all, The Strain: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray comes in a tight package, void of a smorgasbord of extras (my only ding here), but packed with a fun, witty and smart storyline and an excellent audio/video presentation to die for, no pun intended.  It dropped this past Tuesday, so if you haven’t picked it up yet, and you like what you read here, then what the hell are you waiting for?  Run!  Walk!  Skip!  I don’t care.  Just get to the store and grab this one before it bites you in the a$$ one day when someone asks you if you’re a fan and you look at them with that stupid blank expression on your face and say “uh…I don’t know…haven’t seen it.”  Don’t be that person!  Click the link below to bring it home ASAP!



The Strain: The Complete First Season

Released on Blu-ray December 3rd!



The Strain the Compelte First Season


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

2 Responses to “The Strain: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I’m pretty sure the episodes on Disc 2 is the part of the show I really liked and wanted more of.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Honestly, The Strain was my favorite new show of 2014. Bring on The Fall in season 2!